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Expanding your musical horizons

Country Standard Time Editorial, November 1997

There are many many different faces to country music. There are fans of honky tonk, Hot New Country, the Bakersfield sound, Texas swing, alternative country and on and on.

But there are near cousins of country seemingly increasing in popularity, experiencing a resurgence.

Bluegrass and rockabilly music both could be considered first cousins of country, sharing a great many similarities. The former is almost exclusively acoustic with great emphasis on harmony and such instruments as banjo and upright bass.

Rockabilly serves up a souped sound combining elements of rock, R&B and country with the 1950's considered the heyday of rockabilly. This is what Elvis was all about at least for a period of his musical career.

Yet, these are not musical genres on their last legs. Far from it. Ricky Skaggs, for example, started in bluegrass and ventured over to country for many years, but now is back doing bluegrass, while still releasing country music.

Alison Krauss, of course, blended country and bluegrass radio play a few years ago.

The rockabilly scene is picking up steam with a number of reissues recently released. Some artists, such as Ray Condo, partially mine the rockabilly sound, making it come alive for this generation.

With commercial radio ever increasingly limited in terms of playlists, it is sometimes hard for music fans to search out these musical genres closely related to country. Even Krauss barely gets play any more on country radio because she is not commercial enough for most radio stations.

College radio and Americana radio stations (there are about 80 of them around the country playing a blend of country, bluegrass, folk and rockabilly) are the best bets to discover the music.

Too bad because while one is raw and the other sweet sounding, both have much to offer country music fans today. But as usual, you're going to have to search hard for it to expand your musical horizons. Don't limit yourself to the fodder most radio stations play that passes for country. Seek and ye shall find the good sounds of country and its cousins.