Introduction | New Country & The Neo-Traditionalists
After the 1960s heyday of the cultured Nashville sound, country music was all but swept aside. It had survived the lasting effect of 1950s rock – rock’n’roll and traditional old-timey music and bluegrass, especially – but it was now the turn of a musical hybrid, country rock, to lead the way for almost a decade.
Country rock was originally played by bands boasting the look of rock acts and determined to make a change. It was like two flints being rubbed together – no one could tell when the spark would become a flame, nor, as was the case with many country-rock bands, when the flame would be extinguished, such was the climate and temperament of the musicians involved. One thing a lot of these young musicians and bands had in common, though, was their appreciation of the history of country music. One such was Ingram ‘Gram’ Parsons, who introduced Emmylou Harris, and who worked tirelessly to keep the country candle burning. The 1970s also saw the establishment of a new type of musician – the singer-songwriter, and Harris – the queen of country rock – helped bring members of her Hot Band – Rodney Crowell and Ricky Skaggs – to the attention of both country and rock audiences.
West Coast-based Dwight Yoakam and Randy Travis emerged in the mid-1980s, as the neo-traditionalist movement gathered pace. Like Harris and Skaggs, Garth Brooks and Texan George Strait – through his working of bar-room country and western swing – spawned a style of country music that attracted a younger and more mainstream audience, and did much to keep the music on an even keel.
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