internet. What might a country fan of the past given to hear Nashville’s WSM every day? Now they can do that, or choose from literally thousands of country stations from all over the world. Here in the UK we have Chris Country via DAB. Modelling itself closely on the current sound of US country radio, Chris Country tune the hell out of them, then mister record company exec, we can see right through it and we will have less respect for your manufactured act. If you then try and convince us that your manufactured artist “ If you then try and convince us that your manufactured artist is the next Merle Haggard, is it any wonder we laugh in your face? ” favours the jingle-laden fast and loud big hits approach of our American cousins with little acknowledgement to classic country, let alone any new music from outside of the current mainstream sound. The BBC’s flagship country show by Bob Harris seems to favour Americana and pop-country rather more than it does hardcore country music. Cross-over is king. It always has been, and like it or not, it always will be. Feverishly chasing it, however, is not the answer. A true cross-over hit happens naturally, organically, and setting out with that being the goal in the first place just cheapens your product. In any genre, records have come along and been so successful within that genre (Achy Breaky Heart being a good example) that they start to get noticed by the mainstream, and sometimes they really resonate with people who would normally have no interest that genre. They can go on to become ‘pop’ hits and are indisputably ‘cross- over’. As soon as you try to jump the first stage of this process you end up with a purely ‘pop’ product, and one which Joe Public can see right through as manufactured. S o, is country music the ‘sleeping giant’ of American music? I think that depends on the measuring criteria. Long-time fans have always known it’s a niche. That can actually be part of its appeal. Believe it or not mister music exec, some of us like it that not everybody likes it. But it’s all about money isn’t it. Of course that’s what it’s always been about. But, like the cross-over hit, if an artist begins their career with integrity for their craft and style, does their thing, sometimes slaving away for years playing small bars but eventually gets a record deal, and on the strength of that individual sound starts to have hits, they can become a cross-over artist. On the other hand, if you audition, or search modelling agencies books for the right person/people to be the next big thing, have stylists dress them, and auto- 28 cmp - MARCH 2019 is the next Merle Haggard, is it any wonder we laugh in your face? Seriously, can you imagine a world 20, or maybe 30, years from now in which Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, and Dan + Shay are described as ‘legends’? That truly is the stuff of nightmares. Whether country music is better or not now is an argument for another day (or every day?) But as sure as grits are groceries we are not living in some halcyon age for country music in the UK. Keith Urban performed his country hit The Fighter on The Graham Norton Show last year (with Spice Girls’ Mel C) and failed to chart and Carrie Underwood was on the X-Factor UK in 2015 performing Heartbeat and never made the Top 200. Last year Florida Georgia Line peaked just outside the UK Top Ten with Meant To Be (#11) but there is a strong case for that being the presence of Bebe Rexha that made that possible. There’s an even stronger case for it not even being a country record, but that too, is an argument for another day. Likewise, Chris Stapleton enjoyed a #9 chart placing as the ‘featured’ artist on Justin Timberlake’s Say Something, and Tim McGraw’s 2005 chart-topping performance was as a guest on rapper Nelly’s Over And Over. Easton Corbin’s Are You With Me was also a UK #1 but only when sampled and remixed into a dance record by Lost Frequencies. It appears that in the modern era a country artist is unable to cross-over to the UK pop charts unless they are a ‘featured’ artist. Not only is country not as big as it once was, the corporate takeover of the media and record companies will ensure that it never is, except for their own mass-produced, sanitised, globally friendly idea of it… and that ain’t country music anyway. cmp Top: Keith Urban and Spice Girls’ Mel C singing Fighter on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show. Middle: Ashley McBryde performs Girl Goin’ Nowhere on BBC2’s Later With Jools Holland. Bottom: Dolly Parton. In 1975 Dolly Parton was on Top Of The Pops singing Jolene which she took to #7 on the UK singles chart.