Country Music: Republican or Democrat?

Brody Vercher | November 21st, 2007

  • Bob Doerschuk says Porter Wagoner’s legacy is secure and unique.

    “I may not be the world’s greatest singer,” Wagoner said in his 2007 interview with CMA Close Up. “But I know how to sing Country Music. I know what separates Country from other kinds of music. I’ve learned that it’s important, if you’re a singer or an entertainer, to know what you’re doing. You need to study this business as if you were going to be a doctor, a lawyer or a man that makes big decisions. You never do find out all there is to know in your lifetime. But you learn from that process every day – and you don’t forget what you learn.”

    Wagoner also revealed the secret to recitations, as told to him by Red Foley:

    “He knew how to talk to an audience. He told me one time, ‘You can’t talk over an audience, because there are hundreds of them sitting there. So if you lose their attention, talk softer. They’ll listen harder.’ And it works.”

  • Read the preface to Hank Thompson’s biography on his website. The book is expected to be available on November 30th.
  • On the New York Times Blog Kurt Campbell says that for Democrats to “gain deeper insights into the soul of America even without leaving the obvious attractions of Blue State life,” they simply need to turn to the nearest country western station.

    Scan the hit charts of a recent country countdown. There is the song about a wife struggling to keep her young family together and her composure while her husband fights in Iraq. There is the catchy tune with a poignant verse about a man trying to be a better person in the midst of losing his job and hoping to find his life’s purpose. Another twangy hit describes comforting family traditions passed down from father to son and the insights that come with the passing of time and the turn of generations. Then there is the one about reaching out and putting America’s boot to the posteriors of the terrorist enemies of America.

    (via TwangNation)

  • Another political article attempts to explore the relationship between political parties and country music.

    An alliance called the Music Row Democrats is poised to re-launch itself early next year in an attempt to seize back country music from the Republican camp and spread their message that President George W. Bush’s party does not care about ordinary people.

    If you asked me–which you didn’t, but if you did–I’d say that country music belongs to neither party. It’s a genre that represents multiple walks of life, regardless of political affiliations and any attempt to politicize it will only bastardize the genre more than it already is.

  • The inspiring rise of Brandon Rhyder. His first two albums failed to boost his career and he took one last stab with his third album–the Walt Wilkins produced Conviction.
  • New York Times writer Andrew Beaujon profiles the Red Dirt band Cross Canadian Ragweed.
  • Of all the songs on her newest album, Trisha Yearwood says “Sing You Back To Me” is her sentimental favorite. It immediately reminded her of her father. After the record was done she recorded an acoustic version of the song to keep for herself but her producer convinced her that it needed to be on the album.
  • Unfortunately Roadhouse Gems from the Texas Sapphires received a low rating from The Austin Chronicle. The superior song selections stand out, but Doug Freeman says the sound quality is pretty abysmal–“like an open-mic bootleg, the poor quality discounts any lo-fi charm, which flattens the vocals and loses the band.”
  • The Broken Spoke seems to be quite popular these days, appearing in commercials for Foster’s, Miller Lite, Levi’s, and Wrangler jeans, as well as episodes of Friday Night Lights. It was recently the subject of a segment for the Discovery Channel and a BBC Three program and has been approached to be used as a setting in the independent film The Sno Cone Stand Inc.
  • With a new album out on November 27th and no expectations of help from radio Jesse Dayton and Brennen Leigh are searching for alternative approaches for promotion. One approach that I think is pretty creative is a YouTube trailer for the album, Holdin’ Our Own and Other Country Gold Duets.

  1. Baron Lane
    November 21, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Brody, you couldn’t be more on the mark about country music being tarnished by association to either political party.

    That said, I do like it when a political campaign attempts to use a song, country or not, without having any idea what the song is about.

    “Born In The USA” or “Fortunate Son” anybody?

