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Country Music

A Cultural and Stylistic History

Second Edition

Jocelyn R. Neal

Publication Date - July 2018

ISBN: 9780190499747

576 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

The full story of country music, told by a renowned scholar


Written by an experienced teacher and renowned scholar of the genre, Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History, Second Edition, offers a chronological narrative that explains country music's origins, development, and meaning from the first commercial recordings of the 1920s up to the present. It highlights significant performers, songs, and institutions throughout the history of country music. It also considers key social, political, and musical issues that span many decades of evolution within the genre.

New to this Edition

  • An enhanced thematic framework simplifies the three main themes of the book--cultural identity, authenticity, and the "otherness" of country-with more consistent discussions of music and events through the lenses of these themes
  • Further coverage of contemporary country music and its relationship with other genres
  • Additional comparative listening discussions refine the book's connection to musical sound
  • Increased engagement with challenging questions of race, class, and gender connects musical performance with cultural identity
  • More section headers, outlines, and summaries throughout help students master the most relevant material


  • The first and only introductory level textbook dedicated to country music
  • Incorporates a breadth of social, political, and musical issues
  • Artist Profiles provide an in-depth look at important figures in the history of country music
  • Listening Guides help students better understand the music they are studying
  • Boxed essays on technology, the music business, and distinct musical styles provide engaging commentary
  • Includes appendices on song form, country music instruments, and recordings

About the Author(s)

Jocelyn R. Neal is the Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of Music and Adjunct Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers (2009), which won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.


"I am extremely impressed with Country Music, Second Edition. While there are other books that overview country music, this is the most provocative, comprehensive, and accessible. The only volume organized as a textbook, it is a wonderful introduction that offers a fascinating lens for interpreting American cultural history." --Fred Bartenstein, University of Dayton

"I like this book very much. It contains a wealth of interesting and entertaining information presented in a well-organized, well-written, and engaging fashion that meets a need for an interesting, up-to-date textbook in this field." --James Harvey, Alvin Community College

"The text is unique and is of extremely high quality. I would unhesitatingly recommend it to other professors." --Scott Grieb, Indiana University Bloomington

Table of Contents


    Introduction: Heading into the Country

    Country as Genre
    Definition of Country
    Is It Real? Issues of Authenticity in Country Music
    Goals and Themes
    Cultural Identity
    The "Otherness" of Country
    Situating a Performer
    How to Listen
    Getting Started

    Part I: The Early Years (1920s and 1930s)

    Chapter 1: The Birth of Country Music
    Musical Sources
    Listening Guide: "O Bury Me Not On the Lone Prairie"
    New Technologies: Records and Radio
    Artist Profile: Fiddlin' John Carson
    The Business of Music
    The Performers
    Artist Profile: DeFord Bailey
    Listening Guide: "Hallelujah Side"
    Listening Guide: "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane"
    Essay (Culture): Radio Barn Dances
    Essay (Identity): Women in Early Country Music
    Essay (Musical Style): Hillbilly Entertainers
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Sourwood Mountain"

    Chapter 2: National Stars on the Horizon
    Role of the Producer
    The Big Bang
    Artist Profile: The Carter Family and Their Legacy
    Listening Guide: "Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye)"
    Artist Profile: Jimmie Rodgers
    Listening Guide: "Blue Yodel No. 9"
    The Long-Term Star
    Listening Guide: "The Great Speckled Bird"
    Country Music on the National Stage
    Essay (Music Business): Copyright
    Essay (Technology): Making Records in the 1920s
    Essay (Identity): Race in Early Country Music
    Essay (Culture): Cover Songs
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Blue Yodel"

    Chapter 3: New Traditions, Cowboys, and Jazz
    Barn Dance Radio Shows, Stars, and the Brother Acts
    Western Swing
    Artist Profile: Bob Wills
    Listening Guide: "New San Antonio Rose"
    Singing Cowboy
    Listening Guide: "Back in the Saddle Again"
    Artist Profile: Sons of the Pioneers
    Listening Guide: "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart"
    Taking Stock on the Brink of World War II
    Essay (Musical Style): Innovation in Western Swing
    Essay (Musical Style): Singing Cowboys
    Essay (Musical Style): Brother Acts
    Essay (Music Business): Sponsorship
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Wabash Blues"

