All we are saying is give country a chance

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to Troy from Aussie country duo McAlister Kemp for an entertainment story published in the Independent (It’s a pretty good read actually… go on).

Troy explained a pretty interesting situation which got me thinking.

“Unfortunately, the doors (to city venues) get slammed in your face. Modern country has really evolved and three-quarters of Australia doesn’t even know country music is cool.”

McAlister Kemp has two albums, All Kinds of Tough (2010) and Country Proud (2012). The band’s produced at least three ARIA country chart number-one singles and has been nominated for a string of awards. Have you heard of them?

Indeed – what is mainstream city society’s problem with country music?

Is it because country singers sing about life in the country that us city folk just can’t relate to? It can’t be – because kids from my area had lives nothing like the trailer parks of Detroit or the cold streets of DC yet we still found plenty of meaning in the lyrics of rappers and punk rockers from those parts of the world.

I call myself a music lover – and a pretty open-minded one at that. I also happen to call myself a bluegrass fan. So how is it that I couldn’t even tell you the name of one hit song from any country music artist in the ARIA country charts? I’m certainly not a top 40 follower but I know the names of and some songs belonging to the likes of Nicki Minaj, One Direction and Ke$ha.

Many a conversation with city-dwelling music lovers can delve into all kinds of weird and wonderful styles of music – I’ve got friends who are into jazz, classical, metal, hard rock, punk rock, soft rock, folk rock, folk, “world” (whatever that broad term means), dance, trance, hip hop, bad pop and everything in-between. But so regularly in conversations the same bigoted comments come up: “Oh, I’ll give anything a listen… except country and western“. Country and western. They’re dirty words in the city.

But so many of us agree that a fair proportion of the music that makes it into the top 40 charts is pretty junky. Bad pop is bad. At least in bad country they actually play real instruments and tell real stories. And what about good country? It’s rocking out below our noses and we’re not even paying attention.

This week I  decided to utilise one of my favourite, underrated sources of information to give myself a snapshot of what I’ve been missing out on all these years. Thanks Geelong libraries.

I picked up two CDs from the most famous Aussie country artists I could see on the shelf – Keith Urban and Adam Brand.

Keith Urban's 'Get Closer' and Adam Brand's 'Blame it on Eve'. Certainly the most comprehensive introduction to the genre, but it's a start.

Keith Urban’s ‘Get Closer’ and Adam Brand’s ‘Blame it on Eve’. Certainly not the most comprehensive introduction to the genre, but it’s a start.

Before my conscious decision to take notice, all I could tell you about Keith Urban was that he married Nicole Kidman and was a judge on The Voice. I didn’t have a clue what his music sounded like – other than that it was country, and so we just don’t go there.

Keith Urban has in fact made nine studio albums during his long career. He’s won a string of country music awards and a couple of ARIAs, among others. He should probably be more famous than he is – for who he is rather than for who he’s with.

Adam Brand’s first three albums went platinum and his fourth and fifth went gold. The one I borrowed is perhaps not the best introduction to his music since it was less successful than those others, but I’m sure it’s given me a good idea of his style. It’s raw and rocky and actually pretty cool.

I’m not saying I’m suddenly a converted country music fan, but from now on I will make a conscious effort to question that immediate reaction. It’s country – give it a try. Why not?

Have you listened to much country music? What do you think of it?

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11 responses

  1. Just because they don’t yodel anymore…..doesn’t mean its not Country. Seriously, country music was sooo crap for sooo many years…..it’s damaged some people BEYOND REPAIR. i joke about yodel’ing but they used to do that!

    • Interesting take on things. I guess I’m too young to remember the old days… but I guess you oldies need to wake up to the future. Yodeling’s quite a skill. Admirable, some would say.

  2. I love keith urban n think all of his albums r amazing! Lol big fan, yes in deed. I am a person who says the same thing, that i will listen to anything however my exception is heavy metal as i think its just rubbish lol!

    • Yes I was actually thinking about heavy metal when I was writing this. That’s another one people are close-minded to… but maybe for good reason?! Which of Keith’s albums do you like best?

  3. Glad to hear you’re giving it a go Michelle! I’m quite a country music fan, Keith Urban would be my favorite artist, but living here in Canada half the year, the car radio is mostly tuned into Country 105, the local country music station, and I’ve been introduced to a few other artists I quite like too, such as Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Thompson Square among others.
    The thing I like about country, is that I find it hard to feel down and out when listening to the upbeat tunes and [most of the] lyrics. It keeps me in a positive mood whenever driving. Actually, I even miss that station when I come back to Australia!

    Keith I find maintains a great blend of country guitar licks and a solid rock beat to create a really easy to listen to sound, and as a singer myself, I really like his voice. He just scored the opening track on the Act of Valor soundtrack, great movie, great song.

    Anyway, take care Michelle,
    Talk soon

    • Hey Jarrah, thanks for the comments. I never would’ve known you were such a big country music fan! I’ll have to do a bit of googling on those other artists you mentioned.
      Totally agree that it makes for great driving music. I love cranking up the banjos when I’m driving through the mountains!
      I don’t think I’ve ever heard you sing either… that’s another trick you’ve kept hidden up your sleeve 😉

  4. There was a time if you asked me what sort of music I like I’d probably be a bit unsure of the answer…and thats probably still the case…. but I have become more aware of my likes and dislikes with exposure to so many genres in our house and at the occassional festival over recent years. Country and folk are definately up there in my favorites…I love to hear the words which so often have great meaning and I like the sound of real instruments!

  5. Country is the best. It really just is.
    But, I only listen to it when there is nobody home and nobody around.
    Even just sitting here reading this, I put on a youtube version of ‘Keith Urban – Somebody Like You’ (because I realised I didn’t know him either) and reached to turn the volume down as soon as I heard the neighbour coming home. Even though I was enjoying it.

  6. Interesting. I think there’s a greater array of reasons why certain genres aren’t even approached by some. Heavy metal as you mentioned, folk as we both know. Whenever Evan would say he plays folk music, immediate responses were like Bob Dylan, now he gets Mumford and Sons. Pretty funny. I think there’s elements of familiarity that need to be around. Like how often you either hate or love the music your parents played around the house when you were younger. Or how you get really into a single by an artist, buy an album and listen only to that song and then you become familiar with others and then have new favourites. I was never introduced to much classical music and now working for the ballet I’m trying to give that a chance! It could be really interesting to learn the neuroscience behind why some of us like some music and others can’t stand!

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