I know what Country Music means to me. But it might not be the same thing to you.
I don't think anything that Jimmie Rodgers, the Carters, Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, or Hank Williams could be called as anything but the very heart and soul of Country Music.
There are other artists that have come along who seem to me can be classified as nothing but country. Webb Pierce, Gene Watson, Ricky Skaggs, Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells are just a few of the great names that could be included in this category.
We can also find many country music greats whose voices tended to be so great that it would seem that they could also be listed in other genres. Eddy Arnold was one who definitely made good music, and later in his career, the Plowboy image probably wasn't the first one we saw when we heard his music. "Gone" by Ferlin Husky probably was one of the first Nashville Sound hits, and Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, and Roy Drusky definitely were so polished that they could have actually probably been just as great in other categories of music. It seems that Ray Price, with time, has actually been a performer who transcends time and category with that smooth voice. "For the Good Times" may not be "Wedding Bells" as they were for his former roommate, Hank Williams, but it was definitely a song for the rest of time.
Today, there are still a few out there who can light the fire in a country fan's heart. Mark Chesnutt, Daryle Singletary, and Marty Stuart are just a few names that come to mind.
There are others who have the ability to sing a country song, but they sometimes go outside what most of us consider country just for the sake of a radio hit. Garth Brooks definitely is in this category. He gave us some of the greatest country hits, but some of his stuff just really didn't ignite that fire within me. I think the same can be said for Alan Jackson and George Strait. They certainly can sing a country song, but some of the stuff they do is just a little too much fluffy for my consumption.
There are many great country singers out there today, make no mistake about it. One can listen to Ron Williams, Leona Williams, Justin Trevino, Amber Digby, Heather Myles, Dale Watson, or many others on the Texas Circuit, and I am sure that Billy Yates is still making good country music today. This music is just not on mainstream radio.
I was involved in a discussion today that centered around this topic, and several people got mad, and several people got their feelings hurt.
That led me to the conclusion that the definition of country music is all in the hearts of the fans. The true definition of traditional and classic country music will always be that music that touches our hearts, and that we will remember. I think, if I were to be able to come back to this earth in fifty years that I would find that Hank Williams would still be an artist with a lot of songs that people would know. A lot of the country songs today will just be footnotes in music history.
I love good conversation and dialogue, especially about music in general, country music in particular, religion and politics, but there is always room to agree to disagree. If we get to the point where we can not have a civil discourse, then it is time to move on.