Johnny Cash said that Nashville’s had a hard time figuring how to sell country to New Yorkers with boots. It’s a national advertising demographic thing now.
Well, country ought to be personal and interactive. Nobody in new country makes you think of Marty, Hank or Lefty – not because they weren’t influential, but because real country singing requires life outside a studio, not video appeal. But Nashville, Inc. doesn’t want that – it’s too risky. Why? Well, new country radio is designed to offend no one. Sure, it’s caricature, apology or hip idiom, but nobody laughs at themselves anymore. Politically correct? Maybe, but there’s a lot of cutesy girls and dimpled boys, and nobody’s hands are getting dirty working. It doesn’t reflect reality. God didn’t make these honkytonk angels, unless he’s writing the graffiti in the mens’ room.
Old country doesn’t get on radio because “there’s no money in nostalgia”, but there is quite a bundle in fantasy. Nobody’s ever mad or disgusted in New Country, where a smile and great hair prove your heart is broken. It’s a product for a disposable society, leaving no impressions, taking no stand and requiring no listener commitment.
Real Country is like whiskey – it improves with age. A new country song doesn’t need born-on dating. You know when it goes bad. Praise of mediocrity devalues genius, which is a long-term thing. Singers who survive their twenties, who resist being groomed and shrink-wrapped, and who prefer giving unique memories to each two-bit roadhouse rather than an intimate global satellite experience from Central Park.
Buddy Holly told Nashville, Inc. “My way, or I’m leaving. I’d rather shovel shit in Lubbock.”
Well, until there’s a Buddy in New Country, you’ll just have to pretend that Hank Sr. would have been “discovered” on Star Search.