Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History


A vibrant introduction to a quintessential American art form, Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History is the first undergraduate textbook that focuses solely on country music.

Written by an experienced teacher and renowned scholar of the genre, it offers a coherent narrative that explains country music, its origins, its development, and its meaning from the first commercial recordings of the 1920s up to the present. It highlights significant performers, songs, and ...

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A vibrant introduction to a quintessential American art form, Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History is the first undergraduate textbook that focuses solely on country music.

Written by an experienced teacher and renowned scholar of the genre, it offers a coherent narrative that explains country music, its origins, its development, and its meaning from the first commercial recordings of the 1920s up to the present. It highlights significant performers, songs, and institutions in country music. It also considers key social, political, and musical issues that span many decades of evolution within the genre.

Each part of Country Music opens with an introduction that provides a broad sense of the trends, context, and significant elements of country music during a specific period. Each chapter offers three essential features within the narrative:

* Artist Profiles provide a close look at important figures in the history of country music, from country stars to songwriters to industry personnel
* Listening Guides connect specific recordings to the ideas presented in each chapter; end-of-chapter playlists offer suggestions for further listening
* Boxed essays offer in-depth explorations of topics in seven categories: history, musical style, the music business, culture, technology, songwriting, and issues of identity

Country Music concludes with three helpful appendices on song form, country music instruments, and finding the recordings.

A companion website at offers chapter summaries, questions for review, and web links.

Offering a thorough overview of a core part of American culture, this compelling and accessible book is ideal as the main text for Country Music courses and as a supplement for courses in American Music and American Popular Music.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Engaging and well written."--James Harvey, Alvin Community College

"Beautifully written, organized, conceptually defined, and fleshed out with clear detail. This text will be appealing to students and instructors and will 'wear well' over time."--James E. Akenson, Tennessee Technological University

"Well suited for college-level courses. It covers the 'big splashes' of the genre and fills a need for textbooks on the subject. The appendices are golden--especially the appendix with recorded examples."--Keith Cozart, Indiana University East

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199730599
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/10/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 1,353,726
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jocelyn R. Neal is Associate Professor of Music and Adjunct Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers (2009), which won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. She is the past chair of the Popular Music Group within the Society for Music Theory, and is coeditor of Southern Cultures. In 2012, she was named Director of the Center for the Study of the American South.

