Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Art of Social Relevance

One of my favorite music writers is a gentleman named Chet Flippo.  I've never had the pleasure of meeting Chet, but I have a feeling he and I might get along quite well.  Chet is a longtime veteran of music writing, and it seems like he's had a long history of writing and saying what's on his mind regardless if anyone's feelings might get bruised.  I like Chet's writing because we have a similar take on the state of country music, specifically country radio, at this time.  Clearly Chet's take is more educated than mine, but I agree with him on most days.  

Chet's most recent column for, the weekly Nashville Skyline feature, talks about one of the most socially relevant songs to come out in a long time by one of the greatest vocalists the industry has been fortunate enough to witness.  Ronnie Dunn's "Cost of Livin'" is a masterpiece that will be remembered as a modern-day classic, regardless of it's chart position.  It will be a life-and-death struggle for this song to reach the top 10, which is a complete and utter shame.  Country radio is at a state where they'll only play tunes about how big your "country to the core" is, or whatever.  That's a debate for another time.

While not naming any names, "Cost of Livin'" is a true story that takes place across both the United States and Canada every day.  It's no secret that the recent recession has been tough on both sides of the border, as well as around the world.  Admittedly, Canada has fared better than our friends and neighbors to the south.  Country music has always been about stories that capture what is socially relevant at that time.  From recent examples as Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning", to Loretta Lynn's feminist anthem from the early 1970's "The Pill", country music has always been there to tell the story of the masses, not the privileged few.  Country music, in general, remains the social conscience of the music world. "Cost of Livin'" is the song that will tell the story of the Great Recession of 2008 - 2011 and beyond to future generations.  

Hopefully radio will come around and play this song as it deserves it's rightful place on every playlist at every country and Americana radio station.  I include Americana in this list because I believe that, at this time, the Americana/alt-country branch of the format more closely captures the social conscience of North America in the same vein as mainstream country did in the 1960's and 1970's.  One can only hope that the balance will be restored at some point in the future.  In the meantime, track down and listen to this song (you can hear it by clicking on the link above).  And if you are one of the people Ronnie sings about in the song, keep plugging away and don't give up.  Better days are ahead.  I wish you and your families all the best and please take care of one another.

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