Making year-end lists is always difficult for me. Since I purposely don’t stream music, I’m limited to listening to the titles I purchase or promos I receive here in the office. Because of this, there are so many releases that I never get a chance to hear. Over the last few weeks, I have read many year-end lists and, again, I realize that I am not in sync with many of my friends and other music journalists. This means that I am either terminally unhip or wholly unique. I’d like to think the latter, but I’m afraid that most people consider me the former.
When one listens to contemporary Country Music these days, it bears little resemblance to the traditional sound that helped define the genre decades ago. When Hank Williams, Faron Young, Patsy Cline, George Jones and Johnny Cash sang, you could almost smell the beer-soaked wooden floorboards of the old honky tonks coming through your radio. Nowadays, when you listen to contemporary Country Music, all you can smell is the mall. For better or worse, Country Music has gone through many changes over the years and remains one of the most consistently popular – and profitable – genres of music in the U.S. However, while it has been pushed out of the limelight in the States, the traditional Country sound of the ’50s and ’60s remains hugely popular in Europe. Many iconic Country & Western artists that have long since been forgotten in their homeland are revered in countries they probably never set foot in. Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Don Gibson, Marvin Rainwater, Stonewall Jackson and Hank Snow are just a few of the pioneering artists that are seldom remembered by a generation of Americans who were born after the Urban Cowboy-inspired Country resurgence in the ’80s. We must now look to these European countries if we want deluxe reissues and box sets from these Trad Country acts, who seldom have more than a single disc ’hits’ collection available here in the U.S. of A.