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Table of Contents

Each Part opens with an Overview.
Introduction: Heading into the Country
Country as Genre
Definition of Country
Is it Real? Issues of Authenticity in Country Music
Goals and Themes
Situating a Performer
How to Listen
Getting Started
PART I: THE EARLY YEARS (1920s & 1930s)
Chapter 1: The Birth of Country Music
Musical Sources
New Technologies: Records and Radio
Essay (Culture): Radio Barn Dances
Artist Profile: Fiddlin' John Carson
The Business of Music
Essay (Musical Style): Hillbilly Entertainers
The Performers
Listening Guide: "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane"
Artist Profile: DeFord Bailey
Listening Guide: "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues"
Listening Guide: "Hallelujah Side"
Essay (Identity): Women in Early Country Music
Chapter 2: The Big Bang of Country Music
Role of the Producer
Essay (Music Business): Copyright
Essay (Technology): Making Records in the 1920s
Listening Guide: "Keep on the Sunny Side"
Artist Profile: The Carter Family and Its Legacy
Listening Guide: "Blue Yodel"
Artist Profile: Jimmie Rodgers
Listening Guide: "Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye & Bye)"
Contributions of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family to Country Music
Listening Guide: "Blue Yodel No. 9"
Essay (Culture): Cover Songs
Essay (Identity): Race in Early Country Music
Chapter 3: Innovation and Change
Barn Dance Radio Shows, Stars, and the Brother Acts
Essay (Musical Style): Brother Acts
Essay (Music Business): Sponsorship
Listening Guide: "The Great Speckled Bird"
Artist Profile: Roy Acuff
Western Swing
Essay (Musical Style): Innovation in Western Swing
Artist Profile: Bob Wills
Singing Cowboy
Listening Guide: "New San Antonio Rose"
Essay (Musical Style): Singing Cowboys
Listening Guide: "Back in the Saddle Again"
On the Brink of World War II
Chapter 4: Honky-Tonk Heyday
New Radio Stars
Essay (Music Business): Forces behind the Scenes
Country Music Culture in the Postwar Years
Essay (Technology): A New Era in Recording
Essay (Culture): Folk, Country, and the Novelty Song
Honky-Tonk Roots
Essay (Musical Style): Honky-Tonk
Essay (Musical Style): Country Boogie
Listening Guide: "Walking the Floor over You"
The Louisiana Hayride
Honky-Tonk Heyday
Artist Profile: Hank Williams
Song Comparison: "In the Jailhouse Now"
Listening Guide: "Your Cheatin' Heart"
The Honky-Tonk Image
Honky-Tonk Angels
Answer Songs
Artist Profile: Rose Maddox
Listening Guide: "(Pay Me) Alimony"
Essay (Songwriting): Songwriting in Nashville
The Impact of Honky-Tonk
Chapter 5: The Birth of Bluegrass
The Origins of Bluegrass
Artist Profile: Bill Monroe
Essay (Musical Style): Bluegrass
Listening Guide: "Blue Moon of Kentucky"
First-Generation Bands
Artist Profile: Earl Scruggs
Listening Guide: "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"
Essay (Identity): Women in Bluegrass
Bluegrass Meets Folk
From Bluegrass to Folk to Commercial Country
Essay (Culture): Bluegrass Festivals
Bluegrass as Symbol and Soundtrack
Listening Guide: "Rocky Top"
The Relationship between Bluegrass and Country
Chapter 6: Rockabilly and Teen Romance
Setting the Stage: The Emergence of Rock 'n' Roll
Memphis Rockabilly and Elvis Presley
Essay (Culture): Teenagers and Music
Essay (Culture): Cajun Country
Essay (Musical Style): Rockabilly
Song Comparison: "Blue Moon of Kentucky"
Rockabilly as Part of Country Music
Artist Profile: Johnny Cash
Listening Guide: "Folsom Prison Blues"
Rockabilly Women
Rock 'n' Roll and Country Connections beyond Sun
Artist Profile: Wanda Jackson
Listening Guide: "I Gotta Know"
Country Teen Crooners
Listening Guide: "Young Love"
Coming to an End
Chapter 7: The Nashville Sound and Musical Innovation
Artist Profile: Chet Atkins
The Stars
Essay (Musical Style): The Nashville Sound
Artist Profile: Patsy Cline
Listening Guide: "Faded Love"
Listening Guide: "He'll Have to Go"
The Songs
Song Comparison: "Take Me In Your Arms and Hold Me"
Essay (Songwriting): A Professional Writer's Town
Listening Guide: "El Paso"
Essay (Music Business): The Country Music Association
The Second Wave of Nashville Sound Artists
Making Sense of the Nashville Sound
Chapter 8: California Country and Country Rock
Out in Bakersfield
Essay (Musical Style): Bakersfield Sound
Artist Profile: Merle Haggard
Listening Guide: "Mama Tried"
Artist Profile: Buck Owens
Listening Guide: "Excuse Me (I Think I've Got a Heartache)"
Essay (History): "Okie from Muskogee" and Country Music Politics
Bluegrass Meets Folk-Rock
