Country music has been around for decades, but like any type of music it has changed a lot since the days of Jimmie Rodgers and Eck Robertson. If you are a fan of today’s country artists you may not be so in love with the country music of the 20’s and 30’s. It is hard to explain how the music can still be so different yet still considered ‘Country’. So what makes country music unique? Let’s find out.
Older country music used to feature fiddles, banjos, guitars and it had a definite gospel flavor. Later much slower and simple chords defined country music. Today that is not the case, you will find a mix of traditional instruments mixed with what you would find in a rock band.
This is definitely one of the defining features of country music. The songs tell stories about loss, pain and everyday life lessons we all go through. That is what differentiated country from other music, it is incredibly relatable for most people. However, today’s country doesn’t always focus so much on the ‘storytelling’ aspect, it has become just as commercial as pop music. Country music has become big business and the changes in the industry have reflected that. Country music used to be more of a social commentary on the common folk in America, farmers, miners, factory workers and other blue collar trades.
The Distinctive Twang
Is it the twang that defines country music? Many would say yes. That being said plenty of modern country music lacks that distinctive twang you used to take for granted, but they still define themselves as country artists. Even artists like Keith Urban who hails from Australia…definitely no southern twang, still sounds distinctly country.
There is country music that has hit the pop charts and been very successful. Even the most diehard country music lovers can’t distinguish it from radio pop. Think of artists like Shania Twain back in the 90’s all the way to Carrie Underwood today, they have enjoyed crossover success.
None of that tells us what defines country music or what makes it unique. There are lots of purists who claim we haven’t had any “real country music” since at least the 70’s. Others claim that country has become just too commercial, and there may be some truth to that. Regardless of opinions country music is enjoying a greater popularity than ever before, and that is a good thing.