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1998: A year of tradition?

Country Standard Time Editorial, January 1998

If not for release of Garth Brooks' "Sevens," many country fans would have regarded 1997 as a big dud. Sales were down; few new artists broke; radio was barely listenable. Most of the bright spots were on the indy country scene with the likes of Robby Fulks.

So, what can we expect in 1998?

Country may need to look at Brooks again as a savior as he will have several discs out this year, including a planned duets disc with Trisha Yearwood.

The good news is that 1998 could be a year of tradition. A few recent singles by major label acts - Brooks' "Long Neck Bottle" and Trace Adkins' "The Rest of Mine" - both have a decided traditonal sound.

And chances are that the bigwigs in Nashville will be following that up with other similarly styled releases from both new and old artitsts.

If the country fan is fortunate, a few old codgers, like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Paycheck, will get their just due with new albums coming soon. George Jones will release another album as well this spring.

Many fans know Waylon et al helped make country great, but have garnered little of their due in recent years due to the commercialization of country. Let's hope that does occur.

And old reliable George Strait plans on remaining as productive as ever with yet another disc this spring.

Several new musicians signed with major labels or are about to, who mine traditional country, leaving the dying hat act scene to continue withering. It will be interesting to see if the likes of Sony and Warner Brothers and non-Nashville labels like Sire can bring an audience to the likes of Bruce Robison, Tim Carroll, The Lynns and Dale Watson.

Will Shania Twain ever tour as she has said she would this year? And will she, LeAnn Rimes and others who started in country, but quickly drifted over towards pop continue in that direction and leeave their country fans behind?

If so, then country radio ought to look elsewhere for country music.

The industry folks will tell you country is quite healthy thank you for obvious reasons. But for that to be true, change will be in order. A change back to tradition could be the answer. We'll see what happens in the coming 12 months.