There is a very clear divide between country music and other musical genres. How many times have you come across someone who says they enjoy all kinds of music except country? Country outsiders often see the genre as a singular nation, a beast that is understandable to a certain population who observe and believe in a strict code of behavior and customs. While country music may have its cliches and a distinct image, none of that should prevent anyone from enjoying country music. It’s a varied and wide-ranging genre that possesses something for all types of music fans. It’s not all tractors, trucks, backward hats and hound dog howls to girls. Here are a few artists who serve as smooth entry points.
Now, wait, before you say anything about Kelsea Ballerini, let us explain. The reason we include her on this list is because she is pop country, with a great emphasis on the "pop" rather than the "country." When you listen to her hit song, “Love Me Like You Mean It” there is very little there that signals that it is a country song, or that she is a country singer for that matter. Ballerini has a slight twang in her voice, and she strums along on an acoustic guitar in the video, but a strummin’ and a twang do not a country star make. Her music is basically country music for people who would rather imbibe an O’Doul’s than a Budweiser, for those who merely puff on a cigar rather than inhale. It's training wheels for the country novice.
But let's talk about modern country music for a moment. Country these days is often free of edges and highly airbrushed, making it almost unrecognizable from the classic, no-frills country of the past. It’s the pop and bro country that has turned some people off of the genre, but that’s where Kacey Musgraves enters. The 27-year-old Texas singer is one of the few artists today who is reminiscent of classic country, offering a stripped-down sound and homespun aesthetic. Her music is rooted in the basics of the genre, but it’s not cloying or overly nostalgic. Along with her forward-thinking lyrics, Musgraves’ brand of country delicately marries traditional country music with a present-day twist.
Johnny Cash needs no introduction, but he serves as an excellent introduction into country music. Cash is the complete antithesis of country today, and he’s often the artist mentioned when people say that they enjoy older material. Given Cash’s career, no one would argue with that. With his sonorous voice, his legitimate outlaw life and not to mention his countless classic songs and albums, Cash’s popularity and influence has had an impact on music and pop culture in general. Any music fan is doing themselves a disservice by ignoring The Man In Black’s considerable output.
Suggested songs (who can choose?):
Even though people associate Roy Orbison with rock ‘n roll music, the singer did have some country songs up his sleeve. In fact, Roy Orbison is an artist that showcases how close rock and country can sometimes veer and how much overlap there is between the two genres. That makes his music an easy entry into country itself.
It’s perhaps a tad too simplistic to compare Ashley Monroe and Kacey Musgraves, or even pit them against each other, for that matter; both singers bring different strengths to the table. Where Musgraves’ most recent material is indeed steeped in country of the music of the past, Monroe’s music only makes slight nods to classic country, while sounding more in-step with modern country. And when we say modern country, we mean that she somehow took the typical overbearing modern production touches and made them tolerable. The best way to put it is that it’s definitely country, it’s just not all in your face about it.
With Daugh Gibson, it all begins with his voice. His pipes are powerfully emotive, and they roll smoothly over his bizarre sonic backdrops of electronic pings, pianos, steel guitars and classic country notes. His music sounds almost like experimental country with an old-school southern gothic theme mixed in, best for listening to at night.