Monthly Archives: November 2014


If I were to ask you to identify this group of menalabmaI would assume most of you would not know who it is. Don’t worry I did not either until entering the Rhetoric of Country Music class. However, although you do not recognize them I guarantee you have heard their songs.  This group of men came together to form one of the most successful country bands of all time, Alabama.  They originated out of, yes you guessed it, Alabama. The band began with three cousins, Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry, and Jeff Cook. They later added their drummer Mark Herndon who was not blood related, just a talented musician. They began their success in the 1980’s with over 27 number 1 hits and seven multiplatinum awards. When you think about that in today’s music industry, that is A LOT of success. Their most popular songs consist of “Song of the South,” “Mountain Music,” “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas,” and “Tennessee River”. Now I am almost positive you know who I am talking about now. If you are any type of country music fan, or just a fan of music in general, I am fairly certain you have heard a few, if not all of those songs.

This band is a perfect example of a simple group of men coming together, playing instruments, and singing.  This is something I think is missing in todays country. Of course it exists in Texas Country, but the more popular/modern country does not have this type of music anywhere. I realize that society has changed since then of course, but it just goes to show that you do not need to add special affects to a singers voice or any other enhancements to be successful. This band is considered of the most successful country bands of all time and if you listen to their songs compared to todays country, you can see how simple and pure it is.  Their songs were relied more on the lyrics rather than the beat of rhythm of the song. I think that is something that modern country has turned away from. It is more about appealing to the listeners ear rather then the audience connecting to the lyrics.

Alabama was considered a country/rock group during their time. To put that into perspective, in today’s society, Florida Georgia Line is what the music industry considers country/rock now. I know I am not alone in saying these two are in no comparison. Not taking anything away from Florida Georgia Line of course, but this is just an example of how much country music has changed in society. Our expectations as an audience is not near the same as it was 30 years ago and to me, I wish it were not that way.



Filed under New Traditionalism, Reflection

Where did all the Country bands go?

Alabama’s Randy Owen was recently quoted saying, “I Want to Hear More Bands.” This message comes from lead singer of the band Alabama, which was one of the main reasons bands were so popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Owen takes a look around and realizes that Country music is growing away from the appeal of bands.

Today in Country music, most artists are individual performers known only by their own name. The shift from bands to individual artists was gradual over time, but was very clear by the early 2000s. The reason for this may be the appeal of fame and being the center of attention. For the most part, famous country artists receive more attention than country bands, because of the focus only being on one single person. Now, there aren’t many country bands that I can currently think of, because of this shift.

In a different interview with Randy Owen, he tells of how he is saddened by the low number of “self contained bands” nowadays. A “self contained band” is one where the band members actually play their own instruments and write their own songs (which is almost unheard of today). Owen tells of how it shouldn’t be this way, and I agree with him. When there is a band (or even an individual artist) playing and you know that they play their own instruments and write their own songs, it feels much more genuine.

Random (but authentic) Country band

Most artists have songwriters that will write the majority of their music, and this has become the standard (at least for big name artists). Many Country artists still play their own instruments though, especially the guitar, which is great. Music has seemed to drift away from bands and pushed the focus onto the individual. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, there is something about seeing a real band on stage and seeing how they interact with each other and the crowd is just incredible, and it feels authentic. It shows that they care more about the group as a whole than the individual, and I feel that it gives the audience a sense of togetherness and gets them more involved in the performance.

There will probably not be a shift back to the era of bands, like it was in the 80s and 90s. This is because times are changing and most fans have come to like the idea of individual artists more and more, which is also completely fine. It’s all about the audience and giving them what they want, and the shift from bands to individuals (and vice versa) isn’t a bad thing by any means. It is just something different, and it is what we come to expect now in these changing times.

Rascal Flatts


Filed under New Traditionalism, News

The Country Side of American Idol

UnknownWhether it was Sanjaya’s bizarre Mohawk, Simon Cowell’s cranky comments or Ryan Seacrest’s charming persona, American Idol was by far my favorite show to watch with my family as a child. The peak of its popularity was while I was in elementary school, captivating its viewers by showing the journey of each contestant from the moment they tried out, all the way until they made it to the big stage in Los Angeles. What most people might not realize is how much American Idol has contributed to the country music industry. Almost every season of American Idol produced a country singer, whether they were first place or not. Lets now go through a few contestants who have added to the success of country over the past ten years.

Unknown-1 Carrie Underwood:

Carrie was the winning contestant in Season four, and is no question the most famous artist that has ever come out of American Idol. She’s one of the hottest artists in country right now holding number 26 on iTunes Top Purchased Songs for her single “Something in the Water” and has won several awards for her work. Only some of her awards consist of six Grammy’s, sixteen Billboard Music Awards, and eleven Academy of Country Music Awards. Not only does her record breaking music success have girls all over aspire to be like her, but also her famously toned legs, attractive NHL player husband and the fact that she is insanely gorgeous contribute to that. Her powerful voice captivated millions of music listeners when she won in Season four, and has consistently been loved ever since.

Unknown-3 Scotty McCreery:

As the winner of Season ten, Scotty McCreery stole the hearts of viewers all over at a mere age of seventeen. This North Carolina native shockingly has one of the deepest voices I have ever heard that is undoubtedly country. His most famous songs that are out right now are “Feelin’ It” and “See You Tonight”. After seeing him live at the Orange County fair, I loved him way more than I ever thought that I would. He was such an incredible performer, and so down to earth. He was just so interactive with the audience and you could tell that he was my age by the way that he was acting. After the concert I followed him on Instagram and saw that his posts were so normal that you wouldn’t be able to tell that he was famous just by viewing his profile. To this day he is one of my favorite performers because of his amazing personality and his catchy music.

