Anyone paying even a little attention knows that country music is enjoying a resurgence in America’s popular zeitgeist. The face of the current “country is cool” movement is probably Morgan Wallen, best known for his catchy pop(ish) country and gravitational experiments at rooftop bars.

While mainstream country artists like Wallen and Luke Combs are leading the charge, providing crossover hits à la Eddie Rabbit, the increased attention paid to country, in general, is bringing more truly traditional country artists widespread appeal. Cody Johnson, the current face of the neo-traditional country movement, comes to mind.

Neo-traditional country, or, if you prefer, “real” country music, sprang up as a reaction to the countrypolitan and urban cowboy sounds that largely dominated Nashville’s country scene from the 1960s to the 1980s. Country music has always been the redheaded stepchild of the American music scene. Most people love it or hate it. Only rap or improvisational jazz come close to ginning up the same kind of reaction. Because of this, Nashville has always had a streak of insecurity and a tendency to chase trends set by popular music. That’s what countrypolitan and the urban cowboy were.

I enjoy Conway Twitty and Eddie Rabbit as much as the next guy, but they were a far cry from the bluegrass, mountain music, and gospel that gave birth to the original country sound.

Enter George Strait.

His 1981 debut, “Strait Country,” hinted at a seismic shift that dictated the direction of country music for the next 20 years. 1982’s “Strait from the Heart” pressed the issue, fully embracing the legacy of the American singing cowboy with acoustic instrumentation and heartfelt storytelling in the vein of Harlan Howard, the legendary songwriter who described country music as “three chords and the truth.”

But, of course, who could forget that fiddle? “Strait From the Heart” pulls no punches; in its opening seconds, a haunting fiddle tells us everything we must know about the album’s first track, “Fool Hearted Memory.” It is a masterclass in emotional manipulation, from the instrumentation and performance to the production and masterfully delivered lyrics. This album is country at its best.

As rock and pop pivoted towards new wave, synths, and a futuristic sound, country took a hard look back at its roots. Country is at its best when it doubles down on what makes it great and ignores what’s happening everywhere else.

I think the fact that much of the nation violently despises country music is beneficial for the art form. There’s no point in chasing trends and trying to gain mainstream appeal because most people will hate it anyway. Artists can focus less on marketability and more on integrity.

Occasionally, for a few shining moments, America’s singing cowboys find themselves in the national limelight, like today. But those moments always seem to come when country music decides to buck the trends and return to its roots.

Nick Treglia is a first-year law student.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

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