Country music is nation music, and the perfect definition of what nation music is, is that it once you hear it. It’s self-evident. But the style has birthed many subgenres, many stylistic actions over time, and at instances has seen a splintering and Balkanization as artists and their followers look to carve out their area of interest, or try to supply more healthy options to nation music’s energy heart on Music Row in Nashville.
This has resulted in a dizzying slew of phrases which are typically cited once we speak about nation music, together with right here at Saving Country Music. So to assist readers and listeners navigate the varied phrases, definitions, and nation music’s offshoots, right here’s a compendium of some, if not many of the phrases for “country” and its numerous cousins to hopefully assist shed some gentle everytime you see them.
Please be aware: Defining numerous types of nation music is usually a contentious train, particularly for sure phrases reminiscent of “Americana” and “Red Dirt.” It goes with out saying that some phrases are open for interpretation, and everybody is inspired to depart their suggestions within the feedback part under. Nobody is saying these definitions listed below are inarguable and unabridged. This is extra about illustrating the big range of phrases of nation music with summations on their origins and meanings. And no one is saying these definitions are definitive or set in stone. As nation music evolves, so typically to the phrases to explain it.
Terms are usually not in alphabetical order, however so as of how they tie in with one another.
Mainstream Country – Country music that’s typically launched by main report labels positioned on Music Row in Nashville that enjoys mainstream nation radio play and promotion, awards present illustration from the Country Music Association (CMA) and Academy of Country Music (ACM), different mainstream recognition or promotion by in style tradition, or that aspires to. Mainstream nation is primarily or considerably centered on the industrial software of nation music.
Independent Country – Country music that’s typically launched independently or by unbiased report labels that doesn’t get pleasure from mainstream nation music radio play, awards present illustration from the Country Music Association (CMA) and Academy of Country Music (ACM), nor different mainstream recognition or promotion, that’s primarily or considerably centered on the inventive software of nation music. Due to the elevated reputation of unbiased nation in recent times, many unbiased nation artists have been signed to main labels, although typically to imprints not on Music Row in Nashville, and a few have even obtained spotty mainstream radio play. But if the promotion of this music remains to be principally dealt with by unbiased grassroots networks versus mainstream ones, these artists are nonetheless thought of unbiased nation.
Pop Country – Music with a predominant or typically unique pop affect typically marketed as nation on account of underlying Southern inflections or themes. The time period will also be used for many any nation music in style sufficient within the industrial realm to the place it crosses over into the higher in style music tradition. Used each descriptively and euphemistically, “pop country” is primarily the area of main label artists and people who aspire to be, and songs focused for mainstream nation radio play.
Country Pop – Due to the customarily euphemistic connotations of “pop country,” songs, albums, or artists may be labeled “country pop” in the event that they embody a big sonic or lyrical affect from in style music genres, whereas concurrently interesting to a extra distinguishing or non-commercial crowd. This can embody songs with a extra substantive songwriting method, or extra conventional instrumentation that rises from being tokenary to complimentary of the pop influences.
Bro-Country – A pattern in mainstream nation music that emerged round 2012 with songs that generally featured list-like lyrics (“beer,” “truck,” “tailgate,” “backroad,”) together with typically heavy rock and hip-hop influences, together with lyrics delivered in rap cadences with hip-hop inflections, and digital drum beats and different extra up to date instrumentation over songs with typically self-affirming rural themes. Called “checklist country” or “laundry list country” in its earliest incarnations for the consistency of cultural buzzword references in lieu of story or plot within the writing, the time period was formally coined by journalist Jody Rosen in a 2013 article in New York Magazine in particular reference to the Florida Georgia Line music “Cruise,” which is given credit score as a major catalyst for the recognition of the pattern. As a backlash ensued in opposition to Bro-Country, it started to wane in its dominance of mainstream nation by the late 2010’s, nevertheless it stays a big model in in style nation.
Boyfriend Country – A pop nation model of lyricism popularized starting within the late 2010’s that illustrates a fawning sentimentality in direction of ladies by male performers, and that appears to capitalize off of mainstream nation music’s predominantly feminine viewers. Performers reminiscent of Dan + Shay, and singles from artists reminiscent of Kane Brown and Luke Combs embody this pattern.
