What the divisive state of country music can teach us in the case against purism

Clayton J. Hester
3 min readFeb 11, 2022
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Country music is a world of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

Excuse me… what? You ask. Clayton, I did not come here to hear you give me more musings on country music. Or… put it in a Hegelian dialectic.

Hear me out, people.

Firstly, if your understanding of country music is informed by what you tune into over most radio stations, you are sadly mistaken as to what country music is.

And that’s my point.

Jimmie Rodgers and Jason Aldean are worlds apart.

There’s a lot of history that spans that gulf, composed of incremental changes wherein one party changes something and another party reacts.

Country music seems to be in constant need of saving.

Now, wait a minute, you say. You’re not about to defend that crap that gets played all the time on the radio, are you?

No, I’m not. But it’s worth considering the fact that innovation is bound to happen, and it should.

That’s not to say that when a group like the Country Side of Harmonica Sam revives that classic honkytonk music, it’s misguided nostalgia.

No, no, no.

That’s innovation in its own way.

But what separates the pasticheur from the homage-maker? That’s a bit tough to split apart.

Take Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of MacBeth.

The man takes an old style of filmmaking and an even older play and makes something completely fresh.

Perhaps this will seem like an argument by assertion, but there is an originality in a song that throws back to the beer-laden songs of heartbreak that is not present in a song recording some schmuck’s dirt road cruise along side a girl who essentially serves as a prop.

Maybe 40 or 50 years from now there will be songs that pay homage to this part of country music, though at that point the cars will fly and the girl in the song will probably a legitimate robot.

So why is some innovation bad, while others are not?

Clayton J. Hester

Country boy. Explorer of the creative process & life, the arts, storytelling, innovation and history of ideas. Omnia in gloriam Dei facite — claytonjhester.com