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A Little Bit Country

SASKATOON (CUP) — If you ask the average music-listener what they think of country music, you’ll get a handful of fairly standard responses: “It all sounds the same: whiney, uneducated, cheesy, depressing, twang-y.” Everyone knows what they hate about country music, but what is it about the genre that draws in millions of people across North America? Dawn Worniuk, country music fan and program director of Saskatoon’s FM country station Hot 93 thinks she has an idea.

SASKATOON (CUP) — If you ask the average music-listener what they think of country music, you’ll get a handful of fairly standard responses: “It all sounds the same: whiney, uneducated, cheesy, depressing, twang-y.”
Everyone knows what they hate about country music, but what is it about the genre that draws in millions of people across North America?
Dawn Worniuk, country music fan and program director of Saskatoon’s FM country station Hot 93 thinks she has an idea.
“The majority of the music, people can relate to. Everyone’s been in love once. People laugh at how they write about pick-up trucks, but everybody’s had a vehicle one time they absolutely loved and hated to part with. If they haven’t dealt with divorce themselves, they’ve had a friend who was divorced. Look at Rascal Flatt’s song ‘Skin’, which deals with a teenage girl who has cancer. Who hasn’t been affected by cancer somehow?”
Country music is uniquely North American. North America is often described as a melting pot or mosaic, and ends up being a mishmash of many different cultures. Country music was born of that mishmash, and is therefore one of a very few arts that truly belongs to us.
It is often forgotten that the king of rock music, Elvis Presley, was a country-music artist. To think of rock and metal fans listening to country is almost laughable, but if you unplug those electric guitars, many rock songs have an undeniably country sound.
Guitarist Ryan Boldt of Saskatoon’s alt-country group The Deep Dark Woods pointed out that indie and alternative rock bands are a little bit country.
“Any indie band – even like the Arcade Fire, or the Shins, or anything like that – if you actually listen to the melodies and chord changes, and if you played that on an acoustic guitar, it would sound like a folk song or country song.”
Maybe the whole ‘I hate country’ attitude is more a problem of open-mindedness. Maybe it has something to do with today’s ultra-competitive society, but many fans of certain genres have a hard time opening their ears to anything other than what they already know.
Even within the country-music community, there is a rift between those who support traditional country, and those who support contemporary country. Boldt is one of the former.
“People associate country music with Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill, and Shania Twain, and that is not country at all. It’s manufactured garbage.”
He also thinks popular country is the reason there are so many haters out there.
“Too many people just write it off as pop-country, and you’ve got to really find out what it’s about before you bash it. It’s the white man’s soul music. It’s been going on forever. If you say it sucks, then you’re just a foolish person.”
At one point in the interview, Boldt directly pointed a blaming finger at loca radio station Hot 93, but Worniuk has a different idea.
“I don’t think people really realize what country is. When people hear ‘country’, they think of their grandparents, and I think that’s a misconception. These artists are hot. They are good-looking, the guys are beautiful, the women are beautiful, they’re young,” she said.
“Country has changed. It’s more contemporary sounding. It’s hitting a demographic of a younger generation, and they don’t want to hear that twang.”
Which leads us to one of the most interesting aspects of country: its ability to change. Technically, “country” is an umbrella term that encompasses a huge variety of sub-genres. Part of the reason this has happened is because country music is very basic.
To say it’s basic makes it sound bland, but this attribute is exactly what makes it sound so good live.
Country is probably the only genre of music that almost always sounds better live. Both Boldt and Worniuk agree on this point.
Worniuk says, “What you hear on a country artist’s CD, you’ll hear when they perform live. It’s not so overproduced that they can’t bring that performance onto a live stage.”
In Boldt’s case, actions speak louder than words: the Deep Dark Woods’ first album was recorded live in a studio during a twelve-hour period and sounds like a rockin’ good time.
As for the future direction of country music, the playing field is wide open, and change is in the air. Worniuk thinks country is constantly changing and evolving, like any other genre.
“You say it’s country, but country has changed. Think of some of the earlier Micheal Jackson stuff, like ‘Billie Jean’. That was really poppy, but that’s not anything like what Justin Timberlake is releasing now. Country still falls into the best category, but country as a whole has changed.”
Although country may have been unpopular for the past ten years, Worniuk is sure it will have a chance to shine again.
Music is cyclical, and every genre has its chance to showcase their talent. Country music is on the rise, so expect to hear more country-influenced tunes in the next few years.

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