UnknownKellie Pickler:

Even though she wasn’t the winner of the show, she still had some success in country. Her high, twangy voice and thick country accent caused country fans to be attracted to her. She has come out with four albums since she has been eliminated on the show, and is arguably more successful than the actual winner of her season, Taylor Hicks. Many people compared her to Carrie Underwood while she was going through the show, however she put forth a lot of effort to stand out as an original artist. My personal favorite single of hers is “Best Days of Your Life” because of its catchy tune and lyrics that make you want to sing along.


Filed under Lists, Movies and TV

9/11 and Country Music

474085--50f947f8-f83a-4834-923b-94bc8ea26558-posterWhere were you on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when terrorists associated with the al-Qaeda group flew commercial aircraft into the World Trade Center and Pentagon in what became one of the deadliest and costliest attacks on United States soil? This is the question Alan Jackson asks in one of many country songs that appeared in the years just after the attack (“Where Were You [When the World Stopped Turning]”). As Jackson argues, wherever you were, you probably remember how you received the news. You probably remember feeling torn about how you and the United States should respond.

The early 2000s were an exciting time for country music. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, older songs such as Hank Williams, Jr’s “A Country Boy Can Survive” (1982) and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” (1984) returned to radio stations, helping Americans through their grief. Artists such as Jackson, Dolly Parton, and Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote songs about reflection and healing, while others such as Toby Keith and Darryl Worley wrote songs that gave vent to the nation’s anger and called for a violent reckoning.

"Fuck You, Toby Keith"

“Fuck You, Toby Keith”

The Dixie Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier” (2002), which relates a simple story about a girl waiting for her boyfriend to come home from Vietnam, gained new resonance as President George W. Bush led the country into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to drive a wedge between al-Qaeda and its political supporters. After the Dixie Chicks’ lead singer, Natalie Maines, criticized the war while performing in London, listeners turned against her, pulling “Travelin’ Soldier” off the radio and essentially ending the band’s short time at the front of the country music industry. Scholars have still not fully assessed the ways that 9/11 and country music interacted in the first decade of this new century—how we learned more about each of them during the process.

In your final projects, you will explore the ways that country music has been used (and continues to be used) to give artists a voice in times of crisis and circumstances of controversy. As the guidelines indicate, you are welcome either to write a new song or compile a list of 8+ already-existing songs that intervene in a present debate. As you undertake this work, I hope you will keep the example of these 9/11 songs in mind. Even country artists who are known for singing about girls, trucks, and booze sometimes take advantage of the rich opportunity the genre provides them to make political statements.

Below, I have linked several songs that (re)appeared after 9/11 and that relate to that topic. Your job in class today is to give three of these songs a close listen and then post a comment identifying some similarities and differences that you notice. Overall, what do you think characterizes songs that responded effectively to the crisis? What lessons, if any, have these examples taught you about writing songs that respond to an issue of intense social importance?

When you have completed this activity, please resume work on your music video. When you have completed the video, export and post it either to YouTube or the class website (using the “media” button). Email Dusty the link to the completed video before class begins next Tuesday, November 25.

Note that the comment you leave today does not count as one of the ten that you are required to make for credit.

“God Bless the U.S.A” (1984) by Lee Greenwood

“America Will Survive” (2001) by Hank Williams, Jr.

“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” (2001) by Alan Jackson [Read Brittany Fietsam’s song analysis]

“The Angry American (Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue)” (2002) by Toby Keith [read Will Glass’s post about the song]

“The Rising” (2002) by Bruce Springsteen [Read MaKayla Markey’s song analysis]

“Hello God” (2002) by Dolly Parton

“Travelin’ Solder” (2002) by the Dixie Chicks [read Ramie Payne’s song analysis]

“Have You Forgotten?” (2003) by Darryl Worley

“Grand Central Station” (2004) by Mary Chapin Carpenter


Filed under Class work

CMA Spotlight

splash-mockup-bcEvery year I pop my popcorn, grab a comfy blanket, and plant my self on the couch for the next few hours. No, it’s not to watch the Walking Dead series marathon or any other show for the matter, but to watch the Country Music Awards.

Since I was about 12 I have watched the CMAs every year. I just love the CMAs! In my opinion it is probably the best music awards show on television. Not saying that other music award shows are not great, because they are, but there is just something special about the Country Music Awards. Maybe it’s because my dad and I used to watch them together when I was younger or because we would always try to guess which artist was going to win from each category. It could also be that because I love country music so much, I admire the CMAs as well and not to mention that Carrie Underwood hosted the show for the past two years. From the opening act to the closing act, the CMAs are just something spectacular to be a part of even if it’s just from your living room. One day I wish to be able to attend the CMAs and be in the same room with so many of the country artists that I absolutely love.

This year I was unable to watch the CMAs live but I the next day I was sure to follow my traditional routine and stream them online. It seems like every year they just get better and better. The CMAs never fault to put on a great show and do country music a great justice. It is such a great thing to see so many deserving artists honored for all their hard work. In addition to seeing all the awards presented, there are so many amazing performances that night. It’s like getting a concert from all your favorite artist. If you have never watched the CMAs, you definitely need to. I promise you won’t be sorry.


Filed under Awards, Reflection