The beginnings of Country Music and the beginnings of Blues are very similar. These genres were first recorded in the 1920s, and at the time the difference between country, then called hillbilly music, and the blues, then called race music, was really only the race of the artist, which was often confused. The famous Bluesmen of the 1920s like Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Mississippi John Hurt sang mostly traditional and religious songs, later moving onto songs about other topics such as personal and cathartic stories. These types of songs were also sang by those such as Jimmie Rodgers and Eck Robertson. If you listen to the songs of this period one after another the similarities between these two genres of music are apparent
In the time since the beginning of these genres Country and Blues have have undergone many changes and gone in many different directions. For blues the biggest change was during the Great Migration when many African Americans moved out of the rural south for big northern cities like Chicago. During this time the blues was electrified and artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf were revolutionizing the genre. In the meantime country, music was undergoing many changes like honkeytonk music and the Nashville sound. At this time country music and blues were definitely distinct and very different despite sharing similar roots.
Today I think that blues and country are closer than they have been in a long time. There has been a push towards more traditional ways for each genre while also having a modern spin. I am glad to see this trend because hearing new music from two of my favorite genres. Gary Clark Jr. is one of the artists keeping the blues alive and revolutionizing it at the same time. He keeps the iconic electric guitar and soulful lyrics while adding a modern sound. On the country side of things Chris Stapleton, winner of the 2015 CMA Male Vocalist award, is leading the movement back to a more roots based music with his own modern spin.
Listening to these two artists really shows the similarities that they have in their music. These two genres shared similar roots as traditional music that were initially recorded as “hillbilly” and “race” music. The genres grew up in the 1900s into very different types of music but due to their roots and changing tastes the genres are beginning to become more similar.