Brett Barest on the Upstate Music Scene: On Country

  • By cvbizz
  • August 1, 2019
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In my younger, formative years I often answered the question “What kind of music do you listen to?” with a stock answer of “Anything but country.” It was a generic answer and, also, kind of an inaccurate one as I really was not listening to any polka (still don’t) or classical music (yet) back then either. Still, it satisfied me to make clear my contempt for country music, which I considered to be the absolute scourge of the radio dial. 

What it took me until my 20’s to fully understand and appreciate, is that the music I hated was not country, but rather a redneck sub-genre of pop music designed for mass consumption. While I was identifying cheap beer swilling country ballads to the girl sitting in the center of the pick-up truck bench seat as country music, I was really just confusing country pop with actual country music.   Garth Brooks, Billy Ray Cyrus, and the rest were no different from N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys – they were just different flavors of the same recipe. 

It should come as no surprise as Johnny Cash was my gateway drug to country music and I grew to be fond of Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, and the like. “This is what country music used to be before it turned into pop radio garbage”, I found myself saying, still wrong in my understanding of the genre.  

It turns out, I finally realized, that country music is alive and well and is damn well worth celebrating. As much as we throw around the terms “singer/songwriter”, “Americana”, and “Southern Gothic”, I have come to accept that a lot of it can just be called “country” and that is just fine by me. Country music in its purest form is alive and well and I can admit that it took me too long to accept and appreciate that.

That brings me to this Friday night when not one, but twomodern country artists well worth your time visit the Upstate, forcing a tough decision for interested listeners. 

First up is Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line at Greer’s Spinning Jenny. Struthers’s first two albums have received acclaim from NPR and Rolling Stone Country and it is for good reason. Her autobiographical storytelling complements her classic country sound earning her high praise and attention on the national stage. This is exactly the type of classic modern country music we need more of and kudos to the Spinning Jenny for bringing this type of artist to the Upstate. 

If you have not yet been to the Spinning Jenny, this is the perfect opportunity to remedy that oversight. It is the largest pure listening room in the Upstate and is the perfect answer to those that complain that “we don’t have an Orange Peel”. The fact is, simply, that yes we do and it is nestled in Downtown Greer amidst plenty of quality restaurants and other nightlife activity. The fact that they are bringing in nationally touring artists of Nora Jane Struther’s caliber is most definitely something to celebrate. 

While Struthers represents all that is right about modern country music, The Kernal strikes me as a throwback to classic country music of the ‘60s and 70s. It is the kind of music that makes you want to sit in a rocking chair and drink whiskey straight from the bottle, something I wholeheartedly endorse, by the way. He comes from a rich pedigree with his father playing at the Grand Ole Opry and even dons his dad’s red Opry suit on the cover of his most recent album Light Country

Firday night The Kernal takes the stage at the Radio Room as a duo with fellow musician Bedon. Local favorite VilaiHarrington opens things up for what guarantees to be a great night of music at a ridiculously low price of $8 per head.

Whether you go to the Spinning Jenny or the Radio Room, Friday night is for country music and that is something that I would never have said 15 years ago. It is funny how our tastes and appreciation of music evolve over the years and it is great to live in a town with a music scene that allows us to celebrate that on a regular basis. Get out and enjoy the show, whichever it may be.

Weekend Live Music Calendar

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