    Part II: World War II and After: Nationalism and Country Music (1940s and 1950s)
    Chapter 4: Honky-Tonk and Rockabilly Revolution
    New Radio Stars
    Country Music Culture in the Postwar Years
    Honky-Tonk Roots
    The Louisiana Hayride
    Honky-Tonk Heyday
    Artist Profile: Hank Williams
    Listening Guide: "Your Cheatin' Heart"
    The Honky-Tonk Image
    Honky-Tonk Angels
    Listening Guide: "(Pay Me) Alimony"
    Answer Songs
    A Broader Soundscape
    The Impact of Honky-Tonk
    A New Era
    Setting the Stage: The Emergence of Rock 'n' Roll
    Memphis Rockabilly and Sun Records
    Elvis Presley Makes a Record
    Rockabilly as Part of Country Music
    Artist Profile: Johnny Cash
    Listening Guide: "Folsom Prison Blues"
    Rockabilly Women
    Rock 'n' Roll and Country Connections beyond Sun
    Coming to an End
    Essay (Musical Style): Honky-Tonk
    Essay (Culture): Cajun Country
    Essay (Music Business): Forces behind the Scenes
    Essay (Musical Style): Rockabilly
    Listen Side-By-Side: "In the Jailhouse Now"

    Chapter 5: The Birth of Bluegrass
    The Origins of Bluegrass
    Artist Profile: Bill Monroe
    Listening Guide: "Blue Moon of Kentucky"
    First-Generation Bands
    Artist Profile: Earl Scruggs
    Listening Guide: "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"
    Bluegrass Meets Folk
    From Bluegrass and Folk to Commercial Country
    Listening Guide: "Rocky Top"
    Bluegrass as Symbol and Soundtrack
    The Relationship between Bluegrass and Country
    Essay (Musical Style): Bluegrass
    Essay (Identity): Women in Bluegrass
    Essay (Culture): Bluegrass Festivals
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Blue Moon of Kentucky"
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)"

    Chapter 6: The Nashville Sound and Musical Innovation
    The Business behind the Nashville Sound
    Artist Profile: Chet Atkins
    The Musical Scene for the Nashville Sound
    Country Teen Crooners
    Conceiving the Nashville Sound
    The Stars
    Artist Profile: Patsy Cline
    Listening Guide: "Faded Love"
    Listening Guide: "He'll Have to Go"
    The Songs
    Listening Guide: "El Paso"
    The Second Wave of Nashville Sound Artists
    Making Sense of the Nashville Sound
    Essay (Music Business): The Country Music Association
    Essay (Musical Style): The Nashville Sound
    Essay (Songwriting): A Professional Writer's Town
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Take Me In Your Arms and Hold Me"

    Part III: Coast to Coast: Outsiders, Outlaws, and Tradition (1960s and 1970s)
    Chapter 7: California Country and Country Rock
    Out in Bakersfield
    Listening Guide: "Mama Tried"
    Artist Profile: Merle Haggard
    Artist Profile: Buck Owens
    Listening Guide: "Excuse Me (I Think I've Got a Heartache)"
    Bluegrass Meets Folk-Rock
    Country Rock
    Country Rock Branches Out
    Listening Guide: "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"
    California Country
    Essay (Musical Style): Bakersfield Sound
    Essay (History): "Okie from Muskogee" and Country Music Politics
    Essay (Culture): The Byrds on the Opry
    Listen Side-By-Side: "I've Just Seen a Face"

    Chapter 8: Classic Country
    Classic Country's Female Stars
    Listening Guide: "Coal Miner's Daughter"
    Artist Profile: Dolly Parton
    Classic Country's Male Stars
    Artist Profile: George Jones
    Listening Guide: "He Stopped Loving Her Today"
    Listening Guide: "You've Never Been this Far Before"
    Breaking Barriers
    The Duets and Ensembles
    TV and Country Music
    Looking Back on Classic Country
    Essay (Songwriting): Truckin' Songs and the Open Road
    Essay (Musical Style): Classic Country
    Essay (Identity): Gender in Classic Country
    Essay (Songwriting): Story Songs
    Essay (Culture): The Opry Moves
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Muleskinner Blues"

    Chapter 9: Outlaw Country and Southern Rock Rebellion
    The Emergence of Outlaw Country
    Artist Profile: Willie Nelson
    Outlaw Country Runs Its Course
    Listening Guide: "Luckenback, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)"
    Southern Rock and the Country Audience
    Listening Guide: "Sweet Home Alabama"
    Listening Guide: "The South's Gonna Do It"
    Artist Profile: Charlie Daniels
    Essay (Musical Style): Outlaw Country
    Essay (Musical Style): Southern Rock
    Essay (Music Business): Behaving Like Outlaws
    Essay (Culture): Long-Haired Rednecks, Hippies, and Cosmic Cowboys
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Can I Sleep in Your Arms"
    Listen Side-By-Side: Red Headed Stranger

