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Hats Off: New Punk Country

Our Country

I've discussed a few times in this blog about how Country music is probably the most diverse genre out there these days. You know what I mean--everyone from Sebastian Bach to T-Pain either palling up with country stars or taking a shot (or potshot?) at a country tune themselves.

Well, today, let's talk about yet another dimension. Country can be punk, too. And I'm not talking Johnny Cash, here. Modern country is taking its place in the indie music zone, as much as it's already claimed its throne in pop and rock channels.

Classic example: In the vein of classic punk-rock self-mutilation, country hellion Eric Church is currently performing in a cast these days.

He didn't trip and fall carrying his own equipment, or anything like that. Naw, he got rowdy on stage and stamped his foot so hard he broke it. 

Okay, this may not be exactly on the same level as Darby Crash or Iggy Pop slicing themselves with broken glass. However, it's a telling incident in a growing movement of "hatless" modern-country guys--musicians, mostly male, who have done a reverse Kid Rock of sorts and found their place by providing country spiced up with a hefty dose of rock and indie attititude.

Church makes a great case study for this. Like his labelmate Dierks Bentley--who has played both the country festival Stagecoach and the indie-bonanza Coachella--he represented an unapologetic country presence in a largely alt-rock world this year by taking the main stage at Lollapalooza 2009 (the lineup's standouts included Depeche Mode, Tool, and the Killers, if you're interested in the company Church was keeping). He does not look or dress like Alan Jackson or George Strait. And, of course, there's the bona fide recklessness--foot in cast as proof.

What's most interesting about Church, however (and Bentley, and a few other dudes in this vein such as Trent Tomlinson and Jason Aldean--although Aldean does wear a cowboy hat), is that the guy really is not putting us all on.

He was raised in North Carolina and his first band was called "Mountain Boys." His music, although sprinkled with un-soccer-mom-friendly topics such as smoking weed and knocking up your girlfriend, is undeniably authentic country (his current single, "Love Your Love The Most" is top 10 at Country radio). Ballads and heartbreak and all that. And, he's playing the NASCAR Banking 500 in his home state October 17.

So, in short, he's really the real deal. He just doesn't look or act like it 100%, all the time.

And that's fine with me. What with every artist from every musical stripe out there struggling to get a piece of the Country world--I say, hats off to these hatless dudes making forays into rock and alt-rock audiences, too. 

What do you all think?

Here's Church's latest hit, if you haven't seen it yet.

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