For years, the better part of two decades in fact, we in this community and larger music scene have railed and rallied against the country music machine at large. We were, and are, champions of the underdogs. Independent. Anti-sell out (whatever that means to you). We tried to trojan horse our way into their way with acts like Jack Ingram singing Hinder, major labels signing folks like Ragweed and Randy Rogers Band. Wade Bowen gave it a go. Pat Green found some early national traction before fading back to Texas. It was fine by us because that meant they spent more time playing in our sandbox instead of heading to Nashville Beach.
Through it all, everyone still yearned to have one of our acts break through to prominence. We all still hated most of what country radio shoveled down the throats of Americans. We knew there was a better alternative out there. Something that still resembled country music. Something with soul. Something with some thought behind it. Not just a marketing strategy with some steel guitars thrown on top.
Our transcendent triumphant moment never arrived. At least not in the manner in which we imagined it would. We just couldn't see the forest for the trees. While we were rooting for a country music revolution and rallying the troops, it happened. Let's look at the big picture of country music as we end 2023 and head into 2024.
Turnpike Troubadours are the biggest band in the entire genre as we sit here today. Koe Wetzel and Parker McCollum sell out arenas. Zoom out a little further and you see acts like Luke Combs. Sure, he didn't cut his teeth playing for tips at Adair's. And he didn't co-write with Walt Wilkins and Mike McClure to gain his accolades, but he fits in our realm. He's taken a shine to Wilder Blue and Flatland Cavalry and showcasing them to his audience. Zach Bryan isn't from the traditional Red Dirt lineage, but the dude is the biggest country act not named Lainey Wilson at the moment. He writes his own songs and they all drip with Oklahoma swag.
For years we decried the lack of authenticity on country radio. For whatever that meant. Take Jelly Roll. An absurd stage name from a former rapper turned country purist. He's as real as it gets. He sings from his gut and writes his own songs about heartbreak, addiction, loss and recovery. He's connecting.
The moment that we've always longed for is here. The people that are winning are just wearing different jerseys than our home team. But, we should still celebrate their success. Their victories will trickle down to the independent level. We'll never see another Outlaw or grunge moment. Music is too fractured these days. But, let's enjoy this while it's happening. The moment is here.
-Thanksgiving is a great holiday. Perhaps my second favorite. Food, football, hunting, napping. It sucks that it is getting squeezed out. Halloween now starts in late August and Christmas now starts November 1. Let's give Thanksgiving its due.
-Still on a Rangers high. If the Cowboys tank like they are wont to due these next 6-8 weeks, it won't hurt near as bad as it usually does.
-I have lots of friends in radio, but I'm curious. With the advent of podcasts, streaming etc. How many of you still discover new music via the radio?
-This is a very dad comment. But, when was the last time we saw a new brand of shoe just break through to ubiquity? I now own four pairs of Brooks. Three years ago, had never heard of them.
-Yet, I'm a regular runner and have Nike running shoes. (insert shrug emoji)
-This month's recommended album: Tanner Usrey - Crossing Lines. Usrey is a young gun with an old soul. His music is loaded with Skynyrd and Allman esque twin guitars, the lyrics grab you by the heart. He's doing it the right way and building his crowd. He's gone from playing our Covid concert series in his living room to selling out the biggest venues. No end in sight. When you drop records as good as this one, the sky is the limit.
-"Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most." - Mark Twain