Recently there was a comment thread on this blog about the merits of country music. The question came up of whether the “country’ is in the song or the treatment of the song.
In other words, can you take a pop or rock song and turn it into a country song just by using different instruments? Or is there some fundamental quality in the construction of a country song that transcends its musical treatment?
I lean toward the former explanation. I think country music as it is commonly understood has everything to do with instruments, production and vocals. Add a slide guitar and a southern twang to just about anything and you have a country song.
To support my argument, I present Alison Brown’s treatment of Elvis Costello’s song ‘Everyday I Write the Book.’ Brown is a bluegrass banjo player. The singer here is Sam Bush, a legendary bluegrass singer and guitar player (he did the vocals for George Clooney in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’).
Here’s a straight-up pop song (that has a real 80s sheen in its original version) that sounds absolutely splendid in bluegrass.