What are country rock music


While country music is the most successful music genre in the USA, the reputation of this genre in Europe is rather ambivalent. It is often disqualified or ridiculed for being conservative in terms of values ​​and reactionary, even though country pop is firmly established as a hit form. As early as 1979 the German country formation "Truckstop" almost won the Grand Prix d'Eurovision and despite all the fashions, Country has repeatedly produced timeless lyrics ("Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose", Kris Kristofferson) and timeless music.

Country music has its beginnings in the songs and instruments that the early immigrants from Ireland, England or Scotland bring with them to the new world. The states of Kentucky and Tennessee are considered their region of origin. The music at home in these rural mountain settlements developed into country music at the beginning of the 20th century under the influence of increasing urbanization and the adoption of elements of the blues, which has its roots in the Afro-American population.

At the beginning of the twenties, many local and regional styles shaped the American music landscape. Mass media such as radio and vinyl began their triumphal march without paying attention to rural music for the time being.

Country musicians can only be heard on the radio in 1923. It is played live, there is still no talk of recordings of this old-time music. The listeners are enthusiastic about this music and soon there will be regular radio shows dedicated to this new style, the so-called "Barn Dance Shows". The Texan broadcaster WBAP started on January 4th, followed by the Chicago broadcaster WLS in 1924.

The instruments used by live radio bands traditionally include guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin and violin. Piano, accordion and harmonica can also be found in the arrangements. Likewise, the autoharp (a zither-like musical instrument) and the steel guitar, which appear very rarely outside of the country context.

The commercial birth of county music is June 14, 1923. On this day, the producer Ralph Peer drives to Atlanta with a portable recording studio to record two songs with the fiddler Johnny Carson. After surprisingly good sales figures, Okeh Records offers him a contract. This is how the new genre is recognized.

In 1925, Ralph Peer introduced the name "Hillbilly" for the new genre, which had not yet had a name. The legendary "Grand Ole Opry Show", initially a regional Saturday evening show conceived by the Nashville broadcaster WMS, goes on air for the first time on November 28, 1925. From 1928 she supplied the entire North American continent with country music.

The increasing popularity goes hand in hand with an enormous increase in singers and musicians who try out this style. From 1925 the first "Singing Cowboys" appear, who enter the stage romantically transfigured in costumes. Carl T. Sprague is the first to have a record recorded. This variation of country was hugely popular in the 1930s and came to a head in the 1940s with the first western films in which a nostalgic cowboy cliché (Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry) increasingly became a symbol of the US national identity device.

Ralph Peer is still the driving force behind the commercialization of the country. The "Bristol Sessions" he initiated in 1927, at which a total of 76 musicians perform, is a milestone in this development. This is where Jimmy Rodgers and the Carter Family were discovered, who then received record deals and who are still cited as role models by many musicians today.

In the thirties, country began to differentiate: Bob Wills shaped western swing by adopting jazzy elements, in pubs and bars in the vicinity of the Texan oil fields the rough direction of honky tonk emerged, which was first introduced in 1937 in the Al Dexter song "Honiky Tonk Blues "is mentioned. In 1940, Bill Monroe developed the demanding bluegrass, which was difficult to play.

From 1945 the "golden years" of country music begin. The dominating greats of this time are Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams, who made his breakthrough with his appearance in the Grand Ole Opry on June 11, 1949.

The genre only got its name in 1949 from Billboard magazine, which replaced the name "Hillbilly" with "Country & Western".

In the mid-50s, with the emergence of rockabilly and rock'n'roll, country experienced its first crisis, with Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran shaping the musical scene.

Leading producers are reacting to this development by bringing country closer to more accessible pop. The violin is given less space, studio musicians and choirs upgrade the musical quality, but the musical presentations lose their originality and authenticity. This development traded in the 50s and early 60s under the name "Nashville Sound", of which Patsy Klein is the most successful representative and experienced an upswing in the 80s thanks to smooth-ironed stars like Linda Ronstedt, John Denver and Olivia Newton-John.

In 1955, Johnny Cash celebrated his first successes, and fingerpicking guitarist Chet Atkins also successfully alluded to the crisis, far from the Nashville mainstream.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Merle Haggard explicitly opposed the appropriation of traditional country by the Nashville sound. With his song "Oakie From Muscogee" (1969), however, he is also considered to have triggered a reactionary trend against hippies and liberals in country music.

In the 60s, country ladies like Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and Dottie West step into the limelight, while folk music (Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez) is experiencing a revival.

Bob Dylan and especially the Byrds with their album "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" shape country rock, to which bands like the Eagles, Dire Straits and Keith Urban can later be assigned.

Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Tompall Glaser also left Nashville for Texas in the 1970s, where there was already a fresh and lively country scene that escapes rigid conventions - there is talk of an outlaw movement.

From 1990 the New Country flourished, a generation around Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw approached pop again successfully with their compositions performed with rock instruments, without denying the fundamental roots of country.

Another variety of country can be found in the rather rough alternative country, which combines elements of punk with original American music, with country, folk and blues. The most classic example of this is Johnny Cash's "American Recordings", produced by hip hop and heavy metal producer Rick Rubin. The lyrics have become darker, the alternative country deals with the downside of the American dream: with loss, failure or death.