As the genre of country music hits rough patches, and then bounces back time after time, the fans feel the loves and losses, like the highs and lows of a break-up and make-up. Now I'm not speaking of the regular country fan who thinks Florida Georgia Line is as high-quality as George Jones. I'm talking real country fans who know that the times when pop passes for the genre ( early '80s, late '90s, now ) are low points to true fans. Our long, dark time ( when Garth Brooks first retired until the present ) might be almost over though. Recently, after the good lord Timberlake introduced us to the guiding light of Chris Stapleton, I had to look into other powerhouses coming down the country road.
Need a baby step into the shallow waters between your love for Lana-Del-Ray-pop and the genre? Check out dreamy albums by Amy Blaschke ( Opaline ) and Rachel Brooke ( The World's Greatest Anchor ). If you're already down with Jenny Lewis, Rumer or Neko Case, you're there. If you don't know the past three, get to work.
Comedian Ben Hoffman unleashed is alter ego, Wheeler Walker Jr., onto us last week with an amazingly great comedy music album of the highest rate of offensiveness called Redneck Shit. The Howard Stern of country, you have to go into the album with an open mind that Hoffman will offend everyone in good time. With lyrics like, "They say it's crazy, say it's a sin, I just need someone to rest my balls on their chin" from the ode to straight-on-Gay love, "Which One O' You Queers Gonna Suck My Dick?", he's sending a big middle finger to the established "Bro Country." But Redneck Shit isn't just funny, it's a true country jam made with assistance from the Nashville establishment to hearken back to the days of the outlaw country of Waylon, Willie and Merle.
Speaking of the Nashville establishment, Wynonna Judd, who's one of the genre's best vocalists, has been coasting for decades now. After two strong solo albums in the '90s, two mediocre ones to follow, a reunion with her nutty mama and some covers albums, the red-headed diva is back with what could be the best album of her career, Wynonna and the Big Noise, which is also the moniker under which it's recorded. With heavyweights like Jason Isbell and Susan Tedechi and songs written or co-written by Chris Stapleton, Julie Miller, Raphael Saddiq, Kevin Welch and even Eagles bassist/singer Timothy B. Schmit, Big Noise is not just a return to form, but a rare evolution in middle age which will remind music fans of Bonnie Raitt's '90s comeback in tone and maturity.
Good country is out there, and it doesn't come with autotune, electronic drums or from a reality show. It comes from the heart, and we still heart country.
Check out these artists and more as Moose spins Lumbersexual: Otter Country on February 20, 9 pm, at The SoFo Tap.