Do You Remember "New Traditionalism" Country?
I had my iPod on shuffle the other day and a Patty Loveless song from the late-80’s came on. As I was listening, I realized how much country music had changed for the worse since then and how important the “New Traditionalism” movement of the 1980’s was in taking the genre back to its roots.
I first ran across the style on commercial radio in the mid-80’s after getting bored with album-oriented rock but still needing a rock and roll feel to offset the bluegrass I was listening to on public radio. Alt country and genre-busting jam band music had not been developed.
I’m no expert on the genre but it seems like the movement began around 1981 when Ricky Skaggs brought a bluegrass feel to country music and George Strait merged Western Swing with country. In late-1984 a frustrated Reba McEntire decided to buck the record labels by going back to a basic honky-tonk sound.
Many great artists followed including Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam, Alan Jackson, John Anderson, Patty Loveless, Clint Black, and early Garth Brooks. I guess the beginning of the end came when Garth decided to bring rock technology into the big arena sound.
Anyway, while the run was short, it was good to replace the orchestra strings and syrupy background voices of the Nashville Sound (or “countrypolitan”-what a stupid name) with the kicking fiddles and steel guitar sound that was part of your parents’ country. At the same time eliminating the nasal voices and bringing in some rock music influences helped modernize the old sound.