When Two Musical Worlds Collide: Rock Meets Country [VIDEO]
Country music purists cringed when the news broke that Aerosmith's Steven Tyler had decided to release a "country" album, as did many rock fans. For many decades, the two truest forms of American music have been at odds with each other. Music with a common background, yet country music fans don't like "that noise" and rockers can't stand "the twang".
But are they really all that far apart?
Very few rockers know that Bon Jovi had a number 1 on the country charts in 2006, with "Who Says You Can't Go Home". Sure the song also went to #1 on rock charts, but the group rerecorded it with singer Jennifer Nettles of the group Sugarland, specifically for the country audience. Bob Seger released a critically acclaimed and commercially successful country album the same year. Face The Promise has been certified platinum, but only one single from the album, "Wait For Me" broke top 20 on any chart, climbing to #17 on both the pop and country charts
Two years after the success of Bon Jovi's and Seger's crossovers, the floodgate opened when Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker made the move to country. Growing up in South Carolina, Rucker was heavily influenced by country music growing up. With the release of 2008's Learn To Live, Rucker made the leap seemlessly. The album produced 3 consecutive #1 hits out of the gate, with a fourth single climbing to #3. And the funny thing? It sounded just like Darius with the Blowfish.
Adding country salt to the classic rock wounds, one of the biggest names EVER in rock and roll, Led Zepplin's Robert Plant even recorded a country album. In 2007, the heavy rock god Plant entered a studio in Nashville to work with country superstar Alison Krauss to begin work on Raising Sand. The album, which was very heavily influenced by not only the bluegrass history of Krauss, but also that of producer T-bone Burnett, debuted at #1 on both the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart, and the country chart, went on to win the 2009 Grammy award as Album of the Year.
But the cross-over goes both ways. In 2014, country music artists including Justin Moore, Gretchen Wilson, Rascal Flatts, Rucker and others, came together and recorded Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute To Motley Crue. The album contained 15 of the Crue's greatest hits, with a Nashville spin. Rock radio bashed it early on, saying that they couldn't picture the Crue with banjos and fiddles. Country radio bashed it saying simply "that's not country". In the end, what was produced was one of the most interesting tribute albums ever put on vinyl (or CD) has been certified a gold album,. A Doobie Brothers tribute album featuring Brad Paisley, Toby Keith, Blake Shelton and other country stars was also released in 2014. The album, Southbound, has also been certified gold.
“I can’t stand to see outdated rock-and-rollers coming in to play Country music. That really pissed me off. We have great singers, great Country musicians. There’s no reason we have to dilute it by letting people in the format that don’t have any business being in the format.” ~~ Clay Walker, country recording artist
The cross over door continues to swing both ways. Country Superstar Kenny Chesney has scored 3 number singers pairing with rock artists. In 2004, he and Uncle Kracker topped the country chart with "When The Sun Goes Down", a number one hit that introduced country fans to Kracker and vice-versa. In 2011, Chesney enlisted rock goddess Grace Potter for the duet "You and Tequila", which not only hit #1, but also finished at #7 on the year-end chart. Chesney & Potter re-united in 2014, teaming for the recent chart-topper "Wild Child". Even the Zac Brown, the appointed protectors of everything country, recently teamed with Chris Cornell and topped the rock chart with "Heavy Is The Head", a song that revealed a side of the ZBB that most of their fans weren't accustomed to.
Recently, country music recording artist Clay Walker was asked his opinion of the influx of classic rock artists making country music. Walker, who hasn't had a top-10 hit on the country charts since 2009, and only twice cracked the top-10 since 2003 responded very negatively, saying “I can’t stand to see outdated rock-and-rollers coming in to play Country music. That really pissed me off,” Walker said. “We have great singers, great Country musicians. There’s no reason we have to dilute it by letting people in the format that don’t have any business being in the format.”
Rock and country have crossed over since the beginning of musical time. Elvis Presley started on the stages of the Louisiana Hay Ride and The Grand Ole Opry. The Everly Bros topped both charts simultaneously as did Jerry Lee Lewis. Lewis' cousin is country superstar Mickey Gilley. Elvis, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are all members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the greatest country artists of all time, Conway Twitty started his career singing good ol' rock and roll. Good music is good music, but, the argument persists, and will probably continue forever, rock and country, the Hatfields and McCoys of the music industry. Close enough to see each other, close enough to hate each other.