Too Country for Rock or Too Rock for Country Music?

Jim Nash V is back as a guest writer, exploring the border-pushing definition of country music.

In a follow-up to my article from last week, “Country Music on iTunes”, I’ve decided to explore some of these categories a bit more.

The Country Pop Rock category can be a pretty large umbrella. When I think of Country Rock, I think of songs that rely more on a heavier guitar sound that drives the song. One of the earliest examples I can think of would be Garth’s Ain’t Going Down ( Ti’l the Sun Comes Up). The guitar parts are full-steam ahead, in your face rock-n-roll style (not unlike his concerts) and include traditional guitar “riffs or hooks”. Without Garth’s vocals, this could easily be a classic rock song. (Remember his duet with Huey Lewis on Working for a Living a few years ago? Not a big stretch.)

Now fast forward to modern day and you have artists pushing that heavy guitar sound even further. Most notably Big & Rich, Carrie Underwood (before you disagree, how about Last Name?), Rascal Flatts (Life is a Highway), Randy Houser, Trace Adkins and Jason Aldean. Even Keith Urban, who’s early music with the Ranch is much more Country sounding than his stuff today.

These artists are using multiple distorted guitar tracks, using the “wah” effect, detuning their guitars to give them a deeper, more ominous sound and are writing guitar hooks and solos into their songs that sound nothing like Country. Jason Aldean’s She’s Country stands out as a song that, without the obligatory fiddle parts and the title, could easily pass as a Nickelback or Soundgarden track.

So when does a song become too Rock for Country? And if fiddle, pedal steel or banjo is added to a “heavy” country song and the singer comes from South of the Mason / Dixon line, is that enough to keep it Country?

Is this what Country music has to do to build the younger generation fan base so that the overall genre lives on?

Is the umbrella too large though or do we need yet more categories like Country Modern Rock? Country Alternative Rock? Country Metal?

Keep it Country,
Jim Nash V.

Jim Nash V is a contributing writer with a passion for country music. Jim works to promote line dancing and country music in Long Island New York. For more on Jim, visit
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2 Replies to “Too Country for Rock or Too Rock for Country Music?”

  1. I think the worse issue is I see more pop country here now, not country rock…He or She’s actually POP but pretend like country boy or girl …. He or She has more pop music fans rather than country fans…that is just too obvious and That’s a more serious thing to consider …