    Part IV: Expansion: Country Makes It Big-Time (1980s and 1990s)
    Chapter 10: Urban Cowboys, Countrypolitan, and the Regan Era
    History and Rise of Crossover Country
    Pop Culture, the Cowboy, and the Country Boy
    Politics, Economics, and the Appeal of the Urban Cowboy
    New Media and Breaking Down Genre Borders
    Listening Guide: "Islands in the Stream"
    Listening Guide: "I Was Country (When Country Wasn't Cool)"
    The Stars and Songs of Urban Cowboy
    Artist Profile: Ronnie Milsap
    Artist Profile: Barbara Mandrell
    Listening Guide: "Love in the First Degree"
    The End of Urban Cowboy
    Essay (Musical Style): Countrypolitan
    Essay (Culture): Country Music on the Silver Screen
    Essay (Music Business): International Country
    Listen Side-By-Side: Country/Pop Comparisons

    Chapter 11: Neotraditionalists and Remaking the Past
    Countrypolitan Fades
    Neotraditionalist Philosophy
    Listening Guide: "All My Ex's Live in Texas"
    Early Practitioners
    Artist Profile: George Strait
    Listening Guide: "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)"
    Neotraditionalism Takes Root
    Artist Profile: Reba McEntire
    Listening Guide: "How Blue"
    Co-opted, Conservative, and Commercial
    Essay (Musical Style): Neotraditionalist Recordings
    Essay (Culture): Branson, Missouri, and Country Music Tourism
    Essay (Songwriting): Cover Songs Revisited
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Deep Water"

    Chapter 12: The Commercial Country Explosion
    The Class of 1989 and "New Country"
    Artist Profile: Garth Brooks
    Listening Guide: "Friends in Low Places"
    Themes in New Country
    Listening Guide: "Gone Country"
    Stylistic Pendulums and Country Pop
    Artist Profile: "Shania Twain"
    Listening Guide: "Any Man of Mine"
    The End of the 1990s
    Essay (Musical Style): New Country and Country Pop
    Essay (Culture): Line Dancing
    Essay (Songwriting): Songwriting and Sophistication
    Essay (History): Southernization and Soccer moms
    Listen Side-By-Side: Cowboy Songs

    Part V: Country Music Navigates Genre (1990s and 2000s)
    Chapter 13: Alternative Country and Beyond
    Defining Alternative Country
    Alternative Country Origins
    Listening Guide: "No Depression"
    Artist Profile: Ryan Adams
    Alternative Country Coalesces
    A Broader Definition: Alternative Country as Musical Space
    Listening Guide: "Suppose Tonight Would Be Our Last"
    Another Alternative: Bluegrass
    The Impact on Mainstream Country
    Artist Profile: Alison Krauss
    Changes in Commercial Country
    "Murder on Music Row:" The Turning Tide
    Essay (Musical Style): What Alt-Country Doesn't Sound Like
    Essay (Technology): The Internet Age
    Essay (Culture): The O Brother Phenomenon
    Listening Guide: "Man of Constant Sorrow"
    Essay (Culture): Gay Line Dancing
    Listen Side-By-Side: "Waltz Across Texas"

    Chapter 14: Redefining Country in a New Millennium
    Country Music in the Spotlight
    Artist Profile: Brad Paisley
    Listening Guide: "Whiskey Lullaby"
    Return of Roots and Rednecks
    Listening Guide: "RedneckWoman"
    Listening Guide: "Long Time Gone"
    Americana and Alternative?
    Pop Culture Lays Claim to Country Music
    Artist Profile: Carrie Underwood
    Reflecting and Projecting Meaning
    Essay (Culture): Dixie Chicks and Politics
    Essay (Identity): Race in Contemporary Country
    Essay (Technology): MP3s Please
    Listen Side-By-Side: A Woman's Voice

    Chapter 15: Breaking Borders
    The Past Is Alive and Well
    New Directions
    Nashville On Screen
    Artist Profile: Blake Shelton
    The Rise of Bro-Country
    Listening Guide: "Cruise"
    Promises Unfulfilled
    Listening Guide: "Girl Crush"
    Artist Profile: Miranda Lambert
    Listening Guide: "Tin Man"
    Crossover and Hip-Hop-ification
    Dodging Politics
    Dark Horse Surprises
    Through the Lenses
    Essay (Identity): Tomato-Gate and the Women of Country
    Essay (Musical Style): The Splintering of Country
    Essay (Identity): Who Listens to Country?
    Listen Side-By Side: "Tennessee Whiskey"

    Appendix A: Song Form
    Appendix B: Country
    Appendix C: Glossary
    Appendix D: Timeline
    Selected Bibliography