There was a period in the 1990’s when Country music was in a war. Fans of Country Music were upset that their genre of music was transforming into something that was more rock ‘n’ roll.
Traditionalists wanted to keep the Country Music stations playing the same type of music they had for many years. The problem was that listeners kept on calling into the radio stations to request these newer “Country” artists, and many of the callers were brought to the Station specifically because they like the more upbeat Rock inspired Country. The so-called Country Cross over was now mainstream.
This argument from the traditionalists who wanted the same type of music they were used to and liked, vs. people who like what newer artists are doing is the same among all musical genres.
NWA was arguably the first mainstream gangsta’ rap music group. Before NWA many rap artists were singing about their Adidas shoes or how their parents just don’t understand. You did have social awareness in rap music too, but to go from DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince to Niggaz Wit’ Attitude was a huge change in style. I can expand on this aspect of rap music in a future article, but suffice it to say that NWA had white kids in the ‘burbs and rural farming communities bobbing their head and singing “Fuck Tha’ Police!”
NWA is not only credited with bringing gangsta’ rap into the mainstream, but they also molded the future of the genre. Today much of rap is either Gansta’ rap or at least Gangsta in style, but then come people such as Eminem who sings a song about his alter ego and living in a trailer park. Then came Macklemore and Ryan Lewis singing about shopping in a thrift store. This is an over simplistic look at the evolution of the rap genre, but this is not a senior thesis either.
All types of music undergo evolution and morph into similar and new styles, including Country music.
Country music has many sub-genres within it including Honky Tonk, Bluegrass, Rockabilly, Bakersfield Sound, Country Rock, Outlaw Country, and many others.’
One of the keys to lead an evolution and develop a new style or sub genre of music is to create something that people love to listen to. There were gangster rappers before NWA, but NOBODY was as influential as NWA. They were extremely influential because their music was fun to listen to. People liked their songs.
Many factors led to a massive evolution of Country Music in the 90’s including expansion of the FM airwaves, faster distribution, and a public that was more open to change. But the largest factor, the primary key that altered the course of Country music was a singer named Garth Brooks.
Garth Brookes never rode a horse, but he was singing as a rodeo cowboy. Parallel this to the singing of a gangsta’rapper who never gangbanged. A studio gangsta, that’s what Garth Brooks was
“He may have worked on a horse ranch in college, but he never learned to rope and bulldog. One time at a rodeo, he was slapped astride a horse and couldn’t get the animal to do anything but back up. In truth, says his manager, Pam Lewis, he’s afraid of the critters.
Although Garth was not a rodeo cowboy, he was the primary source of music for them. It wasn’t just rodeo cowboys listening to him; Brooks had an unusual style that caused people of all generations to flock to his music. Imagine if when Eminem first came out and your grandparents were singing along with it. In addition to cross-generational listeners, Brooks was also able to bring in new listeners who didn’t usually listen to Country.
Was Brooks’ music Country, or was it more Rock? The debate raged profoundly when Brooks was at the top of the charts in the 90’s. One thing was sure; radio stations didn’t care. Country music stations were performing much better financially when they were playing a lot of music from Garth Brooks.
As with all music, Country evolved, and it is still evolving to this day.
The big debate today is about Bro Country.
“Bro-country is a subgenre of mainstream country music originating in the second decade of the 21st century. It is a general term for styles of country music taking influence from 21st-century hip hop, hard rock, and electronic music. Many “bro-country” songs are about attractive young women, the consumption of alcohol, partying, and pickup trucks.” -Wikipedia
Fighting against this change of music is fruitless. Artists will make the music they want, and fans will listen to what they want. You can’t fight evolution if that is the direction people are heading.
Jeffrey Steele is not fighting the evolution of the Country music genre but instead decided to offer some more traditional Country music. Who is Jeffrey Steele?
Jeffrey Steele is an American country music singer and songwriter, more commonly known by the name Jeffrey Steele. Along with recording his own material, Steele has become a prolific Nashville songwriter, having co-written more than sixty hit songs for such artists as Montgomery Gentry, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, and others.- Wikipedia
Steele may not be as well-known as some of the names he has written for such as Tim McGraw, but he has had a significant impact on the Country music genre.
Steele newest project is a nostalgic throwback to Country music. Sons of the Palamino is an attempt by Steele to create music that he wants to create. Steele understands that this style of Country is no longer as popular as it once was, but he doesn’t care. Sons of the Palamino is the fat girl at the bar. She might not be popular since she is older and heavier and all the guys are moving towards the younger and skinnier women. Although she might be older and heavier, there are still many that find enjoyment in her. Maybe a bad analogy, but the point is, many people still find enjoyment in older Country music. Sons of the Palamino gives us that nostalgic feeling of jamming out to music from different decades, but they are new songs.
When Ice-T and Schooly D began gangsta’ rapping, there was not much of a market for it. They could sell tapes from the back of their trunk, but they would never be famous. How did Ice-T become famous and rich from his music? Because he created the music he wanted to create and didn’t do it chasing current musical trends. Steele isn’t trying to capitalize on trends to get rich. Sons of the Palamino is Steele’s attempt at creating the music he wants. It is already a success because he created a fantastic album. He created the music he wanted to. Will the record become a huge success financially with a lot of Spotify Streams? Maybe, but it is not setup for massive sales. Sons of the Palamino are creating the music they want without regards to trying to make money or chase trends, and that makes them more Gangsta’ than many younger rappers trying to come up.
Steele has massive experience in creating commercial success in Country Music as a writer. I hope that the Sons of Palamino are hugely successful and I want to see much more music in this style.
In an interview with Billboard Steele said:
“These songs were so good, but we can’t pitch them anywhere because they are too country for country music,” Steele tells Billboard. “So we talked about maybe that we should re-cut them, and update the sound of them from a songwriting perspective. I just shook my head, and said ‘Man, these are country songs. I don’t want to do anything with them.’ Somebody then said ‘What we need to do is get this old-school style band – one that would have played on all of these old records – and make a record that sounded like it was made between 1965 and 1990.”
My favorite song on the album is Outta This Town. It has much fewer streams on Spotify than some of the other ones. I was loving the song and looked up more information on it. Emmylou Harris was the female vocalist on that song.
For you young people who need a reason to check the song out, Emmylou Harris used to sing with Gram Nash. Gram Nash was the singer in the movie Grand Theft Parsons who died, and Johnny Knoxville played his agent/friend who was trying to steal his body and burn it at Joshua Tree National Park.
Give the album
a spin some streams and let me know what you think. You can find samples of the songs on Amazon and buy it on MP3, or you can stream it on Spotify.