Tell me if this conversation sounds familiar: “So, you’re into music Mark? That’s awesome! What sort of genres are you into?” “Man, I am into everything you can think of. Rock, hip-hop, blues, pop, death metal, it’s all great. Everything except country. I can’t stand country music.”
Personally, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that exact answer… I guess I’d have a lot of nickels. But country music isn’t all bad, in fact some of it is quite great. Also, and I’m about to turn your world upside down, country and blues music have a lot of similarities and even weave together in a lot of ways. If you listen to the real early blues artists like Charlie Patton, it is usually one man with a beaten up acoustic guitar with deep raspy vocals singing about his hometown or events that have shaped their lives. This was Country blues, folk songs that blended in with hardships and cultural experiences. The funny and interesting thing is that Country music and Country blues came about around the same time in the early 20th century.
The two music forms were adapted from folk and blues roots but diverged when it came to the individuals playing the music and the instrumentation used. When you think about Country blues artists, most of them are African American from deep southern states like Mississippi and Alabama who have been playing guitar and singing songs for years, it was just given a genre classification later on.
Over the years, the genres obviously went through some significant makeovers and are on the surface seemingly unrelated genres, especially with the modern interpretation of “country” music which is just pop music sung by people with Southern accents. However, with the seasoned country musicians like Willie Nelson or Charlie Daniels, you notice a bridge between country and blues in some of their tunes.
This is what the goal is today; to introduce palatable country songs you may not have listened to. As blues fans, you will notice some similarities and who knows, maybe you will get deeper into the vast world of country music. Now, these songs are going to range in style from Outlaw Country to Southern Rock. Let’s get you into country music!
Waylon Jennings – Waymore’s Blues
We aren’t going to sugar coat this, we are starting off with a pure-bred country boy right off the bat, you can do this, I promise. Waylon Jennings is one of the most well-known and respected country guitarists and one of the frontrunners of the popular sub-genres Outlaw Country. He played with the most notable names in his genre and even composed the theme song to the popular television show Duke of Hazzard. His “Waymore’s Blues” portrays Waylon’s signature deep southern-drenched vocals and stylistic acoustic strumming. Try and guess what chord progression he’s playing!
Blackberry Smoke – I’ll Keep Ramblin’
I am assuming that the majority of our readers and listeners are fans or at least appreciate the southern-rock leaders Lynryd Skynyrd, their influence goes without saying. Following in their footsteps are the southern-influenced rock guys Blackberry Smoke. Southern rock and blues rock have many cross overs, southern rock just has that twang to it. This tune is a fast-paced rockin’ tune featuring the genius lap-steel playing of bluesman Robert Randolph. Turn up the volume for this one!
Hank Williams Jr. – Blue Jean Blues
This country, sometimes southern rock, star is the son of Hank Williams I, “one of the most influential and significant singers of the 20th century.” He is known as the “King of Country Music” and for influencing Elvis, Bon Dylan and other pivotal musicians. Oh, and he died when he was only 29! Although he was only 4 when his father passed, Hank Williams Jr. took over the family torch and is now considered a great country artist in his own right. “Blues Jean Blues” is a great tune, complete with a catchy repetitive guitar line and a soothing sax solo!
Brandi Carlile. – Mainstream Kid
Brandi Carlile is steadily becoming a household name in Americana, folk, and alt-country music. Her latest album earned a Grammy nomination for the Best Americana Album and she is a fan favorite in the genre. This song is rocking and feature’s Brandi’s unique skills and charm.
Johnny Cash. – Hurt
You thought I was going to forget Johnny Cash! He was of course, one of the most notable singer-songwriters in multiple genre, known mostly for his dark and brooding country hits. He was an inspiration to countless musicians and redefined cool up until his last day. In 2002, at 70 years old, one year before he died, Cash surprised everyone with an incredible and moving cover of “Hurt” by the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. Cash stripped it down with just an acoustic and his cutting deep voice. It is one of his most played songs and showed his depth as a seasoned musician.
Chris Stapleton – Death Row
If you are looking for the biggest name in modern country who still knows how to rock his heart out, look no further than Chris Stapleton. He is dominating alt-country and other subgenres right now, with 5 Grammy Awards and many other awards and accolades under his belt. Stapleton is a country boy at his core, but he still knows how to rip a good ole blues solo. “Death Row” is a slow burning, foot stomping good time.
Willie Nelson – Last Man Standing
Willie is a household name in music, especially in the country world, being a spearhead of the Outlaw movement. At 84 years old, Nelson has had a long and steady career marked with countless performances, albums, collaborations, and activism. He has experimented with many other genres including folk, rock, jazz, and of course blues. Check out his album Milk Cow Blues where he is joined by some notable blues musicians on classic blues standards. “Last Man Standing” was released as a single in 2018 as a precursor to a new album to be released later this year. Willie will not be stopped!
Lucinda Williams – Joy
Lucinda Williams has been credited as a successful Americana, rock, folk, and country artist. Whatever genre you consider her to be, she kicks some serious ass on this tune. “Joy” is a straight southern rock gem that was even covered on the 2018 duo album Black Coffee by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart!
Charlie Daniels – Funky Junky
“The Devil Went Down To Georgia” is one of the most well-known fiddle songs and has appeared almost everywhere for almost forty years. Charlie Daniels is a gem in the country scene. “Funky Junky” is a little out of left field for Daniels, featuring a funky bassline and groovy drum beat.
Sturgill Simpson – Brace For Impact
Ever since 2004, Sturgill Simpson has been pressing forward and reworking the meaning of popular country music, even being nominated for Album of the Year. A little bit country, a little bit roots, all rocking!