Want to know the best part of last night’s CMT awards show? when Robert Plant and Alison Krauss accepted the Wide Open Country video of the year honor for “Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On),” a song previously recorded by the Everly Brothers. That was it, period.
The spectacle was embarrassing. It’s like when Elvis came back from the from his stint in Friedberg, Germany with the 3rd Armored Division. Elvis began his career as a rugged hillbilly channeling country, blues and gospel of his upbringing in Tupelo, Mississippi and after his time in the Army and losing his mother he slowly devolved into a drug-riddled, spangled-jumpsuit-wearing freak. Today’s mainstream pop-country music is the Vegas Elvis. A bejeweled, bloated shell of past greatness.
You can point the finger at lots of places, Nashville elite’s initial embarrassment of the Opry and country music industry and the dirty hillbillies crowding their streets. Blame Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley and Bob Ferguson for the syrupy sounds of Countrypolitan to increase market share and entice middle America. Blame the smooth 70’s sounds of Alabama and Kenny Rogers…whatever.
Bottom line, you see talentless hacks like Rascal Flatts, John Rich and Taylor Swift and artists that should know better, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, and real talent like Ashton Shepherd pushed off to a side stage and trying to get a song in before the breakand you see the shadow of something great just off in the wings. Something beautiful, passionate, timeless and real…not some idiotic (and not funny) song about maintenance men and snotty women. And there is the insidious incursion of the American Idol pod people which works into the music industry’s business plan of offsetting risk and increasing predictable financial success. Like McDonalds you know what you’re going to get. But what’s good for burgers sucks for music.
So hats off the Plant and Snoop Dogg, who donned all all black in honor of “my main homeboy” Johnny Cash. These men and breaking stereotypes in new and courageous ways and doing something that’s actually worth paying for.
As someone who grew up with and still loves country music, and has family in the business, what I saw last night was an insult to tradition and a depressing look at the genre’s future.