Opinion: The Country Music You Should Be Listening To
Country music is the subject of many criticisms when it comes to its subject matter, the characters that consider themselves to be of the genre as well as how minorities are treated in Nashville and on the radio. There is a whole other world of music out there yearning to be listened to.
Indie artists have been making waves these last couple of years due to social media and their fresh approach to one of the oldest defined genres in the world. The indie scene can be divided into infinite subgenres, but the main ones come out of Texas, the Appalachians, the plains, and the honky tonk scene.
The red-dirt scene from the Oklahoma-Texas border is large enough that it’s become a well-known subgenre of country music. No other artist better summarizes the meaning of red-dirt than The Turnpike Troubadours.
The group made its debut in 2010 and started its astronomical ascent to country music greatness, selling out such places as Billy Bob’s in Dallas, Texas and Red Rocks in Colorado. The group, raucous melodies, and poetic lyrics seemed to be an unstoppable force until it all came to a screeching halt after the release of their fourth album.
After a string of last-minute cancellations, the band announced in May 2019 that they would be taking an indefinite hiatus. Evan Felker, the band’s leading man, had been struggling with addiction, and the band wanted him to focus on that.
The hiatus hit the tight-knit group hard. Kyle Nix, the band’s fiddler, nearly fell off the wagon himself, but art itself helped him through one of the hardest times of his life.
“I really just dove head-first into creating as much as I could,” Nix told Rolling Stone. “It was a therapeutic outlet. That was all I wanted to do, and all I needed to do since we weren’t out on the road. But then you throw Covid in, and it was pretty tough… I fell into some rough times and started drinking a little too much. I finally had to pull my [explitive] out of the mud and get my head straight and sober up.”
A year and a half later Felker announced his sobriety, had remarried his wife and was expecting a child. In November of 2021, the band teased their reunion, the shows began getting scheduled again and the sellouts followed.
The band’s story and its lyrics about love, life and hardships are the epitomai of country music. The imprint they’ve made on listeners across the country is one that any big Nashville star would hope for.
If you’ve heard Tyler Childers then you’ve already heard what some might call ‘mountain music’. Childers could be talked about for ages, but there’s another star worth obsessing over.
Charles Wesley Godwin is a godsend in a time when classic country music is being overshadowed on the radio and in live music. Godwin’s storytelling ability is on another level, he will silence even the loudest crowd with his song “Seneca Creek”, a ballad that spans the most important years of his grandfather’s life near the stream. It is a gorgeous storybook of love, life and death.
His music tells the story of his home and where it is now. He tells stories from the perspective of a whole cast of characters that span generations, some that he’s related to and others that he’s created.
“All that I try to do is make the best possible song that I can. I’ve failed at things many times in my life and have been humbled in various ways,” Godwin told turnuptheamp.com. “So maybe all of that has improved my ability to portray a character or narrator in a more relatable way to a listener. I think there’s always some piece of myself in any song that I write.”
Storytelling is arguably the most important trait in country music, and few do it to the same caliber as Godwin.
The final subgenre that deserves all the recognition in the world is the roaring honky-tonk sound. Harkening back to Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn, the new generation is taking country back to its roots.
Few artists have been as successful as Sierra Ferrell, a spunky and determined woman from West Virginia. She brings her fiddle, steel guitar and her warbling voice to the forefront of her music. A modern Patsy Cline, Ferrell is a breath of fresh air.
Ferrell cut her teeth on Broadway in Nashville and has traveled across the country performing. She got her big break with Rounder Records and has since released a stunning debut album that takes audiences on a journey through multiple genres and feelings.
Andy Crump, a reporter for Paste Magazine, loves the diversity of sound on the album and believes it takes listeners on a journey like no other.
“One moment she’s singing a waltz, whether on “West Virginia Waltz” or “Whispering Waltz.” The next, she’s belting out a classic folk-country story about unrequited and oblivious love in “Bells of Every Chapel,’” Crump said. “Frankly, the album opener, “The Sea,” a ditty soaked in brine and with a plea to Poseidon on the chorus, is a giant, screaming hint at how far and wide Ferrell will take her audience from beginning to end.”
All three of these artists are building something incredibly rare with their classic sounds and hardworking attitudes. There’s a whole world of music out there that we don’t hear every day on the radio, something we should not take for granted.