Country Rock
Essay (Culture): The Byrds on the Opry
Country Rock Branches Out
California Country
Listening Guide: "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"
Chapter 9: Traditionalists and Classic Country
Essay (Musical Style): Classic Country
Classic Country's Female Stars
Artist Profile: Dolly Parton
Listening Guide: "Coal Miner's Daughter"
Song Comparison: "Muleskinner Blues"
Classic Country's Male Stars
Essay (Identity): Gender in Classic Country
Artist Profile: George Jones
Listening Guide: "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
Listening Guide: "You've Never Been This Far Before"
Breaking Barriers
Essay (Culture): The Opry Moves
Essay (Songwriting): Story Songs
Essay (Songwriting): Truckin' Songs and the Open Road
The Duets and Ensembles
TV and Country Music
Looking Back on Classic Country
Chapter 10: Outlaw Country and Southern Rock Rebellion
The Emergence of Outlaw Country
Essay (Music Business): Behaving Like Outlaws
Artist Profile: Willie Nelson
Essay (Musical Style): Outlaw Country
Album Exploration: Red Headed Stranger
Outlaw Country Runs Its Course
Listening Guide: "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)"
Essay (Culture): Long-Haired Rednecks, Hippies, and Cosmic Cowboys
Southern Rock and the Country Audience
Essay (Musical Style): Southern Rock
Listening Guide: "Sweet Home Alabama"
Artist Profile: Charlie Daniels
Listening Guide: "The South's Gonna Do It"
Chapter 11: Urban Cowboys, Countrypolitan, and the Reagan Era
History and Rise of Crossover Country
Essay (Musical Style): Countrypolitan
Pop Culture, the Cowboy, and the Country Boy
Essay (Culture): Country Music on the Silver Screen
Politics, Economics, and the Appeal of the Urban Cowboy
New Media and Breaking Down Genre Borders
The Stars and Songs of Urban Cowboy
Artist Profile: Barbara Mandrell
Essay (Music Business): International Country
Listening Guide: "I Was Country (When Country Wasn't Cool)"
Listening Guide: "Love in the First Degree"
The End of Urban Cowboy
Artist Profile: Emmylou Harris
Listening Guide: "Islands in the Stream"
Chapter 12: Neotraditionalists and Remaking the Past
Countrypolitan Fades
Neotraditionalist Philosophy
Essay (Musical Style): Neotraditionalist Recordings
Early Practitioners
Essay (Songwriting): Cover Songs Revisited
Artist Profile: George Strait
Listening Guide: "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)"
Artist Profile: Reba McEntire
Listening Guide: "How Blue"
Neotraditionalism Takes Root
Listening Guide: "All My Ex's Live in Texas"
Co-opted, Conservative, and Commercial
Essay (Culture): Branson, Missouri, and Country Music Tourism
Chapter 13: The Commercial Country Explosion
The Class of 1989 and "New Country"
Artist Profile: Garth Brooks
Essay (History): Southernization and Soccer Moms
Essay (Musical Style): New Country and Country Pop
Themes in New Country
Listening Guide: "Friends in Low Places"
Listening Guide: "Gone Country"
Stylistic Pendulums and Country Pop
Essay (Culture): Line Dancing
Artist Profile: Shania Twain
Listening Guide: "Any Man of Mine"
Essay (Songwriting): Songwriting and Sophistication
The End of the 1990s
Chapter 14: Alternative Country and Roots Revival
Defining Alternative Country
Alternative Country Origins
Alternative Country Coalesces
A Broader Definition: Alternative Country as Musical Space
Artist Profile: Ryan Adams
Essay (Technology): The Internet Age
Listening Guide: "No Depression"
Essay (Musical Style): What Alt-Country Doesn't Sound Like
Listening Guide: "Suppose Tonight Would Be Our Last"
Essay (Culture): Gay Line Dancing
Another Alternative: Bluegrass
The Impact on Mainstream Country
Artist Profile: Rhonda Vincent
Changes in Commercial Country
Murder on Music Row: The Turning Tide
Listening Guide: "Man of Constant Sorrow"
Essay (Culture): The O Brother Phenomenon
Chapter 15: Into the Present
Country Music in the Spotlight
Essay (Culture): Dixie Chicks and Politics
Listening Guide: "Long Time Gone"
Listening Guide: "Whiskey Lullaby"
Return of Roots and Rednecks
Artist Profile: Brad Paisley
Listening Guide: "Redneck Woman"
Americana and Alternative?
Pop Culture Lays Claim to Country Music
Artist Profile: Carrie Underwood
Essay (Identity): Race in Contemporary Country
Essay (Technology): MP3s Please
Reflecting and Projecting Meaning
The Main Themes in Country Music's History
Looking Forward
Appendix A: Song Form
Appendix B: Country Instruments
Appendix C: Finding the Recordings
Appendix D: Glossary
Appendix E: Timeline
Selected Bibliography

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