Chris Willman Joins The Huffington Post

rednecksOne of country music’s finest journalist has a new outlet for his talents. Chris Willman has written for Entertainment Weekly for many years and he also wrote the essential book Rednecks and Bluenecks, which explored the history of politics in country music.

He’s now joined The Huffington Post, and the online format allows him to write exponentially longer essays. His first explicitly country article is up now, and it’s a fascinating read: Jamey Johnson and John Rich Help Country Radio Get Real.

One of Willman’s gifts as a writer is his ability to get artists to speak more deeply and more candidly about their craft. Thus, even an interview with an artist like John Rich, who I generally find insufferable, is still interesting. The article closes with tidbits about upcoming Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley songs, too.

The Huffington Post isn’t for everybody, so thankfully I can link directly to Chris Willman’s index page, avoiding the tabloid politics entirely. Since the man wrote my favorite line ever in a music review*, I’ll be checking it regularly for updates.

* His 2002 Shania Twain review -“Up! is like Abba Gold without all the melancholy.”

Thanks to CU reader Dudley for the link.


  1. Whether or not one agrees with HuffPo‘s political angle, I think that such a forum serves Willman’s talents far better than Entertainment Weekly. Which, while it has a leg up on People or Us Weekly or Rolling Stone as far as major print publications go, still doesn’t regularly lend itself to the kind of in-depth work that can make Willman a must-read. Not that he can’t write a mean capsule-length review, because Lord knows he can. But the Johnson and Rich piece is just terrific stuff that wouldn’t really work in EW.

    Rich’s comments are… interesting, and certainly provide quite a bit of context for the album he has due out in a couple of weeks. Johnson’s comments, in contrast, reinforce the notion that he just fundamentally gets it when it comes to establishing an artistic persona. I liked the way that Willman’s piece drew attention to that contrast. It’s his ability to engage with music on both an escapist and a political level at a time when so many music writers are more interested in writing consumer reviews that I really admire.

  2. Jonathan,

    I agree that The Huffington Post is a good venue for Willman, just for the simple fact that he can write the pieces that he wants to write without worrying about topics or word counts.

    I linked to his index page because THP can be so overwhelming in style and content. I hope that the site’s regular readers are able to locate Willman’s work. There are certainly a lot of left-leaning country fans who might not even be aware that the genre is producing topical or interesting music these days, so hopefully they’ll find Willman’s pieces and discover music that they might have missed.

    I don’t expect MSNBC to start showcasing country artists the way Fox News currently does, and it seems that many political junkies prefer to have their news presented from a distinct point of view, so this could be an opportunity for certain artists to garner exposure that they wouldn’t otherwise. God knows if I was an artist of any worth, I’d want Willman to be the one presenting me as such. (Artists of not much worth, however, should be wary.)

  3. Great article- I still haven’t heard “Shuttin’ Detroit Down”, but I will soon. I also am looking forward to the Paisley track he mentioned, it sounds like it’s going to be a great album!

  4. Willman is the man. I even like his Jonas Brothers apologetic post. I think I just really appreciate his non-snobby attitude on things. He tells music like it is.

  5. After Wednesday’s South Park, it’s going to be a long time before I can even look at the Jonas Brothers with a straight face.

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