Country Universe writer and founder of The Musical Divide Zack Kephart has launched his long-awaited deep dive into the history of Modern Country Music:
If there’s any common thread linking together country music history, it’s a yin-and-yang debate between holding onto tradition and pushing forward to form new sounds. This history will not explore country music’s first 60 or so years as a commercial genre; it will cover its last 30 or so years from a point where the age-old debate raged on and a new chapter formed in country music’s history – the 1980s, or rather, the end of it. From there, we’ll explore a history defined not only by that popular debate, but also by sweeping technological and structural changes that forever redefined what it means to be a country music star in the modern era. Along the way, too, we’ll delve into several of the artists who were either responsible for or met those changes to stake their own chapters in the history books, for better and worse. This is an examination of country music’s last 30 years, and we start this story with 1989, a year that would both close a chapter in country music history and pave the way for a new one to be written.
Part One of this feature goes into extraordinary detail, capturing the essential artists and industry trends that intersected to create what was, quite simply, the most artistically and commercially successful period in country music history. As someone who lived through this period, which dovetails perfectly with my discovery of the genre, Zack has accomplished what I thought was impossible: teaching me something new about that era and putting what I already knew into more meaningful context.
The time and effort that Zack has put into this project is clearly evident. You won’t read anything better about country music this year. Once you get there, remember to bookmark The Musical Divide, which is an essential source of news, reviews, and features covering the country music of yesterday and today.