Blindfolded: Discovering Country Music

I started this blog a handful of years ago because I had recently started listening to country music. I didn’t grow up listening to it as many fans have so I had to discover artists, songs, albums and sub-genres on my own. It feels like walking around with a blindfold on, there was a lot of unknown and so much to discover. In the beginning it was country radio that held my hand and guided me to this musical genre that was completely new to me. 

The year was 2012 and some of the commercial country singles of the time that I can remember were “Springsteen” by Eric Church, “Over You” by Miranda Lambert and “Pontoon” by Little Big Town. As I look back, I feel like I caught the end of an era and the start of a major shift in commercial country music. Shortly after that came a duo labeled as “country” cruised onto the airwaves, which led a wave of pop and hip pop imitators that are completely dominating country radio to this day. As a result, the genre, in my opinion, is almost unrecognizable… at least when it comes to commercial radio. “Bro-country” has a bad rap and gets blamed for a lot of the soulless junk being played on the radio, however, I disagree. Whether you like “bro-country” or not, its failed hip pop artists moving into country music that has changed the genre for the worse.

Anyway, without turning this blog into that argument, the point I’m getting to is that my own tastes have changed and grown. When I first started listening to country music, with excitement, I borrowed a few Garth Brooks CDs from someone, hoping to be blown away. I wasn’t. I didn’t get it at all. I hated “Friends in Low Places”. I guess my tastes hadn’t evolved much from current country music that I was hearing on the radio at the time and I really didn’t have an appreciation for anything that wasn’t contemporary. 

As country radio slowly changed, so did my own tastes. Radio went one way, my tastes went the opposite. Through this blog and attending a few concerts and festivals,  I was able to discover contemporary artists who had a more traditional sound, such as Ashley Moore and the rockin’ duo Brothers Osborne. In retrospect, I believe listening to neo-traditional artists helped open my eyes and appreciation for the past and for “older” artists. Flash forward to 2020 and Garth Brooks is my hero, Dolly Parton fascinates me, I admire and love George Strait and my contemporary country music crush is (and will always be) Miranda Lambert. 

There are so many “older” country artists I needed to listen to and learn to appreciate. One of the defining characteristics of country music is that is always nods to the past. I used to find it scary and frustrating that I had so many artists to “discover” because I always knew it was something I had to do in order to truly appreciate the genre as a whole. Slowly I did that and now I definitely have an ear for the older stuff or neo-traditional sounds. I know I still have a long way to go and a lot of artists to cover, which is frustrating and exciting at the same time. After all, I’ve only been into listening to country for about 7 years whereas most fans have been listening to it their whole lives. 

I always have a hunger to hear something I’ve never heard of before. Even after I hear a song that is exactly what I was looking for, the hunger always comes back. I need to hear another song that strikes me, and then another. I love that. I love how I can look to past artists and current artists to feed that hunger. I don’t want to live in the past because eventually that well will dry up, which is kind of what happened to rock music for me. I don’t like any “new” rock and even when older artists that I like release new music I don’t really enjoy it as much anymore. However, with country we still have someone like George Strait releasing great, true, real country music. At the same time there are new artists releasing real country as well, you just have to search for them and ignore country radio. 

I hope this blog will help a follower discover something new in the country music genre, whether it is a new artist or song or even a new perspective.

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