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Optimism circa 2000

Country Standard Time Editorial, March 2000

Country sales were down in 1999. Labels cut many well established artists. Pop went the country.

The list of negatives goes on and on, but country music circa 2000 is far more than tales of doom and gloom.

In fact, there are signs that the times, they are a changin'.

Those same major labels that have been the subject of numerous editorial complaints deserve a measure of praise as well.

Waylon Jennings just signed with Lucky Dog, the Sony subsidiary catering to the non-commercially popular side as represented by the Robison Boys and others. Maybe Jennings' live album, recorded at the Ryman in Nashville, will not only bring Jennings back to the public much as George Jones' album did last year, but also further encourage the majors to sign artists trying to make it back at a time when country light pop seems to rule.

Buddha Records has made a comeback as a reissue imprint for BMG with several quality albums. Sony did the same last fall with the American Milestones reissues, including Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette, The Hag and Johnny Cash.

Who knows? Maybe we'll even get a new Cash album this year.

The independent country music remains strong with much quality to be found there. Robbie Fulks is back from his ill-fated lone Geffen release, at the well respected Bloodshot label for "The Very Best Of." HighTone had a wonderful 1999 and hopefully will continue in the same high quality vein with an album in February from The Hollisters, whose first album was a gem.

And if you search hard enough, you can find gems from virtually unknown folks like Li'L Mo & The Monicats, Roger Wallace, Rick Shea, rockabilly artist Marti Brom and others.

Radio sure has taken its knocks on these pages as well, but there may be hope. If your favorite local country music radio station isn't playing what your ears desire, maybe flip on the computer. There's bound to be a web radio station playing the music of the up-and-coming cats or the stars who have seen better days.

The Grammys will hopefully reward the deserving acts, like Asleep at the Wheel, which with leader Ray Benson, was nominated for six Grammys, the most by any country act.

It's so easy to be negative and wallow in the despair brought on by many of the acts out there with an ear glued to the radio. But there's a whole world of country music that sounds just fine, thank you.