  2. Rick
    November 21, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    The Dixie Chicks learned the hard way what dragging politics onto the stage can do to a country music career. Trace Adkins is doing interviews for his new book these days where he says the last thing he wants to hear at a country music concert is political viewpoints from the artists on stage, and I agree. As long as a country artist isn’t preaching their politics in their songs or from the stage, then their party affiliation is irrelevant to me. But if they do cross the line then I take it personally and my gut reactions can be quite strong.

    I heard a recent interview with Toby Keith where he admitted to being a life long loyal Democrat, but who would have known that from his song lyrics? I’m personally a conservative that believes in patriotism, Mom, apple pie, and good country music and seeing the emergence of the Music Row Democrats as a political force doesn’t exactly thrill me. On the other hand I suspect there is a direct link between the MRD bunch and the pathetic musical wasteland that so much of Nashville mainstream country has become these days…..(wink)

    PS – Texan Elana James recently performed at a Democrat fundraiser, but that in no way diminishes my respect for her musical integrity………

  3. Chris N.
    November 21, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    “Trace Adkins is doing interviews for his new book these days where he says the last thing he wants to hear at a country music concert is political viewpoints from the artists on stage, and I agree.”

    I find it amusing when a public figure declares him- or herself politically neutral, then spews a string of right-wing opinions.

    Also, it’s “Democratic,” not “Democrat.”

  4. Brady Vercher
    November 21, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    I think there’s a difference between saying you don’t want to hear political viewpoints from an artist while at a concert and declaring yourself politically neutral.

    Also, what’s wrong with Democrat?

  5. Timmy Mac
    November 21, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    I also think there’s an ENORMOUS difference between an artist preaching their politics from stage and an artist performing a political song.

    I mean, isn’t that part of the point of music?

  6. Chris N.
    November 21, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Using “Democrat” as an adjective to describe activities of the Democratic party is a linguistic trick that conservatives have adopted over the last several years. People generally think of “democratic” as a good thing, so Republicans want to get rid of that positive association (and, as a bonus, subtly emphasize the last syllable, “rat”). Here’s a fuller explanation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democrat_Party_(phrase)

    Sounds a little silly, but language matters.

  7. Lynn
    November 21, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Actually, I applaud the Music Row Democrats. Maybe if the genre became less identified with ONE political party, then it could be a non-issue and listeners could enjoy music from ALL viewpoints. In recent years I have been incredibly turned off by the country music industry because of its long-standing conservative affiliation. Many recent articles have stated that many big country stars are democrats but are terrified to say anything that might be construed as anything other than conservative. Why is only one side allowed to have an opinion and be public about it? I’m not a fan of preaching on stage, but conservatives at all levels of the industry need to stop co-opting the genre, which they do, both in song lyrics, radio play, music awards and public comments/affiliations.

    In contrast to Rick, I believe that country has gone downhill in recent years because of the raging post-9/11 conservative influence. Artists are too afraid to be interesting/edgy/topical. Radio might not play you if you don’t sing a patriotic song, an apple pie Americana song, or a song about how quickly life passes by, and how we must not sweat the small stuff. I have strong family values, I love my country as much as the next person, and I don’t have a lot of money…but, honestly? Barf.

    And as far as the Dixie Chicks go…preaching from stage? I guess that all depends on your definition of preaching, but a two second comment from a band that played both Clinton’s and Bush’s inaugurals and have not been political on stage before or since, does not constitute preaching in my book. If ever split second comment got blown COMPLETELY out of proportion…

    Maybe I’ve been too blunt here…and will be banned from this country music blog for that. Who knows, I wouldn’t be surprised…

  8. Peter Kohan
    November 22, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    I think the point of the Times article was less about how artists themselves wear their political beliefs on their sleeve (or not) or within their music (or not).

    What that writer was talking about was the messages inherent in the songs Country radio plays and broadcasts for the world to hear. And the fallacy in that is so big you could drive a hole in it.

