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A look forward and back

Country Standard Time Editorial, January 1996

Country seems in flux based on 1995, a year yielding several positives and negatives. A few of the key positives coming out of the year were the growth of women artists in what has generally been a male field. New talents emerged, such as Terri Clark and Kim Richey, who relied on their voices and musical quality. Several artists further established themselves, such as Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood and Pam Tillis.

A few other reasons to smile during the year just concluded: the CMA awards resulted in someone besides the tried-and-true winning. The Dead Reckoning record label emerged in Nashville as an artists-run independent label of considerable quality. Kieran Kane, Mike Henderson, Tammy Rogers and Harry Stinson are to be commended for flying in the face of the Nashville establishment. So are labels such as Deja Disc and Watermelon out of Texas, finding talented musicians better suited for the indie route.

The public benefited in the increasing trend towards including more than the standard 10 songs per disc. Kudos to Mercury Records for leading the way. And in a plug for consumers, let's hope this continues.

But, of course, not everything merits praise. Notice how many (really how few) older, established artists, even those still releasing new material, are ever heard on radio? Apparently, if it ain't hot, it ain't country for some stations. And that means a slew of artists are label shopping.

Too bad because the quality and talent remain not only with older artists, but emerging talents too obviously confined by the powers that be.

Let's hope that in 1996, the positive trends continue and the reins at radio and record companies loosen up. Otherwise, nearsightedness may help lead to the demise of country in 1996.