Metro-Bro – A hardly ever used time period, however one to delineate the extra EDM-based pop music typically containing extra city themes indicative of Sam Hunt and related artists whose rise was simultaneous, however barely totally different than Bro-Country performers.
Country Rap / Hick-Hop – A fusion between nation and rap, performers had dabbled with the model starting within the Eighties, nevertheless it’s widespread proliferation started within the early 2000s culminating within the music “Dirt Road Anthem” co-written by pioneering nation rap artist Colt Ford turning into a #1 hit, in addition to the preferred music in nation music in 2011 when launched by Jason Aldean. Country rap’s reputation additionally immediately led to the explosion of Bro-Country within the early 2010’s, which in the end integrated the model into its period, with pure nation rap artists remaining extra unbiased and underground. Also known as hick-hop, particularly in its unbiased/underground incarnations, the model enjoys widespread grassroots reputation all through the Deep South, and is commonly synonymous with “muddin’” tradition.
Red Dirt – More than some other time period, Red Dirt is simply as a lot a couple of area as it’s a sound, although the place that area ends is commonly debated. Named for the crimson soil in Oklahoma, the epicenter for Red Dirt was “The Farm” in Stillwater within the late 80s and early 90s the place the “Father of Red Dirt” Bob Childers lived. Cody Canada of Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland, Stoney LaRue, and others can immediately hint their origins again to The Farm, and these are the artists who can most declare a Red Dirt lineage. However, the time period typically extends to Oklahoma music artists who embrace an unbiased music spirit, and artists throughout the Red River in Texas are generally (and typically controversially) lumped below the time period. The sound of Red Dirt is as numerous because the definitions, encompassing sounds from conventional nation, folks, rock, and much more jam band influences.
Texas Country – Country music emanating from Texas and surrounding areas, or artists who both embody the spirit of Texas nation, or that Texas nation has embraced. With it’s personal touring circuits, festivals, charts, awards, and radio station networks—together with ones positioned properly outdoors of Texas itself—Texas Country is among the few scenes that may boast its personal infrastructure and trade to rival mainstream nation in Nashville. Though many nation artists are from Texas, it was the emergence and recognition of artists reminiscent of Robert Earl Keen, Wade Bowen, and The Randy Rogers Band that put Texas Country on the map within the early 2000s, and noticed it emerge as an alternative choice to Music Row. Texas nation tends to emphasise songwriting, be extra independent-minded, and be extra country-sounding than mainstream or pop nation, whereas additionally being extra open to rock and pop influences than conventional nation. Some Texas artists in the end be part of the mainstream, whereas some artists outdoors of Texas in the end embrace the extra open and grassroots-oriented Texas Country music scene and embrace it as their very own.
Texas Music – Similar to Texas Country, this time period can be utilized to outline music that comes from Texas, however might not essentially be akin sufficient to nation to explain it as “Texas Country.” Artists reminiscent of Koe Wetzel and Kolby Cooper whose sound veers extra in direction of 90s post-grunge rock, however nonetheless have cultivated their profession and fan base inside Texas and the Texas music trade, may be described by utilizing that time period.
Texoma – A by no means used time period forwarded by Saving Country Music to aim to resolve the customarily redundant and complicated mixing of the “Texas/ Red Dirt” phrases that higher illustrates the cross-state camaraderie the 2 subgenres get pleasure from.
Rodeo Country – A hardly ever used time period, however one that may describe artists which have used the rodeo circuit to search out help for his or her extra conventional model of nation music combined with flashes of rock influences that leads to huge stay exhibits, typically bearing on rodeo themes within the songs. Aaron Watson, Cody Johnson, Kyle Park, Chancey Williams, Ned LeDoux, and others have taken up what 80s-90s nation artist Chris LeDoux began by mixing nation and rock, and enjoying the rodeo circuit. This will also be used to explain songs by artists reminiscent of George Strait, together with requirements like “Amarillo By Morning” and “I Can Still Make Cheyenne.” Rodeo nation artists will also be delineated by their apparel of starched denims, printed collared shirts, and wide-brimmed cowboy hats.
