Country Music in 2015

2015 was the year in which I’ve begun to reacquaint myself with my love of country music. As I wrote a few months ago:

Despite my inner-city reputation, I actually know a fair bit about country music, and I have lots of great “special experts” to draw upon to supplement the areas in which my knowledge is a little short. Having grown up in Lismore, I grew up with a lot of country music. Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynnn and the like were the soundtrack to my youth. And then having lived in a number of other country towns, I learned a lot more. I visited the Tamworth Country Musical Festival several times, as well as other festivals like Barmera and Gympie, and there was was even one year where I was a judge for Tamworth. For me, country music, the authentic stuff (I was never into anything cheesy) has been a strong part of “who I am”.

But having worked in “capital city radio” over the last decade, my attention has been drawn away from country music until recently when my attention has been brought back on a few levels. And so I’ve been listening to a lot of country music over the last few weeks, and revisiting some wonderful “old friends”.

It wasn’t intended. It was something which came out of the re-structure of the ABC announced back in November. As a result of the changes, the people looking after “ABC Country” were made redundant, which meant responsibility for keeping the station on air fell with me. Realistically, there’s not a lot of work required, as the station operates pretty much as an automated playlist station without presenters.

That said, it’s important for it to remain contemporary, which means adding in new songs, and it’s important that it should sound like a radio station, and not someone’s ipod! So I took it on, and was determined to achieve a few things. First, we’ve changed the station identifications which I hope bring a little more “life” to the sound, especially as they feature “real people” who are country fans. Second, we increased the amount of Indigenous performers on the station to include some wonderful new performers like Dewayne Everett-Smith, as well as classic performers like Roger Knox and The Mills Sisters. Third, we’ve increased the amount of Australian content from around 25% to about 70% at the moment. Fourth, we’ve introduced a new category of music called “classic country” which pays respect to some of the great performers of the past. And I have a great team of “volunteers” (country music fans within the ABC) as well as paying for some people with expertise in the area to help with the transformation. Honestly though, it’s been for LESS than the smell of an oily rag :) And for me it’s been a real passion project, mostly done “out of hours”. I genuinely love listening to the station, and I’ve re-developed my passion for country music. I love it.

So, with that in mind, here are my favourite country music tunes from this year (and the end of 2014)

Adam James is an Indigenous singer from Queensland. I think he’s terrific, with great songs. This song makes me a little sad with its lyrics.

Here’s some other Aussie favourites…

And in case you’re wondering, I’ve even managed to sneak in a couple of Swedish tracks in to ABC Country, as part of the desire to play more than just country from Nashville. Though a couple of years old, I love this tune from First Aid Kit, who I saw play in Sydney a few years ago.

I love this song by Canadian, Dean Brody. This song has a “Life At The Outpost” feel about it. Totally catchy.

Strictly speaking this song was from the end of last year, though I only discovered it this year. It’s from an American singer and the lyrics deal with same sex relationships.

In a more “traditional” sense, I really loved this song from Justin Standley.

My favourite band from the year was Melbourne-based Mustered Courage.

And in particular, I loved their cover-version of September

They’re also playing at Meatstock, in 2016 which I am totally looking forward to.

Oh yeah, and I become totally addicted to the TV show, Nashville.

It’s good to be back, loving country music.