That doesn’t always work.

Comment at Saving Country Music, on Darius Rucker’s cover of “Wagon Wheel“:

I think there will be at least a few people who hear this version, google it and might get into bands like OCMS. It probably wont be a great number of of fans, but if it leads to just a couple more people supporting more “independent” artists, then in the end it’s a good thing in my eyes.

I think that “gateway drug” theory is only valid to any significant extent when the “gateway drug” bears at least some semblance to the “harder stuff.” My favorite example of this is Metallica. People raised holy hell when their self-titled “black album” dropped in 1991, and to a point I could understand why. But some of the songs on that album were similar to what they’d done before, to the point that when I checked out their earlier stuff and liked it — loved it, even — and went on to bands like Pantera, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden.

For the country equivalent you might consider more traditional mainstream acts like George Strait. Sure, a lot of his stuff is polished, but he still goes back to the old days often, covering forgotten songs from the likes of, among others, George Jones, Mel Street, and Del Reeves. I think the first time I ever heard Webb Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass” was when Strait sang it live. As far as Strait and alt-country go, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few folks have gone out and bought Bruce Robison stuff because of him doing “Wrapped” and “Desperately.” And he’s written some pretty good stuff of his own in that vein on the last couple of albums

But I don’t think Darius Rucker’s covering “Wagon Wheel” applies here, considering that it’s by far the most country thing — hell, probably the only remotely country thing — that he’s ever done. At this point I’d think Aaron Lewis would be a better example.

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2 Responses to “That doesn’t always work.”

  1. Sabra Morse Onstott Says:

    God it pains me to have to defend Darius Rucker, but you’re wrong. He’s silly country pop, yes, but the argument you made vis a vis George Strait & Bruce Robison applies here–a curious listener might well do a YouTube search for the song and find other versions. I think Stoney LaRue did a version (but don’t quote me on that; I just know several folks on the red dirt scene have covered it at least in concert), and he’ll appeal to quite a few folks, and down the rabbit hole it goes.

    Or, more likely, they hear something he does and hit his Wikipedia page and see this sentence: “He also joined Nanci Griffith on the song “Gulf Coast Highway” from her 1997 album Blue Roses from the Moons, and sang backing vocals on Radney Foster’s 1999 album See What You Want to See.” That gives people two great Americana singers to become intrigued by because they want to hear what he’s worked on.

    Meanwhile, Aaron Lewis offers…What? Really long songs that sound like he’s still fronting Staind. Where’s the connection there?

  2. southtexaspistolero Says:

    I suppose there’s always that possibility, but sometimes I wonder. Both the arguments about Aaron Lewis & Darius Rucker were made on the general sound of their music. Granted, I could be all wrong on Aaron Lewis — but if his album a a whole is nearly as, well, country as that one song I heard from it, and the folks who go for stuff like Staind actually like it, then that might push more of them to search out more Real Country Music.

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