A few days ago a friend, whose judgment I respect, posted this on Facebook:
I am more than a little bit tired of Canadian pop stars because they are seriously wack. When was the last time Canada sent us a decent musical artist???? Think back. WAY back. It was Corey Hart or maybe early Bryan Adams. Everything since then? WACK.I could've responded with Arcade Fire as a counter-example, but instead chose Kathleen Edwards doing her hockey song, "You Get the Glory, I Make the Dough." My friend's response was:
And Claude Scales, in the time that I've known you I've found that you have SUPERB taste in music, but this Kathleen Edwards? She lost me at the "I'm a Ford Tempo, you're a Ma[s]erati..." No. Just, no. I'm a purist; I like my country music sung by folks below the Mason Dixon line.Well, being an Air Force brat, I spent much of my childhood and youth below the Mason Dixon line, but my earliest memories of country music were from the radio at my grandmother's in Pennsylvania, or on the road across Ohio on the way to my father's family home in Indiana.
And, yes, as I learned later in life, there was country music north of the border as well. One of the most admired country music stars of the 1950s and '60s, Hank Snow, was born and raised in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Geologically speaking Nova Scotia is part of Appalachia; it would seem to be culturally as well.
The clip above (thanks to PeterRabbit59) shows Hank, with the Rainbow Ranch Boys, doing "I'm Moving On." You do have to endure a lengthy introduction by a guy from Arkansas who admits to having been influenced by Hank (and who, near the beginning of his talk, seems inexplicably to refer to Hank as a "lady"; well, he does wear a pink Nudie suit).
I can't give up on Ottawa's favorite daughter, Kathleen Edwards, either. Here she is (courtesy of building55), doing what I think is a first-rate country-rock song, "Change the Sheets," at Stephen Talkhouse, Amagansett, Long Island, July 17, 2010.
k.d. lang (she spells her name in all lowercase) is from the high plains of eastern Alberta, and her songs sound as expansive as that wide-open country. Listen to "Big, Big Love," courtesy of TheLangChannel.
I could go on, but I'll close with "Early Morning Rain," a song that touches on many country music themes: getting drunk, riding freight trains, longing for an absent lover. It's performed here by Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker, who begin with some talk about the breakup of their long marriage and musical partnership, which hasn't affected their friendship or ability to sing together. They're joined on the last verse by the song's author, Gordon Lightfoot (forgive me, Lester Bangs). Ian and Sylvia, and Lightfoot, are usually classified as "folk" musicians, but, heck, it's a fine line.
I walked down there and ended up--Bob Dylan, "Talkin' New York"
In one of them coffee-houses on the block
Got on the stage to sing and play
Man there said, “Come back some other day
You sound like a hillbilly
We want folk singers here”