I went to a great country music concert in Toronto last night at the Danforth Music Hall. It was the second of two sold out shows for the band The Avett Brothers. If you’re a country music fan there is a good chance you’ve never heard The Avett Brothers music and that’s a shame. But that’s because their music is rarely played on country radio and also because their music is considered by programmers as too country. (Yea, I know, weird huh?) It has elements of bluegrass, old-time country, rock ‘n’ roll, and folk and the main instruments are banjo, acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, piano and cello. The band’s songs are cleverly written and contain common country themes like falling in love, breaking up, getting married, leaving home, death, and good times. They sure connected with their fans last night, they stood up upon hearing the first note and didn’t sit down for the rest of the two-hour performance. This was a jubilee, a celebration, a good time country show, and it is specifically this kind of music that is often missing in mainstream country. Grand Ole Opry member and country music icon Vince Gill agrees.
In the last couple of weeks Gill has made waves in country circles for taking issue with today’s popular country music. In an interview with Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette the Country Music Hall of Fame member said, “For me, it’s lost its traditional bent pretty severely. I would love to hear someone write a song like ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ (a hit for George Jones in 1981) rather than ‘You’re hot. I’m hot. We’re in a truck.’ It’s just mind-numbing to me.”
Gill’s country music career is something to behold. He began his career as a member Pure Prairie League and played guitar for Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs. He then decided on a solo career releasing his first album in 1984. Since then Oklahoma native has earned 18 CMA Awards and 19 Grammys. In twenty years recording for MCA Nashville he had 23 Top 10 singles, 5 of which went to No. 1. Yet Gill finds his career in transition. His MCA contract was not renewed and his songs no longer get played on country radio. “I still want to have hit records,” he states. “You never get that out of your system. But in some sense I have been shown the door.” Why? Why is their no longer room for Vince on your radio?
There is a lot of great country music with traditional elements being recorded (like The Avett Brothers) but not much of it ends up on your favorite country station. It is now considered ‘roots’ music or Americana and is out of the mainstream. Do you agree with Vince? Do you think mainstream country needs to get back to its roots? Are there too many songs that will not last, that are novelty songs, and not enough tunes with substance?
Here are a few cool country artists that probably don’t get played on your country radio station. What artists do you listen to who do not get played on country radio? Videos below from Justin Townes Earle, Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford & Sons, The Civil Wars, Alison Krauss and Union Station, and Ryan Bingham.