Stylistically and artistically, contemporary country music continues to evoke debates concerning its identity and authenticity. The resentment held by most traditionalists about the changes that have taken place in country music in recent years was graphically described in a song that was selected in 2000 as the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA) Song of the Year and as the Country Music Association's Record Event of the Year (when recorded by George Strait and Alan Jackson). Entitled "Murder on Music Row," the song declared that "someone killed country music, cut out its heart and soul.
The one consistent factor in the music's production is its core audience among the southern white working class and its representation of their values. Among those values, real and idealized, are hard work, Protestant Christianity, rural romanticism, good times, and the constant struggle for love. Often these values seem in direct conflict with each other, as country musicians are likely to extol the pleasures of the honky-tonk while preaching the need for religious redemption.
In the late 1950s country music's popularity decreased, and some producers like Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley tried to remake country music's sound into something closer to mainstream pop. As a result, country music started to change from late 1950s and by the early 1960s, it had change was completely. The Nashville Sound was born, and it was called The Nashville Sound because it started in Nashville, Tennessee. The Nashville Sound refer to a musical arranging style which used the piano, strings and background vocals over the traditional fiddle and banjo. At this time, country music became very popular, and it was taken the top of the country and pop chart. There were a lot of artists, who sang this genre, from Patsy Cline to The Browns, and this genre has been sung popularly until now.
After the country music had become popular, many kinds of country music genres appeared in different regions. For example, cowboy music, western swing music, bluegrass music and honky-tonk music developed regionally. Cowboy music represented the life of the Wild West, so "hilly-billies: were transformed into dashing young cowboys and cowgirls, and they sang songs about their lives and romances through the country music lyrics. In this genre, the most famous singers are Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and The Son of the Pioneers. They usually expressed an image of free-spirited cowboy singing around the campfire after their hard work.
Much of country music of the 1920s was more rowdy and bawdy than that of the 1930s. The B side of the very first country music record, by Fiddlin' John Carson, had the barnyard double entendre lyric "The Old Hen Cackled, and the Rooster's Going to Crow." The Light Crust Doughboys' recording "Pussy, Pussy, Pussy" was one of many bawdy songs to follow. Country music was cleaned up in the 1930s as radio became the major medium for promoting country music performers.
By the 1920s, southern folk music remained unknown for the outside world; it had developed intensively, but the American music was urban-orientated. Therefore, the rural performers were discriminated because they sounded strange and primitive. However, the invention of the radio allowed country music not only to break its rural isolation but also to spread all over the country. In fact, the radio was so important that country music started to grow really fast.
Sheet music was the source of much early country music (and in fact for many of the songs still heard today in bluegrass music). The collections of published music preserved in the Library of Congress and in other repositories, such as the New York Public Library and the William R. Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, have been insufficiently utilized by scholars, but several published works suggest the utility of such research for the understanding of Country Music.
Country music, like all great American art forms, has its roots in commerce; that is to say, it took commercial recording companies and radio stations to nurture the country style. There were settlers both black and white in the Appalachians from time immemorial, and they brought with them distinct traditions: the European tradition of Anglo-American balladry, story songs, and dance music based on four-square harmonies and fixed forms; and the African-American traditions of blues, work songs, and field hollers, featuring often improvisatory melodies and words accompanied by polyrhythmic instrumental virtuosity. And like all great American musics, country music is a blending of these black and white elements, with each tradition tipping its hat in the other's direction so that it is impossible to cleanly unravel one from the other.
County music was born in the south of the United States. At first, it was called "hillbilly music." It developed and was influenced by reservoirs of folksongs and ballads which were brought to United States by Anglo-Celtic immigrants. Although the south and north received the same external influences, these two regions created totally different types of music. The south's music arose because the region was committed to an agricultural economy and a rural way of life.
Country music, one of the most popular and successful forms of American music, defies easy definition. It began as a medium of expression for southern working-class whites, reflecting the changes in their society.