Randy Owens of the legendary country group, Alabama, said it best…”If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.” Even though these lyrics were introduced in the mid-1980s, I don’t think Mr. Owens had any inkling as to the ultimate direction country music was headed and where it would inevitably end up some thirty years later.
Country music has unquestionably morphed and changed over the years from its down-home, backwoods roots–featuring “raw,” heartfelt vocals and fiddle-heavy background music–to the polished, over-produced, pop-like radio “ear candy,” as my dad likes to call it. The likes of Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and various other legends are now only a faded memory for those of us who were raised on traditional country music. Even the superstars of yesteryear were heavily influenced by these old-time greats. George Strait, Randy Travis and Alan Jackson were influenced by the likes of Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard and George Jones, who were themselves influenced by those older ghosts of country music past. But with each generation comes new influence. The stars of today, who were raised on George Strait and other singers of the 1980s, have begun to crank out albums that hardly reflect a true country music sound. With each passing decade, country music sadly deviates further and further from its roots.
Now I’m not saying that all country music of today is bad–I’m simply stating that it has changed. The long-lost haunting fiddle solo and soul-soothing twang of a steel guitar has been replaced by modern, computer-generated sounds. You can catch me driving down the highway with my radio set to 99.5 or 96.3, and I’m most likely tapping my hands on the steering wheel, singing along with Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, but that’s not to say that I don’t miss the “old” country music of my past. What KLUV’s “oldies” are to rock ‘n roll, I fear true country music will eventually become to today’s “young country”…and that makes me a little sad. While I find today’s radio music to be lacking, I’m glad to know I can always pop in an old CD and sing along with my childhood heroes, tapping my foot along to the beat of a hearty fiddle solo with a smile on my face. It just brings back good memories.
So say what you will, but I wholeheartedly agree with the lyrics of Alabama’s 1984 mega hit. It’s hard to argue with a band declared “artist of the decade,” (in the 1980s) who also happens to have over 30 number one hits to their name. And each time I hear that old song come on the radio, I’m gonna crank up the volume and declare my rights as a true southern girl…that if you’re gonna play in Texas, by God, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.