Sometimes the things you love go sideways. Sometimes a hero rises to make things right again.
I grew up around country music. The first records I bought were by Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton. Elvis and the Everlys came along to seduce me away, but they still had country roots, so I wasn’t really cheating –- and then something went wrong.
Country became sequined suits and big hair. Lounge Lizards in Stetsons and an endless stream of songs about big trucks.
Thank God, “The Beatles” arrived about the same time.
I mostly left Country behind. But something of what it had been still flowed through my veins and drew me to Leon Russell and the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Eagles.
Then sometime in the 80’s, New Country arrived. The sequins were mostly retired and there were artists singin’ my life and tellin’ stories corporatized Rock and Boy Bands could never understand.
I saw some great concerts over the next decade or two. Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, McGraw, Faith, Reba, Paisley, Strait –- and Brooks and Dunn.
Brooks and Dunn owned me. They had a musicality and a creative range that was constantly new and surprising –- and inspiring. Other people must’ve thought so too –- in 20 years, they charted 30 number one singles and sold tens of millions of albums.
And then –- they suddenly retired. While still on the upswing. Garth had taken a powder a couple of years earlier. Strait followed them last Summer. It was as if the good were gettin’ while the gettin’ was still…
And all us Country fans secretly knew why.
There was still a lot of great talent around. But the airwaves were dominated by real little trucks, cold beer, short shorts and sugar shakers. Every group that couldn’t make it as a Ramones cover band was suddenly hot in Nashville, all of them singing virtually the same song.
Tom Petty dubbed Country. “Bad Rock with Fiddles”. And he wasn’t wrong.
The Joker had Gotham by the throat and Batman had been paid not to show his mask on Music Row.
And then Ronnie Dunn decided he’d had enough. He hadn’t brought the magic of Country to millions only to see it pissed away like a warm Coors light.
He turned against the very industry that had made him rich and famous:
“I did it for 20 years, and I learned the mainstream way of doing things was just where ideas go to die… It got to the point where everything we thought was fairly innovative, we would get cut off at the pass. So it’s time.”
Time to kick some ass. Time for a grown up to take charge. Time for Music to matter more than money.
Ronnie Dunn’s first salvoes in his one man revolution were fired this week with a fantastic Facebook page entitled “Save Country Music” that illustrates the genre in all its artistry.
And he’s released a breathtakingly innovative album, “Peace, Love and Country Music”.
Here’s the first single. Despite the powers that be in Nashville it’ll probably still be number one before your New Year’s hangover has lifted.
Country Music has a champion. Garth’s already heard the call and kicked his walker to the curb. Artists like Eric Church and Zac Brown are cheering and I’m thinking you will be too.
This is what it means to care about what you do, to be a grown up artist and a grown damn man…