How About Those Country Legends, the Allman Brothers and Gordon Lightfoot!

So I was blastin’ down Highway 69 here in Southeast Texas last night, listening to Country Legends 97.1, which broadcasts out of Houston. Their playlist consists of nothing but country music from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s…heaven on earth for a old country junkie like me. Here in the last few weeks, they’ve been playing a fair bit of ’70s folkie Gordon Lightfoot’s music…”Sundown,” “Carefree Highway,” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” are some of the Lightfoot numbers I’ve heard on there. And as I was driving Friday night, I heard the great old Allman Brothers chestnut “Ramblin’ Man.” I love that song, and the Gordon Lightfoot songs too, but I never really thought of them as “country” in the sense that George Jones, Merle Haggard, et al. were. But on second thought, I think just about anything the Allmans and Gordon Lightfoot recorded would fit better in the country music canon than a lot of what’s being recorded and marketed as “country music” these days. Yes, I am more or less a musical purist, I’ll admit, even if I do like all sorts of different genres. And I know my complaints have been echoed through the years by each generation of country music fans, but still, I defy anyone to tell me how in the hell one can draw any kind of line between “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and that stupid Hillbilly Rock Star song that Kenny Chesney sings. I know well that music “changes,” and “evolves,” but as it does so, isn’t it supposed to maintain a healthy connection to its roots? I know, I know…one man’s “music that evokes its roots” is another man’s “tired old twangy, whiny crap,” but I would contend that those who think the latter of the older country music are exactly the types of people that Nashville shouldn’t be marketing country music to. And the fact that they (and country radio) have been catering to these people is what’s gotten them (and mainstream country music) in the sorry shape it’s in now. I know that today’s “country” stars claim a wide array of influences, but I think they’d all sound much better — more, um, country, if you will — if those influences were acts like Gordon Lightfoot, the Doobie Brothers (BEFORE Michael McDonald took over frontman duties), the Allmans or even Creedence Clearwater Revival, instead of Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel or Eric Clapton (though I do love Clapton and all the bands he’s played in). I know all the arguments, I know they’ve been raging ever since the first amp was plugged in, but I’d like my country music to have at least a little twang to it, is that so wrong? I’d take “Long Train Runnin'” or “Sundown” before “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” on my local country station any day. And I think it’d be interesting to see how many people who liked country music before it was “cool” would share that sentiment.



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