A few days ago the Nashville Scene, a local magazine highlighting the Nashville lifestyle and all it’s goings on, posted the results of it’s 15th Annual Country Music Critics’ Poll. Suffice to say, this critic is pretty happy with the outcome. So, there will be, sadly, no long winded (or long typed) diatribe from me about the “fall of country music”.
And, being that the Scene is based out of a town where not only the music is made, but also plays home to some of it’s most opinionated and obnoxious critics, I am not at all surprised to see the list of winners. So let’s get to it, huh?
Album of the year went to Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds In Country Music. Simpson snagged Best Songwriter as well. Tenacious new duo Maddie & Tae grabbed single of the year for “Girl In A Country Song”. Miranda Lambert took Artist Of The Year in addition to Best Female Vocalist, while Best Live Performance went to Eric Church. Other winners include Lee Ann Womack, Bob Dylan, Dierks Bentley and Little Big Town.
Congratulations to all the winners, but that list tells me more than just who won. Have you ever heard Sturgill Simpson on the radio? When was the last time Bob Dylan and Lee Ann Womack topped a list? Maddie & Tae won for a feminist calling out of bro-country douchebaggery. Miranda and Eric may still have a large commercial following, but Platinum and The Outsiders, respectively, are anything but pop country.
These results are were culled from 90 critics spanning North America. Where is Luke Bryan? Where is Florida Georgia Line? Where is Jason Aldean? …(chirp, chirp)
We see virtually unknown artists alongside 50 year veterans, genre changing innovators, and radio acts. If you have not caught on by now, I am trying to point out that I believe we are in the midst of a changing of the guard. We are seeing underground artists garnering mainstream attention and established artists experimenting with boundary pushing risks. And it is awesome!
The rise of “hipster” or “throwback” culture has combined with how easy it is to distribute one’s art, the fact that an artist does not need a record label to be successful anymore, and fans of all ages have more nuanced musical palates. This may be just the trend that music, and country music in particular, has been needing for redemption.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with pop music or radio hits. Most of us love to Cruise to some Burnin’ It Down, even if we won’t admit it. That being said, people should not have to live in Nashville or scour industry magazines to know there is great country music still being made. Albeit made up of industry critics this poll, the return to tradition, and the popularity of modern alt-country acts like Eric Church and Miranda Lambert, is a beacon of hope.
If Music Row was in the Star Wars universe, the record labels are the Empire. The fans are R2D2, and we are sending out a distress message to all artists. It is a tiny hologram of Jamey Johnson. “You’re our only hope!”
Check out the Nashville Scene for all of the articles on the 15th Annual Country Music Critics’ Poll including an interview with Sturgill Simpson and comments from voters.