The things that come to those that wait may be the things left by those that got there first.— Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler is an iconic image in the music world. Sometimes referred to as “everyone’s favorite grandmother” because of the striped hair and plethora of flowing scarves, the former Aerosmith frontman presents a character unlike any other in any music genre. I mean, come on, who else would be wandering around New York City in the middle of a blizzard with his daughter, and then take over a CNN live report? The dude may look like a lady from time to time, but he is so totally unique both in sight and in sound as to be instantly recognizable even if he were to try his hand at opera.
While the Met stage may not be currently within his sites, though, Steven Tyler has set his eyes firmly upon the country music market. He announced last year that his next album would be country, but his first single from that album, Love Is Your Name, failed to generate a tremendous amount of excitement. Perhaps the sound was too smooth. Perhaps country fans just weren’t interested. Whatever the reason, response was more of a bored yawn than what typically accompanies the rocker’s new releases.
If at first you don’t succeed, drop a second single, which is exactly what Tyler did this past week. The new single, Red, White & You, certainly sounds more country with a clear taste of fiddle and banjo in the band, but this is still Steven Tyler’s voice. He even starts the song with his signature whoop. So, while the lyrics go on about the Fourth of July and Tom Petty and all those other themes that seem standard in a contemporary country song, the sound one hears still resembles that which we’ve associated with Aerosmith and rock and roll for the past 40 years.
Country music fans are going to be divided, as they have been for quite a while. Traditional country fans more closely identify with what the Grammy’s categorize as “American Roots” music, that acoustic-driven, old-school, nasal-toned, boot-and-stetson-wearing sound of Willie, Waylon, and the boys. There’s is the sound defined by Hank Williams, Sr., Little Jimmy Dickens, and Roy Acuff. Yet, even there we’ve seen some crossover. One of the artists nominated for this year’s Grammy for best American Roots song is none other than the Eagles’ Don Henley singing with country legend Merle Haggard.
Contemporary country has been courting rock music for a while. Think back to Garth Brooks and the controversy his rock-driven sound created some thirty-plus years ago. This week’s Billboard country chart includes artists such as Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, and LoCash whose heavily produced songs don’t sound all that different from 80s and early 90s rock. Even artists once considered staunchly country, such as Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, have more of a pop sound now than anything that might have once been considered anywhere close to old-fashioned country.
Obviously, music genres don’t stay the same forever; they change and evolve just like everything else on the planet. If Steven Tyler wants to call his new album country music, why stop him? After all, Aerosmith fans have grown older; we don’t rock as hard as we did in the 70s and 80s. Country music may be more our speed. At the same time, however, there’s a lot of tradition in country music that could be lost if the genre continues to merge so closely with rock that one has difficulty telling the difference.
I’m not the one to make the final call. I’ll put the link below and let you listen for yourself. Just remember that when one blends Country and Rock, what you get is a Crock, as in: full of …
RED, WHITE & YOU, a song by Steven Tyler on Spotify