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What Is Country Music?

Upclose photo of Jamey Johnson's old maple guitar filled with signatures of country music past, present, and future.
Upclose photo of Jamey Johnson's old maple guitar filled with signatures of country music past, present, and future.By Jessica Blankenship

Many songs are written about it. Brad Paisley proclaimed it in his song, "This is Country Music." Tim McGraw sang it, twanged it, and then some with "Southern Voice." However, what exactly IS country music?

Being from Kentucky with a large variety of small town and backwoods to the large cities, there is a huge gap as to what one consider as being country music. Take a song on the radio - any song being played on your small town radio station to the larger city Clear Channel or Cumulus stations. Someone is automatically being an "expert" of the song. That expert being you, the listener. Here is usually the argument on every single song being played:

Too pop. Too rock. Too hip-hop (or would that be hick-hop?) Too country. Too young sounding. Too old sounding. Too soft. Too electric. Electric guitar doesn't belong. Electric guitar does belong. Too slow. Too fast. Too much happiness. Too much death. Where are the banjos? Why are there banjos in the song? Too sad. Too peppy. Too hillbilly. Too citified. Too northern. Too southern. Wait, too southern? Bless your heart.

And then there is the "Ugh, not another 'List Type Song': backwoods, cowboy hats, rednecks, momma, trucks, dirtroad, love lost, love gain, someone died, someone's dog died, patriotic fight for our rights, religious theme, tractors, farm, farming, Dixie, the south, hunting, fishing, partying, boots, jeans, rough, honkytonk, beer, whiskey, did I mention momma? How about adding daddy too."

So what exactly do you want to hear? What makes a good country song? After you take out what everyone claims to have an idea for of what "isn't country", then what is left?

Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys once told me, "What's good is good. What's bad is bad. As long as it touches you personally, who cares what others think. That's what makes this music an abundance of creativity that keeps flowing."

Personally, for me, country music is a way of life with the songs chronicalizing the journey of the path we lead. If the song touches you, then you know it. It is hard to explain when a song affects your mind, but your soul. It could be living in the moment and in the words of Trisha Yearwood, "the song remembers when."

There are songs in each of our lives that have may have not been a #1 hit but they pulled some heartstrings. Honestly, do you remember what was #1 on the charts a year ago, over even a month ago? Do you remember the song that you danced at your wedding to or used to get over a breakup a while back? When you get back to the basics and focus on the song, the writer, the story, the emotion, then you won't need to worry if it is "too country" or not.

What are your thoughts? Sound off below in the comments.

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