Outlaw Country – The model of nation that emerged within the early and mid 70s after Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson, and later Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings challenged the Music Row established order that put highly effective producers reminiscent of Chet Atkins in cost, disallowing artists from selecting their very own songs to report, and from recording with their very own bands. Often thought of a extra rock-influenced model of nation, the Outlaws additionally paid respects to the nation music greats of the pasts reminiscent of Hank Williams, whereas additionally bucking the system. The motion additionally unfold to Austin, Texas and resulted within the planting of the Texas Country seed, and the emergence of Austin because the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Outlaw nation was simply as a lot a sound because it was approaching the music with an unbiased angle. Outlaw nation stays energetic within the current tense, each by performers who proceed to stick to the Outlaw spirit, in addition to being co-opted as a advertising time period in an effort to promote sure music deemed “edgy” by the mainstream.
Alt-Country – Music that’s typically extra rock-influenced, in addition to extra songwriting-based that started to emerge within the late 80s through the “Great Credibility Scare.” Artists reminiscent of Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, and Lucinda Williams had success each inside the mainstream nation realm, in addition to outdoors of it by attracting new listeners through the subgenre, which in the end gave rise to bands reminiscent of Uncle Tupelo, The Old 97’s, Whiskeytown, and others that started to supply an “alternative” to the extremely profitable industrial nation that took place from the “Class of ’89.” Considered a extra deprecated time period at present, most bands and artists beforehand thought of alt-country are actually labeled as “Americana.”
Americana – The mom of all umbrella phrases that many have fought over and struggled to outline, it encompasses all the pieces from basic and conventional nation, to alt-country, to Southern and basic rock, soul music, blues, Gospel, psychedelic rock, indie rock, folks, singer-songwriter, and something/all the pieces else that doesn’t match inside one other main American style. This is the rationale this class receives extra submissions than some other however rock for the annual Grammy Awards. Though what ought to and shouldn’t be Americana is commonly debated, it typically contains any music with a outstanding American roots affect that’s in any other case not focused to extra industrial audiences.
Southern Rock – Rock music with a robust nation affect that emerged within the 70s indicative of bands reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, and The Allman Brothers, or extra fashionable bands reminiscent of Whiskey Myers and Blackberry Smoke. Southern rock bands typically embody self-identified nation songs on their albums, and generally collaborate with nation artists, and play nation music festivals, however their music is commonly extra expansive and improvisational than standard nation.
Country Rock – Similar to Southern rock, however typically with out the regional requirement or Southern concord inflections, nation rock is a little more open, and infrequently much less improvisational in nature. Overlapping with each Southern rock and California nation, artists from The Byrds, to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, to acts reminiscent of The Rolling Stones have been labeled nation rock in sure eras. Commonly this time period is used when a band or artist in any other case thought of rock chooses to report a music or album with nation influences or instrumentation.
Bluegrass – A distinctly acoustic model of string band music tailored from old-time fiddle tunes and different conventional folks influences pioneered by Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. Bluegrass stays one in all nation music most vibrant subgenres of nation to the purpose the place it enjoys its personal festivals, radio stations, publications, awards, and neighborhood. But bluegrass nonetheless deserves to be thought of a rustic music subset, because it very a lot grew overseas music realm, using establishments such because the Grand Ole Opry to search out help and recognition.
Newgrass and Jamgrass – These are extra progressive types of bluegrass that took inspiration from Bill Monroe’s unique thought, however typically challenged the inflexible beliefs of solely utilizing acoustic devices, and disallowing drums. Artists reminiscent of Sam Bush and John Hartford each carried out bluegrass within the extra standard modes, in addition to broke these guidelines to increase the scope of the style. Merging with the jam band side of outfits reminiscent of The Grateful Dead, jamgrass artists and bands like Greensky Bluegrass and Leftover Salmon now get pleasure from simply as huge followings as their conventional bluegrass counterparts, and have expanded this model of nation music into each sonic and geographical territories beforehand dismissive of Southern influences.
Old-Time (or Primitive Country) – Traditional Appalachian modes of string band music, typically carefully associated to the Irish and Scottish reels that American immigrants introduced with them to the United States. This is the earliest type of nation music, and lots of the requirements make up the constructing blocks of the music which are nonetheless in apply at present. Though not as in style or commercially viable as bluegrass, devotees to this self-discipline take the music and preserving its dialects very severely as crucial to understanding the place nation music got here from.
