By Charlie Mitchell

I believe, YES. For the BETTER.

All music evolves; it goes in cycles. And the Country Music of 2000-2001 had cycled more toward Pop than at any time in previous fifteen years.


The biggest hits of that period…”Amazed“, “Breathe“, and “I Hope You Dance“…all crossed over to Top 40/Pop radio.

Country fans started to become disenchanted; men, especially, started listening more to Classic Rock.

And it wasn’t just fans; one artist (who shall remain nameless) confided to me…”there’s nothing there for me now (on Country radio). I listen to Classic Rock.”

The seeds of change had been planted before 9/11. Particularly in the form of the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece O Brother, Where Art Thou

But after the attacks, songs with more meaningful lyrics came to the forefront.


The following summer, the Dixie Chicks removed all doubt about Country’s return to tradition.

Sonically, the masterpiece album Home was much closer to the Soggy Bottom Boys than Shania Twain. Early in 2003, the third single from Home, “Travelin’ Soldier“, was the most popular song on Y108.

Sadly, an offhand remark made in the wrong place at the wrong time caused a backlash that remains to this day.

While the title of their nemesis (but only in the Chicks’ minds) Toby Keith’s anthem, “Courtesy of The Red, White & Blue” (The Angry American), found itself painted by American soldier on the bombs that led to the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Toby’s music, while more Mainstream than Traditional, could never be confused with Pop. In 2003, he set an all-time attendance record at First Niagara (then Post-Gazette) Pavilion.

And while Tim McGraw’s iconic “Live Like You Were Dying” DID cross over…

The gravitas of the lyrics meant the song would be firmly embraced by a Country audience.

While other cuts from the Live Like You Were Dying album removed all doubt on which side of Country’s fence Tim stood.

Even Lonestar got in on the fun.

Faith Hill had a short-lived comeback and one more #1 song…

And before Luke Bryan became a poster child for 2010’s Bro-Country, he spent several months in 2007 putting his own humorous spin on honky-tonk tradition.

Trace Adkins enjoyed his greatest success.

And lest we forget, both Carrie Underwood…

AND Taylor Swift came to prominence during this Traditional comeback.

Today, the seeds of change are once again in the air. “Authenticity” is the buzzword.

Chris Stapleton is but one hit away from superstardom. He already has a well-deserved closetful of awards.

Traditional stalwart Jon Pardi has finally broken through, while others are looking to show they can successfully evolve with the times.

And before you bet against the ability of today’s stars to adapt to the future, allow me to remind you that for some artists, evolution is a tradition all its own.
These two hits – from different albums – came within four months of each other during the late-80’s return to tradition.

As for the present, Zac Brown’s announced a “back to basics” approach for his next album. I’ve learned another A-level star is “going in that direction” on their next album.

If your tastes lean authentic/outlaw/traditional, just stick around. The good goodies are comin’. Maybe even an early adopter like Kacey Musgraves will get her long-overdue-due.


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