Country Music. Real, beautiful, country music. Grown from the roots of Appalachia, carried to this country as cutting from the Scots-Irish/Celtic music of the "old country," home-grown into a magnificient hybrid. Each branch that has grown on these shores has that flavor, that grit, that real quality that cannot be mistaken: Country, blues, even rock & roll, grown out of country via rockabilly. Roots music.
When I was young, I didn't even really know there was any other kind of music than Country & Western. That's what I heard on the radio, those were my father's records, that's what he played on the guitar. We watched Hee Haw on television, we heard the sounds of Buck and Merle, Marty Robbins and Hank Thompson, Waylon and Willie, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, Tammy and George, Conway Twitty and always, always, Hank Williams. Despite having been born the year the Beatles landed in America, I don't think I heard their music until I was in high school, when my uncool love of country finally set me seeking other genres.
Like many teenagers, I liked rock; but in keeping with my outcaster nature, I listened to stuff few others did. I liked Elvis (who died two years before I got to high school) and rockabilly. I got into the retro sounds before there was even a retro movement. "Oldies" stations were just getting started out here in Arizona and I listened devotedly to the sounds of Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, the harmonies of the vocal groups like the Temptations and the Supremes, and always Elvis. But I never really broke completely with country music, even in the 70's when the pop movement of country radio made my father turn it off forever (that was when I discovered Big Band and showtunes).
I came back to country music in the late 80's and early 90's with the neo-tradtionalist movement. But when, again, pop reared its ugly head in country music and the "country" started to disappear again, I started to complain. I called radio stations. I wrote letters. I begged for "a real country song," especially from KNIX, a station once owned by the Buck Owens family (they STILL use his guitar for their logo!) - and always got the same lame excuses for why they wouldn't play one. I stuck it out for a long time, longer than I probably should have, but I didn't know there were better things out there. So I just kept on gamely trying to get them to play anything - if they wouldn't go for the classic stuff, what about the new stuff being released by classic artists? What about the new artists out of Texas and California they wouldn't play?
It didn't work.
When Waylon Jennings died and they couldn't scratch up a single song of his to play, I turned them off forever.
An online friend equally sick and tired of what passed for country music these days turned me on to an artist out of Texas named Dale Watson. On the strength of her recommendation, I bought the disc "I Hate These Songs." Within the first bar of the first song, 'Jack's Truckstop and Cafe,' I knew I'd found what Hank III calls "The Savior of Country Music." Since then I've found a lot more Texas artists; my favorites include Roger Wallace, Jesse Dayton, ad Sunny Sweeney; from California comes the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash and Dave Gleason; Arizona gave us Dave Insley, Mark Insley, Tramps & Thieves, and Andy Hersey - great roots music is being made all over the country (even Nashville has a few, still, including Chuck Mead & BR5-49, as well as Pinmonkey. It's out there. You just have to look for it.