Kevin and I are both “Big Tent” people as far as Country Music is concerned. What does that mean? Well, a “Small Tent” person would probably restrict discussion of Country music to Kitty Wells, Hank Snow, Merle Haggard and the like. In other words, Country singers accompanied by fiddle, steel guitar, lead and rhythm guitar and a bass, preferably acoustic.
While I don’t blame the small tent people for restricting the discussion in this manner (after all, the worst recording Kitty Wells ever made is far superior to the best recordings of a Faith Hill or Jo Dee Messina), the fact remains that Country Music would be extinct by now as far as being a mass market force had the tent not expanded in some manner. The vaunted “Nashville Sound”, was nothing more than an attempt to expand Country Music’s popularity beyond its hillbilly core.
By now the “Small Tent” forces have been thoroughly routed. Even the most diehard traditionalist regards Jim Reeves, Skeeter Davis and Eddy Arnold as being “Traditional Country” , and most would extend that sobriquet to artists such as Ronnie Milsap, Jerry Lee Lewis, Narvel Felts and Billy “Crash” Craddock.
Although Kevin and I are both “Big Tenters”, we draw our lines differently. I’m not sure exactly how Kevin draws his lines, but here is how I expand the tent:
(A) Country artists performing non-Country material. This would allow for Alan Jackson’s newest CD Like Red On A Rose or some of Reba McEntire’s frequent misadventures.
(B) Non-Country artists performing Country material. This allows for the likes of Solomon Burke, Ray Charles or a Van Morrison performing Country music. In my Best of 2006 article, I was sorely tempted to include Springsteen’s Pete Seeger tribute. True, Springsteen is not a Country artist and Seeger is not a Country songwriter, but the album itself is indeed Country music, much more so than anything produced by Rascal Flatts or SheDaisy. The problem is that the fans of Rascal Flatts wouldn’t recognize the album as being Country music, whereas fans of Merle Haggard would consider it as Country without hesitation.
Not in my tent are non-Country artists performing non-Country material. This excludes the recent Olivia Newton John album (yes Kevin, I found it at Walgreens and have given it a listen – it’s not country music and ONJ is not a country artist) and the recent Ronstadt –Savoy collaboration (which I loved, but it’s not even remotely Country music). I would also exclude artists like k d lang and Shelby Lynne who once were Country but have clearly abandoned the genre.