Western Swing (or Texas Swing) – One of the earliest and most unique types of nation music first rising within the Nineteen Twenties, Western Swing is taken into account by many as one of many main subgenres of nation proper beside bluegrass. Though it’s not as in style or prevalent as bluegrass, Western Swing enjoys a robust legacy of performers, traditions, and a deep songbook nonetheless being carried out at present. Rising in reputation through the huge band period, and delivered to its apex by Texan Bob Wills, like basic nation, Western Swing is extra fascinated by preserving traditions versus pushing the music ahead. The jazz progressions of Western Swing songs which are ripe for dancing is what distinguishes the music from different basic nation music, and although a lot of its earliest acts featured horn sections, extra fashionable artists may be as small as three or 4 items.
The Nashville Sound and Countrypolitan – Classic nation music that’s instantly recognizable because of the prevalence of string preparations and choruses in highly-produced compositions behind songs written for older audiences. This was Nashville’s reply to the rise of rock ‘n roll in the mid 50s, and saw the establishment of the strong producer class that included Chet Atkins, Billy Sherrill, Owen Bradley, and others, who would often choose the songs a performer would record, while session musicians played the parts. Artists from Glen Campbell to Patsy Cline are good illustrations of this style. Though rebuked by the Outlaw era in large sum, Countrypolitan continued well into the 80s, with artists such as George Jones and David Allan Coe still recording in the style, and audiences still enjoying the music today for it’s nostalgic really feel, and even youthful artists adopting a few of its strategies to seize that retro vibe. Similar to Outlaw nation, The Nashville Sound was simply as a lot about an method as a sound, and that method continues to problem the inventive management of main label artists in nation music even at present.
The Bakersfield Sound – An period commencing within the mid to late 50s and lasting into the 70s the place performers in Bakersfield, California and the higher area provided a counter-balance to the extra industrially produced and genteel sounds of Countrypolitan. Championed by Capitol Records in Los Angeles, Buck Owens, Billy Mize, Bill Woods, and later Merle Haggard took the Bakersfield Sound with it’s loud and twangy guitar discovered within the blue-collar golf equipment of the inside California city to nationwide prominence. Tight harmonies from Bonnie Owens and Don Rich, and properly as Don Rich’s influential guitar enjoying performed a pivotal function within the affect of this period. Though The Bakersfield Sound is taken into account confined to a particular period and area, the affect and elegance can nonetheless be discovered in additional fashionable performers, from Dwight Yoakam, to Marty Stuart.
California Country – Similar to The Bakersfield Sound in the way it emerged in California, California nation distinguishes itself by being extra influenced by folks and rock, and was carried ahead typically by musicians who both started or dabbled within the folks, rock, and pop realms. This contains bands like The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, Linda Rhonstadt and her first band The Stone Poneys, and later The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Eagles.
Traditional Country (or Real Country, or True Country) – Country music that features a extra conventional method to the style, together with music construction and lyrical themes strongly indicative of the unique types of nation music, and instrumentation that includes metal guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, piano, and Telecaster. Unlike “Classic Country,” conventional nation doesn’t must be from a classic period, and may nonetheless be carried out in additional up to date contexts.
Classic Country – Country music from the style’s basic or “Golden” period, often thought of between the postwar interval and earlier than the mid Seventies when the Grand Ole Opry got here to prominence and nation music was some of the in style genres of American music. Similar to conventional nation, basic nation can nonetheless be utilized within the fashionable period. But not like conventional nation, it strives to reprise bygone modes, typically adopting the musical types, wording and phrasing, and even the costume and costuming of the time to create a higher sense of nostalgia.
Hillbilly Music – A principally deprecated time period that was initially used to explain American music principally emanating from rural areas, and from agrarian people who was later changed by Country & Western by the Billboard charts. The time period was at instances seen as euphemistic. Hank Williams famously referred to himself as a folks musician, feeling “hillbilly” was derogatory.
Honky Tonk and Hard Country – The time period “honky tonk” can be utilized to delineate between different types of extra industrially produced nation music to explain artists and songs which are extra electrical, conventional in nature, and stripped-down in association, like a rustic band you’d see in a smaller membership or honky tonk. Usually that includes metal guitar, lead guitar, and possibly fiddle, the themes are often about consuming and heartache. “Hard country” is a hardly ever used time period, however one present in sure histories and biographies to explain nation music that ran counter to Countrypolitan and featured a loud, twangy sound, just like honky tonk.
