I was recently reading Steven Hyden’s fantastic The Winner’s History of Rock n’ Roll series on Grantland when he brought up the phrase credibility gap. That’s a term I’ve used in this column before and find increasingly accurate to describe what’s going on with modern country music. It’s the same old story: drugstore cowboy steps out of central casting, is supplied songs about how country he is out on the backroad in his truck and on his tractor back at the farm, is surrounded by a crackerjack band and put on the road.
There is nothing organic about the process that permeates modern country music. The crazy thing is it’s actually been this way for a long, long time. Waylon famously called it out in the 70’s with the “it’s been the same way for years” line. There’s a massive disconnect between the audience and the artists on the national stage. Marketing creates popularity. The masses crave what’s easy and right in front of them. If Madison Ave or Nashville can convince them that what’s in front of them is cool, that’s when the big trouble happens. It’s as if that horrible Buckwild show on MTV comes to life in a song.
When Jason Aldean sings about going on a date in his big ol green tractor, there are idiots out there that believe he actually does this or has done it in the past. When Brantley Gilbert sings about radio stations playing Hank, there are idiots out there that actually think these radio stations exist.
There’s a credibility gap.
The main difference in Texas Music and that whole national scene is that down here that gap is smaller.
When Brandon Rhyder sings of slow-poking down a blacktop…there’s a good chance that’s actually happened. Or when Chris Knight sings of murdering someone in a Kentucky trailer house, there’s a good chance that’s actually happened (allegedly).
We want something we can believe in. The masses want something easily digestible. And therein lies the chasm of being a modern music fan.
Music must be diverse. It needs to speak to all moods, not just the bonfire party out in the sticks. Eventually that party’s going to end. 3 minutes, 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years from now. Eventually the party ends, they always do. And hopefully you have a credible way of finding yourself when it’s all said and done. Texas was in a rut of river songs and the like just a few years ago before that party ended. The artists left standing where those with some creative diversity.
It’ll be interesting to see if the credibility gap of the mainstream closes or widens. But, we as fans must be the gatekeepers of that gap down here.
-This column marks the 10th anniversary of Brad’s Corner. We’re still in the midst of rebuilding the archives after the massive server crash, but some of those old ones are very entertaining to look back on. Also a bit sad because after a decade, not much has changed but the names. At any rate, ten years of blabbering on in one spot is quite the accomplishment.
-One of the most viewed and commented on pieces I’ve ever written was called “The Cautionary Tale of Jani Lane”. It discussed the price of fame and how the former Warrant frontman was just the latest in the long line of folks swallowed whole by the machine. Mindy McCready is the most recent. Her real life troubles became tabloid fodder that made her almost a cartoonish figure. The troubling issue is that behind those gossip rag headlines was a real woman in danger. Sadly she never got the help she needed, and even more sad…she won’t be the last tragic figure to go out like this.
-Greenfest, LJT, SXSW, Lone Star Jam et al. It’s festival season and our busiest time of year. For the next 5 month’s we’ll be in overdrive covering, producing and promoting all the biggest events in the scene.
-How did parents watch TV prior to dvr?
-Danica Patrick is on the pole at Daytona. I hope she wins. If she does, do they have a trophy dude greet her in victory lane?
-Baseball season is back some of the bandwagon antler and claw folks are gone. Good riddance if you’re going to be a Fairweather Johnson. I melted in the outfield bleachers of old Arlington Stadium for teams 30 games under .500. I’m still here and always will be.
–This month’s recommended album: Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison-Cheater’s Game. Texas’ answer to George and Tammy minus all the drama. This is what you get when you pair one of the greatest songwriters of all time with one of the truest voices of all time. Add in the fact that they’re actually married and the tunes gain a heightened sense of passion and authenticity.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”-Mark Twain