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The key to tradition

Country Standard Time Editorial, September 1998

The hoped-for changing face of country music may be no better evidenced than by "The Key," the superb new release from Vince Gill. Gill says he wanted to present songs in the traditional style in which he grew up, and he sure did.

But instead of a song here or there by a musician to perhaps catch an up-and-coming trend, we have Gill to thank for offering a whole album in a spare sounding, honest and heartfelt vein. The songs are intensely personal, often covering broken relationships.

Don't bother listening for rocking guitars or loud drums either. Nope, this traditional sound carries through musically.

The first single has made it into the Top 10, a good sign that country fans well may be willing to embrace this type of musical sound.

Let's hope so. It's the real deal from a master craftsman of country not given to gimmickry.

"The Key" comes at a most welcome time in country music because the success/failure of it could well determine where country is headed. The hat acts are rapidly and thankfully disappearing. There has been a move towards a more traditional sound even by well-established artists (read Garth Brooks), albeit on a limited basis.

Hopefully, this will cause record companies to pay attention and smell the coffee of music that endures for more than a month.

Record companies lately have shown more willingness to sign musicians who haven't forgotten country's roots.

Now, it's up to the record companies to get them played on radio and out there on the road to breathe life into country.That well could be the real key.