In a feature that is supposed to span a year on the Onion’s AV Club, Nathan Rabin – the AV Club’s “hiphop” guy – is exploring the genre he knows least: Country Music. Being a native New Englander (or close to it – born in PA, but lived in NE since I was 8 mos) I once shared Nathan’s suspicion/revulsion at country music. I’ve since made a big turn around.
Make no mistake, 99% of what I’ve heard on country radio in the last 10 years is crap (Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, that Gretchen whatever chick, etc). But from the oldest country roots to the “alt” country leanings of everyone from early Wilco to the Dirty Truckers to Lambchop to whatever, there is good country leanings.
Anyhow, the most recent Rabin column on this country conversion attempt is on the King Of Western Swing, Bob Wills. It seems that as Wills is for Rabin, he very much was for me. In fact, hearing Will’s band run the gamut from straight country, to blues, to jazz, to pop, to whatever his music was the first that opened my ears to the possibility that country music could be both very good and expansive (as opposde to restrictive) in it’s definition. Hell Wills briefly had trumpets in his band, and they would do material that included Ellington/Strayhorn’s “Take The A Train.”
Raban has plenty to say on the subject, along with sound clips, so I’ll let him take you on the journey of Bob’s career and life. But this morning I add these youtube clips of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.