ne of the greatest songs of 1999 is "Murder on Music Row," courtesy of Larry Cordle of the bluegrass band Lonesome Standard Time.
Released on an indy label, the song may attract little airplay in its current form. Fortunately, "Murder..." may gain greater credence and radio time thanks to George Strait and Alan Jackson cutting the song as a duet in a Nashville studio this fall.
The song pulls no punches in describing what recently befell the heart and soul of country music down on Music Row, the center of country music.
The murder Cordle is talking about here is the evisceration of country music as we once knew it by the bottom line folks at record companies.
Cordle takes no prisoners in condemning the instrumentation and changes on radio. He writes that steel guitars "no longer cry and fiddles barely play/but drums and rock and roll guitars are mixed right up in your face."
How true! Such is the legacy of Hot New Country and hat acts and what is now referred to as pop country. Most of today's "country" stars are on the country charts, but they ought to just call it pop.
And what perhaps is most disturbing but would no doubt be true is the fact that "Old Hank wouldn't have a chance on today's radio/since they've committed murder down on Music Row."
When you think about it, the music of Williams and the old timers wouldn't see the light of day on radio today or emanate from the major labels. It's too laid back and simple sounding. Too country.
It's amazing someone like George Jones is able to even released an album on a major today, and fortunately his record has done none too shabby when it comes to sales.
Rumors have it that the song will be a single from Strait's next greatest hits album. Let's hope so, and let's hope it continues in the tradition of almost every song Strait has released as a single - making the top 10 and capturing lot of airplay.
That will only serve to underscore the plight of traditional country music today, take a look back at its glorious past and concomitantly hopefully paint a brighter picture for the future by encouraging more artists to go back to the genre's roots.
Unless of course, the powers that be decided to commit yet another murder on Music Row.