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2001: The year that wasn't

Country Standard Time Editorial, January 2002

Much like recent years, 2000 was not exactly a kind year to the country music scene, although there were several bright spots. While hopes sprung eternal about an uptick for country, that was not to be the case.

That is not necessarily the fault of country music. Musc, in general, suffered through a down year with sales down about five percent from the previous year. And who can be sure what the effects of Sept. 11 will be as well on the record buying public. Clearly, the concert scene died down significantly with many shows and tours cancelled as a result.

In country, it seems if your named happened to be tried and true (can anyone say Tim McGraw, for example), then 2000 was a pretty darn good year. Several artists - Sara Evans and Kenny Chesney - had particularly stellar years bringing their careers up a notch. But labels were contracting and not about to risk spending bucks on developing artists.

The lack of new music from the likes of the Dixie Chicks or Shania Twain didn't help either. Garth Brooks, of course, did with "Scarecrow" in November, but it doesn't push the envelope enough to spur country music.

The alt.-country scene died down. The godfathers of the genre, Son Volt and Wilco all but eschewed that label and gone onto different musical pastures. The Americana radio charts still haven't proven to yield much when it comes to sales.And the Americana Music Association fell victim to 9/11 also as the annual conference had to be postponed until November.

About the lone bright spot was the continued growth of the small labels. They gained more of a foothold in the marketplace with success from folks like David Ball and Mark McGuinn out of the left field. Hopefully, we will be hearing more in the future from the likes of DualTone, Audium, VFR and others. They're taking a chance, doing someting a bit different.

Of course, the biggest surprise was the fantastic success of the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack, which now will result in a tour in January and February. Fortunately, not only did the CD sell well, but it has won awards even though it never received airpliay from country radio. Bluegrass music received a big spurt from the album and movie.

Country music circa 2001 isn't in a very good place, but who knows, of course what 2002 will bring.