Because of our recent focus on country sub-genres and our talk with Christine Warren, I have taken an interest in Western Swing. As I was listening to some of Bob Wills’ music, I recognized a certain sound: Mariachi Music. Mariachi music includes, similar to Western Swing, a fiddle or violin, blaring horns, a variety of string instruments and the traditional “Big Band” Sound. These similarities struck a chord with me because of my interest in learning more about older country music (I have little knowledge before Neo-Traditional George Strait and Pop country Garth Brooks) and because of my love of Mariachi music and my Hispanic culture.
To further understand the influences of traditional Mexican music on Western swing, we must listen to the King of Western Swing himself, Bob Wills. His interesting band leader qualities and his high pitched interjections make for lively dance music. The big band sound is key to the inner workings of Western Swing as well as Mariachi music. Now here is Bob Wills…
I have chosen this next video that features Los Lobos singing “El Pescado Nadador” because although it is not heavily traditional mariachi music it does feature many of the same qualities.
Wanting to look more into Mexican and Tejano influences, I stumbled across Radio Cultures: The Sound Medium in American Life. I found that not only is Western Swing and later forms of country music influenced by the instrumentation of mariachi bands but also by German and Czech polka bands. One of the easiest sounds to pin point as a similarity between Western Swing and Mariachi Music is the fiddle and, in some cases, the violin. The following video features violinists from Mariachis Los Arrieros and the Quebe Sisters’ fiddlers as they demonstrate the similar sounds of the two distinctly different genres and their ability to get the crowd dancing.
Big names that were influenced by this traditional Mexican music include Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Freddy Fender and Linda Ronstadt. Much of the western swing style with other incorporated influences eventually morphed into the beginnings of Rockabilly. The exploding horns in the beginning of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” exemplify the obvious Mexican influence on country music.
Understanding the intricacies of artists’ influences is a difficult task but it does make for some inspiring findings. If there is any one thing that I love about country music, it is its ability to transcend one specific influence and incorporate a variety of genres and styles.
Over at Saving Country Music, Trigger has written a new post condemning the trend in adding dance beats to country music. Citing the success of Sam Hunt’s Montevallo, which is currently holding the #1 position on Billboard’s Country Albums chart, he claims that a new subgenre of country music is sprouting its “unfortunate tentacles.” He calls this emerging subgenre “Metro-Politan Country” and predicts that it will become more prevalent in the next couple of years before dying the way that Bro Country seems to be dying now.
Since we’ve been talking so much about country’s subgenres and the troubles with analyzing them while they’re popular, I thought y’all might enjoy taking a look at this new article. Also, I’ll be happy to give you class credit if you decide to leave Trigger a comment. You might respond directly to his post or to any of the other comments that have already been written. Just leave me a comment here letting me know that you’ve done this.
Lastly, I thought I would point out that Hunt’s not the first person to integrate dance beats into country music. The technique extends at least as far back as the Countrypolitan moment of the 70s/80s, including Dolly Parton’s take on “House of the Rising Sun” (1980) and “Potential New Boyfriend” (1983).
While watching The CBS George Strait special, I saw Jamie Foxx give a Tribute to George Strait by singing his song “you look so good in love”. Before Jamie Sang the song he mentioned an experience when he was younger about trying to go see George in the town next over to his hometown. He talked about when he found out that George was coming to his town to preform, that he was going to see him no matter what even if he had to go over the tracks to see him. As Jamie said, unfortunately he wasn’t able to see him but no one believed him that George strait had performed there until he met George Strait and he verified his story.
I enjoyed watching the tribute for one because I love that song but also it shows how much George Strait has influenced country music artist but also other Genre Artists like Jamie Foxx who is an R&B artist. It amazes me how a country artist could influence an artist who isn’t even in the same Genre. This truly shows how country music has shaped music today and how George will be known as one of the greats for all time.
While Jamie was singing the tribute, I saw some similarities and some differences in how he sung it and how George sings it. In Jamie’s version, it has more of a gospel and R&B sound to his voice; whereas with George, it has a deeper tone and a more rustic feel to his voice. The most profound similarity is the way the music flows with lyrics showing that side of Nashville sound and being elegant and smooth in both of their versions of the song.
