Scanning the Countryside: No Last Word on Country
When the venerable Vercher boys let me know recently that things were drawing to a hard stop for this site, I can’t say that I was entirely shocked, because a) they’d made it clear, even publicly, that tending to this work was beginning to demand drastic amounts of time they’d not quite expected, a real issue for daily bloggers and site editors alike and because b) for music reporting and commentary of virtually all varieties, it’s pretty tough all over these days. This ending things just keeps on happening. So I’m unshocked—but as one of the oldest country lyrics of them all would put it, going down this road’s got me feeling bad.
I do believe that The 9513 has been providing a service that’s genuinely unique, a place where country music of any stripe—yet with contemporary mainstream country very much included, respected, and featured among those ranks—could be reported on, taken seriously enough to be subject to criticism, and provided along with an open invitation for intelligent discussion.
The invitation has often been excitingly well taken, and sometimes, it could seem, only half-taken, since a site as fundamentally open as this one has been leaves itself open to serial posting by a few who make caustic, belligerent, or allegedly clever pokes at anybody else bothering to write or comment thoughtfully their personal sport, and say so. (Not that you couldn’t tell who they are, anyhow, because sooner or later they always get around to suggesting that it’s the site-hired writers who have “ego” issues, and not perhaps obsessive self-appointed snark mongers themselves.)
For all I know, there have been plenty among the some 130,000 individual visitors the 9513’s been attracting a month who’ve been reading it (without comment) for that very heat rather than the attempts at light, though I’ve rarely heard anyone say so. A few, in fact, have suggested to me, offsite, that they’ve not posted here, just read in interest, so as not to get sucked into the spats, or be subject to massive response on the slightest mention of certain artists. More importantly though, a good many from the majority who’ve been reading all this in silence say they’ve come here to follow the news the Verchers have provided and the writers they’ve assembled.
I’ll predict right now that long after this site’s a memory, the younger, newer writers that have been given a voice here—Juli Thanki, Karlie Justis, Jim Malec, Chris Neal, Blake Boldt, and the Verchers themselves (not meaning, at all, to exclude others by singling some personal favorites out)—will be finding places to talk about country, and readers checking out what they have to say. It may be a little tougher than at any time in the past decades to find venues for that talk, but talent, like country music, will abide.
My column for this month was set to be a report on and right after the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Medallion Ceremony show, which is coming up on May 22nd, celebrating the induction of three outstanding new members, Reba McEntire, Jean Shepard, and Bobby Braddock. Well, the report’s not going to happen now, but that trio is a testament to country music’s sustainability. Reba has been a vocal and role model for a generation of younger singers by now, able to go as broad and pop and blatantly sexy and physical as anyone had in the field, score hits on Broadway and prime time TV and still get down home as anybody could need her to be when the mood strikes, still scoring top of the charts hits while she’s at it. The great Jean Shepard has been a steady, outspoken champion of hard country honky tonk and the Grand Ole Opry family for nearly 60 years now, a great, distinctive voice and a breakthrough artist for feisty, frank country women everywhere, second fiddle to none. And the witty, warm-hearted, open-minded Bobby Braddock, who’d be a songwriter to remember always if he’d only written “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” is still writing remarkable songs, contemporary hits, for the likes of Blake Shelton and Toby Keith thirty years later.
With that sustainability over time, and their unquestionable ability to speak right to country audiences, they’re what country is especially about, what it’s for. And they remain worth talking about, as do—pro or con, up or down, instantly or finally recognized, gifted or industry-induced—an ongoing range of new country artists of various flavors, stripes, background experiences, and sounds.
The conversations, no doubt, will continue. There are no “last words’ on country.
I know that I’ll keep on scanning. And I’ll see you somewhere further down the road.
- bob: Thanks Barry. Just reserved the Adam Gussow book. Sounds interesting.
- Barry Mazor: It may be over-stated, in arriving at practically a single explanation of everything, but Adam Gussow's book on lynching and …
- Leeann: Wow! Heavy topic and horrifying indeed! "Beer for My Horses" was all fun and games until that reference, I'll have …
- Barry Mazor: Everything else aside, the way that reporter fills us in, with must-have, pointless generational snark included, about who this "Little …
- luckyoldsun: "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia" seems to be about a lynching--even if there's something about a judge …
- Arlene: Sorry. I meant to give the link for "Supper Time." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ58Kfe41kI
- Arlene: Another song sung by Ethel Waters: Irving Berlin's "Supper Time"
- bob: Powerful songs. I read the book "A Lynching in the Heartland" by James H. Madison about a dozen years ago. …
- Ron: Sky Above, Mud Below by Tom Russell is another.
- Jack Williams: Another Othis Taylor song from White African is "My Soul's in Louisiana."