COUNTRY....on the move
The word 'country' sure has a lot of different meanings, and sometimes the meaning is irrelevant to it's original dictionary definition. I, of course, find it's meaning in music, which I'll talk about later, but ever since the election, the word 'country' has been a very revealing word used in some incredibly different ways.
In the heat of the campaign going up to the final election, a lot of celebrities who really dislike Donald Trump, swore to get out of the 'country' if he was elected. The loudest among these was Rosie O'Donnell, who used her diatribe in heated and exhausting clamor to say repeatedly that she was "leaving the country" if Trump was elected. I don't get it. Trump was elected, but she's still in America. What does that make her? There were a number of other actors, if you will, who screamed the same thing to anyone who would listen, yet they are still in our 'country.' I don't get it. What does this make ALL of those who so loudly proclaimed these threats. Well liars I suppose, but wait a minute...actors 'are' liars. They 'act' like someone else, they imitate someone else, they even become someone else every time they 'act.' They get paid to actually 'be' someone else. Well so much for that use of the word 'country.'
Another meaning for the word is sort of my favorite. I, and my little family, wife Sheila and daughter Bobbie Lhea travel a great deal. We've been to many different 'countries' on planet earth, performing our version of America's old-time 'country' music. Hardly any of those 'countries' are the same, at least music wise. We spent 30-days in China performing what 'they' called 'old-time' music on a huge fashion show. We've spent 50 tours (or more) to Europe visiting many 'countries' performing what they call 'traditional American country' music. And the amazing thing about all this travel is that 'country' music performed by the natives of the various 'countries' we've visited, is never quite the same. They all have a deep and abiding affection for America's 'country' music. Not so much today, this kind of 'country' music is too pop-oriented for them. The older 'country' performers who are imitating American music try very hard to keep some of the early elements that made 'country' music 'country.' Wow, this is getting interesting huh? Our biggest observation was how 'country' music sounded differently by local players in every 'country' we visited. We found it fascinating. Ireland and England definitely have a closer grasp of the 'country' sound, but Holland, Germany, Austria, and even France all play 'country' music, but their interpretation of it is somewhat different, in each and every case. The further south we traveled, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, the more likely 'local' musical expression invaded the American style of 'country' music. One of our favorite places to visit, actually we have two in southern Europe. Barcelona, Spain, is an absolutely beautiful city with incredible traditions they still keep very alive. However there are some super musicians there that like American style 'country' music, and they play it well, but outside that particular location, except for a few good bands in Madrid, 'country' music is exactly what that means, it's music from their own rural areas, and each area can be a little different, and each area offers different interpretations of how they play American 'country' music. Portugal, another of our favorites, is a country that has a minimal number of musicians playing American style 'country' music. However those who play it, have a determined mind-set to make it sound as much like George Jones, or Johnny Cash, or Loretta Lynn, or Dolly Parton as they can get. That makes for an interesting listening experience, especially in those countries that have a heavy 'accent.'
My favorite definition of 'country' is in our own back yard. "Country' to me, simply means 'rural' America. You know, the ones that are called 'deplorable' simply because they saw a need for change in American politics. Politics however, plays no part in the 'music' I so adore, which is simply called 'country.' Now I guess, we'll need to call it 'rural' music because of the incredibly major changes that have befallen this traditional music. We no longer hear the steel guitar, pedal or otherwise, or the fiddle in modern 'country' music. We still hear it plentifully at our festival in LeMars, Iowa and our smaller event in Fremont, Nebraska, but it's still there, and it still makes the case, rather brilliantly, of what is 'real' country music. Honky-Tonkers and outlaw country are also now on the bandwagon about what is 'real' country and what isn't. It's an amazing display of opinion devoted to the hip-hop-rap-punk country that now exists in America, very little of which could be described as being a real 'country' kind of music. Unless of course the 'country' of America has changed so much that tradition, sincerity, style, and 'classic country' music no longer exists. Aaaaah, but it does, big time. The 'charts' and the 'artists' of today's 'country' music do have a monopoly on who gets heard, and what we hear, simply because they control the radio play list and the chart listings. But out in the 'real' country, the music still contains all the elements of 'rural' music. And that's not likely to change as long as we have so many really good musicians and vocalists, and songwriters, who maintain the 'country' image as it always has been.
By Bob Everhart, President, National Traditional Country Music Assn. www.music-savers.com for Country Music News International