Although Jamie wasn’t the only person who sung a song in tribute to George i think that his was the most profound due to the fact that exemplifies that country music can cross all boundaries even other genres. As I finished watching the rest of special I started to look back to my past to remember things about George Strait and how much his music has affected me and I am not even a country singer so I knew that some of the people like Jamie, Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton , Miranda Lambert, and Taylor swift who are singers, how much he has affected their lives in a tremendous way by either influencing their music or allowing them to be the opening act in his concert for their first concert. George Strait has and will always be an iconic figure in the music business no matter what genre it is and this tribute below shows how this is true.
Being from a suburb of Atlanta country music is popular but Honky Tonk is not a thing. Two stepping is something that is well known from the rap song “2 Step” by DJ UNK. So this last weekend I ventured up to Dallas/Fort Worth and got to experience the world’s largest Honky Tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas. It was nothing like I could have ever imagined. The place was huge and full of people. When we first got there we went right into the bull-riding arena. The arena was just buzzing with excitement. Only two of the riders made it to the full eight seconds, however it was so thrilling to watch. The atmosphere that the arena brought was crazy. When the bull-riding was finished we moved to the dance floor to people watch. And let me just say Billy Bob’s attracts all different types of people. From old people to young people, all different types of ethnic groups, couples to just groups of friends, it was a very good people-watching scene. Some couples were such good dancers my friends and me were in awe of them, while others were just awkward and uncomfortable to watch. The good ones would work the whole floor doing dips and spins. Although at one point things got really weird, when a hired dance company called The House of Horrors, came on stage to perform a zombie version of a “Fifty Shade of Grey” dance. They were clearly promoting the release of the new movie this weekend but the dance was awful, uncomfortable to watch, and felt very out of place.
Sara Evans was the performer for the night, which I thought was huge because I grew up listening to her music. However, neither of my friends seemed to know any of her songs. My two favorite songs of hers that I listened to growing up were “Suds in a Bucket” and “Cheatin”. The first song she played was also her other big hit “Born to Fly” it was performed beautifully and she had the crowds full attention.
We did not stay for her whole performance because we also wanted to walk around the stockyards. It was so different from what I had expected, because we had been in downtown Fort Worth for dinner so when we arrived in the stockyards it was nothing I could have imagined. I felt like I had stepped into a small old country town and was not still in one of the biggest cities in Texas. Obviously, it was late at night at this point so we window shopped at the closed stores and peeked into the other bars to get a feel for what they were like. They all seemed very similar with people dressed to the nines in their boots, belt buckles, and cowboy hats. It was so interesting because even though everyone was dressed similarly there still were a wide variety of people everywhere. We left the stockyards and went to explore West 7th Street in downtown which is suppose to be the college area, and it was a drastic change as to where we had just been.
When I first heard that Toby Keith had come out with a new song in 2014 titled “Drunk Americans”, I felt a little bit offended. Not ALL Americans are drunks. I thought he was placing a negative stereotype on the land of the free and home of the brave. I thought to myself that songs like this one are the reason that country music hasn’t always been the world’s favorite genre (even though it is my favorite). But as the song began to play and Toby began to sing, I immediately changed my view on the song. I almost felt a little bad for giving Toby such a hard time.
The song begins with this simple yet profound set of lines, “We ain’t East / we ain’t West. We ain’t left / we ain’t right. We ain’t black / we ain’t white.” I instantly decided that this was a pretty cool song. The overall message Toby was trying to get across is that it doesn’t matter whom you are or where you come from, we are all just drunk Americans. Every single line in the song is intended to be comical and provoke an easy going state of mind, however, this brilliant song has an underlying message that anyone from around the world can relate to. Instead of this country song focusing on a specific group of people or a specific lifestyle, it focuses on a moral lesson that holds our country together. Toby says that it doesn’t matter what color you are, how much money you have, what you look like, or where you come from. When you’re in the bar, you’re a friend. However, I consider the bar to resemble America, and getting drunk to be translated to living out the American dream.
Personally, I had a really strong connection to Toby’s masterpiece the first time I listened to it, and even now I still enjoy the message. Each line makes a profound statement, but nothing can beat the end of the song. “In these neon lights / We’re all stars we’re all stripes / And we’re all drunk Americans”. I don’t know about everyone else, but that ending really makes me LOVE my country and the people who make this country so great. This song, as well as many other country songs such as “Bleed Red” by Ronnie Dunn, really instills a strong sense of American pride in everyone who listens. Country music is not exclusive to a certain group of people or a certain state. Country music shows us how to be a proud American, and sometimes even a drunk American.