Growing up in Jersey in the mid 70s the rock music of the Jersey Shore was almost a religion for teen agers – Springsteen and E Street, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, the Source, and the bars and the clubs were legendary – The Stone Pony, The Student Prince, The Chatterbox, The Surf Club, The Firehouse, and so many I can’t remember off the top of my head. Probably because I was able to get into a lot of them and get hammered when I was 16. But that scene set a tone – Rock and Roll was real music, country was what you heard on the Andy Griffith show when The Darlings came to town or god forbid – Hee Haw was on TV and was forbidden to be played on your car stereo.
Maybe it was just the when it was, or maybe it was who we listened to, but besides the band the songs were awesome. They meant something, the writer or the band was telling a story. Yeah you could dance to them, but if you weren’t in the club you actually listened to them, You wanted to buy the 8 tracks or cassettes, or you bought the vinyl and recorded cassettes for the car. You can still listen to those songs, and if you’re feeling nostalgic they’ll take you back to those bars or your car. Or you can kick back in your recliner and still know what that songwriter was singing about. You can’t find that in what they play on the radio these days. With rare exceptions (Brian Fallon, the Gaslight Anthem for example) you don’t find that much depth in modern rock and roll, if there is still such a thing. But you can find it in Country music, if you look hard enough,
I don’t mean country radio, that’s just so much shallow bullshit where the hat is almost as important as the voice. Blake Shelton can pull it off when he wants to, but he has a machine to feed so you have to search for the nuggets. But there are performers you won’t hear on radio who can rivet you to your stereo or phone or youtube or facebook however you consume your music. I’ve been a longtime supporter and promoter of Jeff Black , and recently became a fan of Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson. I’m not sure you’d call all of their music ‘country’ especially Isbell and Simpson, but that’s where they’ve been pigeonholed. Maybe it’s more Americana – doesn’t really matter anymore. And then there’s Dawn Beyer.
Dawn found a different way to make it. She quit playing in the Nashville bars everyone plays in trying to get discovered. She plays on Facebook Live. Several times a week for a 15 – 30 mins she plays original music, sometimes throws in a cover – she’s worked with George Jones and Garth Brooks. She plays for tips – using paypal as a tip jar. And maybe once a week she schedules a full live show – you buy a ticket on http://www.therealnashville.com and you gain admittance to “The Fort”, a private Facebook group where she puts on hour long or longer shows. It’s an impressive model that has here busting her ass but also has made her pretty successful. And if you like here music enough you can book her for private concerts at your house or wedding or party or whatever. But what’s so compelling about her isn’t her business model but her songs. I think I’m pretty picky about what I listen to, especially if it’s something labeled “Country.” I heard one song, visited her Facebook page, watched some of her videos, bought a ticket to “The Fort”, and after that live show downloaded everything I could find. Her heart is in her music, she has something to say in every song, and her voice is captivating telling those stories.
Sorry for the commercial tangent, but it kind of makes my point. If you want good music, relevant, intelligent songs that tell a story and give you just a peek at the artist behind it you probably should be looking for the overlooked country singers. Or maybe I’m like every generation – hearing what the kids are listening to and asking “How can they listen to that shit? I’ll show you good music damnit!”