Western – The silver display screen cowboys of Southern California reminiscent of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers considerably helped popularize nation music in its nascent years, and established what nation music was for audiences all over the world. Strangely, this affect in nation music is commonly missed within the fashionable mindset for Appalachia influences and Southern blues, however there’s a motive nation music was recognized for many years as “country and Western” (insert Blues Brothers reference right here). Along with the Hollywood cowboys, the true cowboys of the American West with their cowboy poetry performed a pivotal function within the formation and recognition of nation and Western music as properly. Though the “singing cowboy” is a part of a bygone period, cowboy and Western music has loved a resurgence in recent times due to the recognition of artists reminiscent of Colter Wall.
Rockabilly – A type of rock music that emerged within the 50s that additionally included a heavy affect from the “hillbilly” music that ultimately got here to be referred to as nation. The Sun Records period of the 50s got here with a blurring of the strains between hillbilly and rock, with the distinction between artists reminiscent of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash being nuanced, with some describing Sun Records artists reminiscent of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis as nation stars simply as a lot as rock. This is the rationale each males are within the Country Music Hall of Fame. Rockabilly would lose its dominance on in style music by the 60s, however nonetheless remained in apply, with bands like The Stray Cats within the 80s, and later The Revered Horton Heat (formally ‘psychobilly’) reviving the model within the 90s, typically with just a few nation songs discovered on their albums, and infrequently with an underlying punk angle delivered to the music.
Cowpunk – A type of punk music with a rustic music affect that emerged with the prominence of punk music within the late 70s in Southern California with bands reminiscent of Social Distortion, The Blasters, and The Knitters, and in Nashville with bands like Jason and the Scorchers, and even later within the early music of Dwight Yoakam and Rosie Flores. Disillusioned with the stuffy nature of mainstream nation, however nonetheless impressed by the previous greats like Hank Williams, punks took up the trigger for country-inspired music in punks golf equipment and circuits the place they discovered stunning reception. Though cowpunk was solely round for a brief interval, it helped seed underground nation, which might give rise to unbiased nation that might go on to rival mainstream nation.
Underground Country – A Do-It-Yourself subset of unbiased nation that emerged within the post-punk period of the early to late 90s, underground nation noticed punk and heavy metallic musicians and followers embracing extra conventional nation music in a return to their roots, in addition to extra conventional nation musicians who weren’t being embraced by both mainstream nation or Americana discovering help in underground circles. From Mike Ness’s nation tasks, to members of the punk band ‘X’ forming The Knitters, to the formation of Bloodshot Records, this wasn’t an alternative choice to nation, it was an insurgency in nation, with songs and slogans typically actively protesting fashionable nation music and Music Row. It’s was delivered to its apex within the mid 2000s with the recognition of Dale Watson, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, and Hank Williams III. In current years the vitality of the motion has principally been folded into components of unbiased nation, however remains to be carried on by some post-punk roots musicians.
Country Blues (or Deep Blues, or North Mississippi Hill Country Blues) – With the blues being a big affect on each Hank Williams and Bill Monroe—in addition to nation music closely borrowing music constructions from Southern blues artists—this subgenre attracts essential strains within the historical past of nation music. Though artists reminiscent of R.L. Burnside and T Model Ford, and others championed by Fat Possum Records within the 90s could be thought of virtually completely blues artists from a sonic perspective, their rural location and fusion with nation themes has created its personal subgenre nonetheless alive by the work of artists reminiscent of Cedric Burnside, Dan Auerbach, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Country blues is blues music from the nation.
Ameripolitan – A time period coined by performer Dale Watson within the early 2000s to differentiate himself from nation music, which he felt had been so co-opted by main labels and corrupted by pop nation, it was irredeemable. When Blake Shelton set off a firestorm in 2013 by referring to nation music’s conventional followers as “old farts” and “jackasses,” Dale Watson determined to codify the style by creating an awards present that acknowledges artists within the classes of honky-tonk, Western swing, and rockabilly yearly known as The Ameripolitan Awards.