The State of Country Music

What is it about country music that makes fans so passionate? What causes them to draw lines in the sand and debate about it as if it were a life-or-death situation? Roughstock tries to get to the bottom of an ages-old debate.

Written by: Matt Bjorke

I didn't grow up with country music dominating my family's stereo but as I was growing up, I was exposed to greats like George Jones and Hank Williams. However, it wasn't until Garth Brooks and George Strait hooked me that I was sold on country music. They allowed for me to get exited about music. That excitement allowed me to see a future where I could be involved in the genre. And now, as I sit here writing this, I am in music city because of my passion for country music. So, imagine what it's like to be in the middle of conversations with people who hate the current state of country music.

I don't get it.

I understand the passion of the people who "despise" mainstream country music from the likes of Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Sugarland (pictured above) or Taylor Swift. While these artists aren't 'traditional' by any stretch of the imagination, they're also FAR from being overtly pop (despite crossover pop chart successes). These are artists that help bring in new fans to a genre that is still the most important genre for radio stations across the USA. Country music is universal, it's a genre that has cast a wide net in which artists can play their music and hope to get noticed. Will country radio play everything? Nope, it never has. Fans of "Outlaw" country, "Countrypolitan," "Honky Tonk," "Neo-traditionalist," etc. should remember their hallowed 'traditional' country music was once in the same boat as "mainstream" country music was: non-traditional to many fans at the time.

The argument over what's country or not is usually a good discussion to have with people but if you're like me, you grow tired of all the fighting that fans of both 'old' and 'new' country tend to do on the internet discussion boards. Is everything in country music great? Not at all but a lot of it is better than either 'old' or 'new' country fans are often willing to admit.