A friend wrote me an email about the following Sept 2008 review of Lucas Hudgins’ most recent CD on the 9513 –
Brady Vercher (who I had the pleasure to meet, along with his brother Brody, at the BDC showcase at SXSW a couple of weeks ago) said the following:
“And while authentic country is oftentimes another moniker for bad music that can’t cut it without bashing contemporary country, Hudgins’ music stands on its own.”
My friend (I’ll let him speak up if he wants to) said:
“Is this really the attitude of the people in country music today? When did authentic country music become “bad music”? Does this mean I have no taste in music? Should I question my preferences and yield to the masses and run down and buy a Tim McGraw CD because I just did not know any better? Shoot me where I am standing because I would be better off dead.”
While I can’t speak to Brady’s personal opinions, I have to tell my friend (and you) that I think I know where that attitude comes from. To me, Brady isn’t saying that he isn’t into country (on the contrary, since he dug Lucas’ CD). I think he’s voicing an attitude that exists.
Anytime a group of people are not popular or are underrepresented in the mainstream, there will tend to be an attitude against those people (how’s that for a generalized statement?). You can apply this to social groups and prejudice against race, gender, sexual orientation and color. And certainly it applies to music.
Take my experience as an artist. I am a female-fronted band that plays hardcore country music. If you think it’s been easy to get booked into places you are oh so wrong. My biggest obstacle? “We don’t like girl singers in our club.” In fact, there is a club in San Antonio that REFUSES to even play my CD or Amber’s CD on a break for their patrons to see if they would like us to play their club. Yet they feature Bobby Flores, Jake Hooker, Billy Mata, and many other artists that play the same music. . . How fortunate for Bobby, Jake and Billy that they were born as men (yes my tongue is in my cheek).
The problem, my fellow country music lovers, is that there are VERY few female-led groups on the club scene. Because we are few, the bulk of these club owners’ experience with “girl singers” (I still cringe at that term), is with gals jumping up onstage with some male artist and singing. And folks, quite frankly, it’s usually out of tune and poorly executed.
So, my thoughts on this whole issue that Brady inadvertently brings up are these. Hardcore country is NOT represented in the mainstream. No one is doing it. So where are people hearing hardcore country music? At local taverns. And we all have to admit that our local taverns are not always able to showcase the best talent. Many times it is local musicians, who enjoy country music very much, but are not professionals in a deep sense of the word. So the general public becomes accustomed to the following equation:
Hardcore Country + Music = Out of Tune, Out of Time and Out of Date
Yes, it IS frustrating. It is frustrating to be perceived (when you have not yet been heard) as an out of tune, pole-dancing “girl singer”. It is frustrating to have your music perceived (when it has not been listened to) as second-rate and unworthy of the standard played on today’s top 40 airwaves. It is frustrating to turn on the radio and not be able to hear the sounds that you love or the artists that you listen to via CD and mp3 player.
But there are those of us that are not deterred in our quest to play country music. There are those of us that are even inspired to work harder for a music that we feel to the depths of our soul.
ALL of us must fight the attitude of prejudice. I cannot tell you how many times recently I’ve had musician friends tell me that “NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR COUNTRY MUSIC.” Why, pray tell, have they formulated this opinion? BECAUSE COUNTRY MUSIC IS NOT IN THE MAINSTREAM. Therefore, their logic follows that no one wants to hear it.
Bullsh!t. They just CAN’T hear it – it’s not that they don’t want to. And that makes a huge difference.
And for the record, my beef is not as much with mainstream country as it is with the fact that the playing field is unconscionably uneven. If the door were open enough that ALL forms of music had a chance at mainstream airplay (look at bluegrass groups - Rhonda Vincent is amazing. Why isn't she able to get top 40 airplay?), then I'd be a little less apt to "bash contemporary country". And it is one of the things I like about the 9513. They put it all in the pot - independent music right along with mainstream record labels. The way that it should be.