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Tradition returns to country

Country Standard Time Editorial, May 1996

Tradition returns to Country Standard Time.

The word "traditional" seems to be creeping back into the country music lexicon. At least, that's how many new artists are being described nowadays by the folks down in Music City. You can barely get them to utter the words "H-o-t N-e-w C-o-u-n-t-r-y" any more. Of course, many among us could argue that the reason for the change could be the HNC market has been tapped out and greater diversity is needed for sales purposes.

And while HNC certainly had its role in propelling country to the fore of American musical tastes, there seems to be somewhat of a backlash growing with more people interested in hearing a less glitzy and glossy style of country. Could that be in part why Reba's recent CD of covers failed to do well commercially? It strayed so far from country that country fans weren't all that interested in buying it. That was the sharp contrast to the huge success of George Strait with his boxed set and no doubt his new disc, which is just straight-ahead country.

If the trend is real, then country fans should have a lot of fine music to listen to in the coming months, where the voice and song counts, not the producer's twist of the knobs. Example of recent releases of note include Don Walser's "Texas Top Hand" and Kimmie Rhodes' "West Texas Heaven," both on small labels, and Bobbie Cryner.

The success of BR5-49, the first alternative (at least to the current mainstream) country act to have its music released by a major label, Arista, could well portend the future success or failure of a return to the traditional sound. But don't bet on radio lay for most of these artists.

So if you like your country traditional, fans must be willing to go out and support the genre with greenbacks and bug radio both commercial and non-commercial to play the type of mf music that made country great.