    1) The singles chosen for airplay by an artist and label are chosen to maximize airplay, not to necessarily make a political or social statement.
    2) Since Country radio usually only grants an artist 2-3 shots (unless that artist is a heavy hitter) at releasing singles off a particular record, then 70-80% of that artist’s repertoire never gets Country radio airplay, so country radio might be missing out on songs which reflect a less conservative point of view.
    3) There are all types of Country music Country radio doesn’t even touch with a 10-foot pole, but it still has a loyal audience which might lean left or right – but there’s no radio outlet for it for anyone to analyze that audience – or stereotype it as the Times writer does.

  9. Pierce
    November 22, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Name the last president who was from a state above the Mason-Dixon line…

    In my lifetime, there’s only been Texas, Arkansas, and Texas. Wasn’t Reagan from Texas too? So that means you have to go back over 20 years to find a president without a slight hint of a Southern accent.

    Regardless of party, people seem to gravitate towards the Southern good ole boys. Country music DOES reflect the majority of voters in the US.

    Key to Democratic victory in 2008: John Edwards.

    Suggested reading: Rednecks and Bluenecks by Chris Willman. An excellent read on the the Music Row Democrats and how country music has reflected/influenced elections recently.

  10. Steve Brooks
    November 22, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Country music isn’t so country any more. It’s mostly a conglomeration of unshaven rock & roll crossover artists who are making believe they were born behind a scenery flat on the Opry stage. If the democrats want the current crop of alleged country music artists…they’re welcome to ‘em.

  11. Colt
    November 22, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    This conversation is giving me a headache.

  12. Paul W Dennis
    November 22, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    I prefer my music to be non-political. Not that I am uninterested in politics, but there is a time and place for everything.

    I’m Libertarian meaning I don’t trust the big-business Republicans at all, and I think the Democrats are totally insane and owned lock, stock and barrel by the trial lawyers

    Anyway, we’re stuck with the two major parties -but I’ll get my politics through other sources, thank you

  13. Chris N.
    November 23, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Reagan was from Illinois. And the Bushes are really from Connecticut.

  14. Noah
    December 31, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    “I’m Libertarian meaning I don’t trust the big-business Republicans”

    Under a libertarian nation, All you would have is “big-business Republicans” shoving the asscramer so far up the rear of the working class (slave class as it would be called under right wing anarchy)backside.

    Working Class = Country Music
    Republicant = (Yea, you guest it) Non Working Class (as the party has been for a very long time)

    The question should be, “has country music been hijacked?”.

  15. hairandtoenails
    December 31, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I’m suspicious of the “politics doesn’t belong on stage” line because it so often means “political views that I support belong on stage, but those I dislike do not.” For example, those who lambast the Chicks for improperly injecting politics into music due to their their anti-war stage talk don’t seem to be crowing about Bucky Covington’s nostalgic longing for School Prayer in “A Different World.” But Bucky Covington is just as political as the Dixie Chicks. The “politics don’t belong in music” line is often an attempt to censor those with different views.

    However, much of the political commentary in country music is extremely shallow, naive, and misinformed. So I hope that people seeking political news and editorials would seek out more sophisticated sources than country music. And I wish country singers and songwriters would stop reducing complex political issues to mindless bumper-sticker type sentiments.

  16. Matt B
    January 1, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    censorhsip is political correctness. Isn’t America the country where everyone’s right to an opinion is honored, regardless of what that opinion is about? So it should be with country music, but it isn’t. so ‘mindless bumper-sticker type sentiments’ are what ‘get by’ because they seem to stay ‘pc’ instead of flying directly into the face of us the way they used to.

