Today’s @Music Row e-newsletter included a section dubbed “Unsolicited Commentary” with an essay by one Patrick Shivers. Mr. Shivers laments the cross-pollination of country and other genres. Well, here. I’ll let you read his lament in his own words, with the intro from the newsletter.
Unsolicited Commentary—Narrating The Story Of Our Lives
Editor’s Note: This commentary came unsolicited. It is a familiar theme, but written with passion and sincerity. I asked its writer, Patrick Shivers, for some brief information about himself, and he wrote back with the introduction shown below. I’ve never met this person, nor heard his music, but felt a quiet honesty in the rhythm of his words, perhaps you will too…DMR
Patrick Shivers: I’m a small town country boy from deep in the heart of southwest Georgia. I have lived on a peanut and cotton farm my entire life. After earning a college degree in Political Science and a minor in Speech Communication in May 2005, I moved back home and resumed work on the farm until the cotton was all harvested in December. I just recently moved to Chattanooga to pursue a Masters of Public Administration. My county is the second poorest county in the state of Georgia (our education system ranks among the worse in the state) and my collegiate achievements were all pursued so I could someday return home and help pull my county out of the immense poverty that engulfs it. My pride in who I am and where I come from is rivaled by none and that is why country music is also my life’s passion. Country music isn’t just something to help pass the time while I’m driving, its songs about my lifestyle and where I come from. It’s about farm kids and football games; small towns and pickup trucks. Country music is as much a part of me as life itself. I came to Tennessee in hopes that I could influence country music to return to where its heart is. I am a singer/songwriter, and I may or may not ever make it to the big time, but I moved 500 miles from home to this state (where I know no one) solely on the possibility that I may get the chance to influence this thing—country music—I’m so passionate about.
The State of Country Music
Country music came from a simpler time, and it is life’s simplicity that is reflected in its songs of old. Hank once traversed this country with not much more than a guitar and a road map singing songs about heartbreaks and honkytonks. His songs struck a chord with everyone that heard them. It didn’t matter if you were so lonesome you could cry or if you had finally seen the light, you could relate to Hank and his songs. He may have been one of the biggest legends to walk the earth, but he was also just a simple man singing simple songs narrating the story of our lives. Country music has traveled far from that lost highway and those forgotten days. Somewhere in search for success we put aside the simple songs of a ramblin’ man, and began listening for the next “badonkadonk.” Today songwriters, publicists, and record companies all work together like spokes on a wagon wheel to roll out carefully molded artists that sing songs full of pop-marketed catch phrases. Big stars from outside the genre like Elton John and Jon Bon Jovi are even cashing in on the country jackpot. Yes sir, country has turned into big business. Why the Hag wouldn’t even have a chance on today’s radio. How could a prison-hardened, chicken pickin’, songwriting man like him ever compete with a mass marketed super group like Rascal Flatts? Everyday on country radio the hard rock songs of the Muzik Mafia quickly drown out the twin fiddles and steel guitars and we’re listening to the sound of money instead of the beating of the American heart. When did being country stop being a requirement for the performers and the songs they sing on country radio? Loretta Lynn crawled out of a coal mine into country stardom and Dolly Parton came down from the mountain top singing her way into Nashville. Today’s country music stars are American Idol contestants and “Hick-Hop” artists. There is little left of what country use to be. Its simplicity has been lost to the bright lights and the big show. Country Music, you don’t have to chase that dollar, you’ve got fans waiting here at home.
Bravo, Mr. Shivers. While I don’t agree with you, you spoke your mind well, and I applaud your right and ability to do so.
Now it’s my turn.
I’m a suburban-raised girl with an urban soul, and yet I, too, was raised on country music. At least, that’s part of the story. As a child, I listened to the radio and to records constantly, and was as influenced by Glenn Miller as by Steve Miller, and am now as much a fan of Dar Williams as Hank Williams. There’s so much to love about all forms of music, and all the forms have so much to say. Country is and has always been the place for straightforward, no-holds-barred directness, and it’s a sign of the changing times that we can be straightforward about so many more subjects within the confines of country music nowadays.
And although music is and long has been a business like many others, it’s not just about money. I was at the MuzikMafia show at the Mercy Lounge on Tuesday evening, and you can’t tell me these guys are in it just for the money. They’re chasing the love of music, unfettered by the restrictions of traditional instrumentation and chord progressions. Our rock-loving American hearts beat, too, Mr. Shivers; they’re just open to trying out new rhythms.
I hope you’ll agree, there’s room in this country for all of us.