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Living in interesting times with Big & Rich

Country Musings by Robert Loy, July 2004

In 1976, I heard The Ramones for the first time, and it changed my life. Their music was so different from anything I'd ever experienced and awakened such strong feelings in me that I always had a strange urge to write RAMONES all over the wall, a compulsion I successfully resisted in all but one instance. (Sorry, Mom!) I was wrong in several of my predictions about the punk pioneers; they never got to be bigger than the Beatles, but they did change rock and roll music forever.

I've enjoyed a lot of music since the Bicentennial year of 1976, but none of it has filled me with a sense of being right there on the crest of a wave when history changed as I get when I listen to Big and Rich's first CD "Horse of a Different Color."

And these guys had to overcome a tremendous prejudice to win me over, because before I ever heard them, I read that they incorporated rap (and even Spanish rap) into their act. I am a music purist, especially when it comes to country; I think rap has already ruined rock and roll, and I was ready to gird my loins and do what I could to prevent C&W from bringing that Trojan horse into their fortress.

But guess what? It works. Big Kenny and John Rich break down a lot of barriers on their debut, and instead of standing by my post, defending what remnants I can, I have switched sides and am reveling in the coup d'etat. Call me a traitor, call me (even worse) trendy; I don't care. "Horse of a Different Color" is such an irresistibly hopeful harbinger of things to come that I have no choice but to jump on their bandwagon.

These two cowboys' music has a deep spiritual foundation (most overtly on "Saved" and "Live This Life") that emboldens them to tackle some issues that country music is only now beginning to acknowledge like spousal abuse as well as issues that our music still continues to turn a blind eye to, like racism.

If that all sounds kind of heavy, it's not. These guys know how to have fun. They have a great sense of humor. They don't take themselves too seriously. And they are so confident in leading country music into a new direction that it's almost impossible not to follow.

Big and Rich may not make it bigger than the Beatles; they may not completely revolutionize the country music business the way that Johnny and Merle did in the '60s and Garth did in the '90s. But I'm willing to bet you that country music will never be the same again. (In addition to giving us a new genre of music that some people are already calling hick-hop, Big and Rich have also given us a brand new typographical symbol, that combination of an ampersand and a dollar sign in their logo.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go see if I can scrub the words "BIG AND RICH" off the bedroom wall before my wife gets home.

The views expressed in this column are Robert Loy's and do not necessarily reflect those of CST.