  17. Justin
    January 5, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Libertarian government would NOT equal big business Republicans. In a Libertarian government we wouldn’t have these insane bail outs of guess who? BIG BUSINESS!! A libertarian government would be the same government that our founding fathers gave us, which was a Republic and the rule of law. It is not the duty of the government to give hand outs, bail outs, and all the other social tendencies it does. We should have a non-interventionist foreign policy, defend our shores, secure our borders, no standing army, freedom and equality for all, self-reliance. Everyone in this country has the opportunity to make it rich. It’s just a matter of self reliance, perserverence, and setting goals. Don’t whine about “the evil rich”. I make 40,000 a year, but I will be wealthy one day, and I will never ask for hand outs from anyone. Like Charlie Daniels said, “I ain’t asking nobody for nothin’ if I can’t get it on my own.”

    People don’t want liberty and freedom anymore. They want womb to tomb security, and frankly it makes me sick.

  18. Colt
    February 13, 2009 at 1:21 am

    This guy Justin is right.

  19. John
    April 5, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Country Music is closely related to conservatism and American values, therfore it is by default associated with the Republican Party. Many country music listeners see the Democratic Party and liberalism as un-american, which is true.

    Ronald Reagan was born and raised in Illinois and was a resident of California. George H.W. was raised in Connecticut and was a resident of both Texas and Maine. Bill Clinton was born and raised in Arkansas and remained a resident, but he never developed true southern values. George W. Bush was raised in Connecticut, Maine, and Texas. He is a resident of Texas.

    The Republican Party is not the party of big-business and not the bailout party. Most big-business, especially Wall-Street political dollars are directed at the Democratic Party. Strong Morals are a fundamental part of Country music and same as the Republican Party.

  20. Pam
    May 29, 2009 at 7:28 am

    What is true southern values?I was born and raised in Ohio.I believed in Jesus Christ as a child and believe in Him still today.I like country music and believe in decency.What I don’t believe in is the religion of republicanism.I believe in education.I don’t believe in Rush Limbaugh and his propagandist rhetoric.I don’t belive in hypocricy.I’m tired of Gen.Colin Powell being held up to ridicule for standing up for his principals.Rush is getting wealthier spewing his hatefilled,confusing rhetoric and backing the billionaire club,while most of America is getting poorer.Get it?

  21. Dan
    May 16, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    To Lynn,Pam,Hairandtoenails,Noah,and Pierce:

    You all make great cases for artists to speak their minds in the country music industry, and I think they do that quite well, all on their own. It just seems to me, that when popular opinions don’t favor your side (Liberal/Democrat)then there is the need, to say that those artists in particular, are being forced to keep quiet. Look, if you make your money, pandering to a certain audience, and then you try, and bash their teeth during a concert, why should that same audience, still support you? The Dixie Chicks, and acts similar to them, just got to big for their own shoes, and ended up sticking their nasty smellin’ feet, into their own foul mouths. I almost couldn’t stop from laughing, while listening to Natalie Maine’s pathetic attempt, to try and explain, as to why Country Music fans, should not judge her, because of her judging both President Bush, and regular everyday Americans. What a hypocrite! It’s almost as though she and her sisters, are completely devoid of any logic and common sense, whatsoever. If you hate your fellow Americans, and hate the country you live in, namely America, plus you also hate Conservatives/Republicans, and hate real Country Music, well then you do nothing but alienate the very people, who have the power to make or break, a country music act, and that’s just how it goes. Unfortunately, no matter how hard they try, Liberals/Democrats just can’t get those true red-blooded Country Music fans, to side with them, or support them in great numbers, but this maybe because Liberals/Democrats, tend to look down their noses, at those kinds of people, in the first place. All you have to do, is hear it from their own mouths, or at least Obama’s Mouth, saying things like,”These people are bitter, and they cling to their guns, and their religeons.” So maybe it’s not a fact, that Country Music fans in general, hate Liberals/Democrats, but that they just don’t happen to like, or agree with the Liberal/Democrat kind of habitual hypocracies, instead. There’s an old saying that goes,”Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!” For the Dixie Chicks, Music Row Democrats, and others like them, no truer words have ever been spoken.

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