Il Country: l’old time music

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Lluis Enric Mayans

Author and references


  • The birth of the Country
  • The characteristics of the Country
  • A genre that never sets

Musica country is a musical genre born in America, but it is historically regarded as the result of a fusion of various forms of popular music, imported from Europe, in particular from England, Scotland, Spain, France and Ireland. 

It developed in the early 900s, a period in which it was known as "old time music" or "Hillybilly music", alluding to the white peasants who populated the southern part of the United States.

The birth of the Country

According to some suppositions, this genus is thought to have established itself, in its primordial form, in a warehouse of the Taylor-Christian Hat and Glove Company, a Bristol, between Virginia and Tennessee.

A New York music producer, Ralph Peer, he improvised a recording studio to play what was known as the "Hillybilly sound". After a series of newspaper ads, 19 unknown musicians took part in the initiative, recording 19 songs in total.

Musicians usually had to go to New York personally to be heard, with Peer the nascent country music had the opportunity to develop from its territory of origin.

Among the 19 songs, those of the Carter family of Virginia and those of Jimmy Rodgers of Mississippi: the members of the Carter family, Maybelle Carter, together with her sister Sara Dougherty and her brother-in-law Alvin Pleasant, introduced a technique that over time has taken the name of "fingerstyle" or "fingerpicking”, That is, playing the accompaniment and melody at the same time.

Jimmy Rodgers is considered the father of country because he defined the basic characteristics of the genre, for example the "yodeling”(The typical vocalizations of German-speaking music) and the Hawaiian guitar (played with a metal cylinder passed over the keys). “T for Texas” is one of his most successful works, recorded in his studio in Bristol.

Many African American musicians contributed to the birth of country, including Lead belly, who made famous the song "In The Pines", remade by Nirvana in their "Where Did You Sleep Last Night".

Cramer's lineup paved the way for several singers of the genre, for example Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and June Carter Cash, daughter of Maybelle of the Carter Family and wife of Johnny Cash.

The characteristics of the Country

Country music relies on "string band”, That is the musical ensembles in which the main instruments that are used are stringed, such as the guitar, the Banjo and the violin. 

An important accompaniment, not to be taken for granted, is certainly the dance with the dances in line, that is in pairs, typical of country music. In the USA, the two steps, with slow-slow-slow, fast-fast-fast steps, circling the ballroom in counter-clockwise movements.

The meaning of the texts refers, beyond love, also to friendly atmospheres close to American everyday life, still relevant today as the parties organized outdoors, in the name of dance and food, barbecues, fishing and beer. There are also songs that emphasize love for the homeland or tell stories of soldiers leaving for war.


“The Legend corner” in Nashville.

A genre that never sets

Contrary to what one might think, country is not a genre that America has left behind, indeed, many artists have decided to revive that tireless rhythm or to adapt it on a more modern contemporary basis.

An example is the famous "Old town road”, Song written by the 19-year-old rapper Lil Nas X and sung together with the famous Billy Ray Cyrus, father of Miley Cyrus; this song, with its 14 platinum discs, was the most certified in the history of the RIAA, the American Association of the Record Industry.

Initially viral content on social networks, the musical arrangement features an interesting mix of hip hopalmost trap in accompaniment, up to the verse that refers to the rap melodic, but to make the song particular are precisely those unusual elements merged with these genres, such as the western references or the banjo accompaniment in the base.

This song is the recent demonstration of how music can cross the centuries and history without ever becoming extinct, giving life to interesting symbioses and making it impossible to define a musical production in a single genre.

Miley Cyrus, in 2012 he recorded Jolene, a cover of a very famous country song sung by Dolly Parton, of which another cover was previously released in 2004 by the American rock group The White Strips.

Other contemporary artists known for the genre are Tim Mc Graw, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Luke bryan, Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Eric Church and the brand new Luke Combs and also the very young Taylor Swift, also well known in Spain and influenced by many nineties country artists including Shaina Twain and Dolly Parton.

If you are a lover of the genre and you are in America, you could definitely drop by N, home of the country!

In almost all the clubs there are live shows and often you are also invited to dance to accompany the music, and if you are lucky you may happen to meet the famous musicians of the genre, as they are also the owners of the clubs.

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