The criss-crossing of popular musical genres is nothing new to Nashville or LA, yet the sounds themselves are becoming nearly indistinguishable. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone with a radio today. As Country is increasingly more FM and Top 40, the temptations to fill stadiums and iPhones with a country-fied (country fried?) pop sound, we've watched and listened to an entire genre become a parody of itself , all within the last decade.
COUNTRY MUSIC, THE SONGS AND YEARNINGS oF THE PLAINS, HAS GONE FLAT.
I am no country music expert (or really much of a fan), but what I love about it is that it's served as a romanticized anthology of the American frontier, both emotional and geographic. It's supposed to be personal and almost always story-driven. If you want to know what it's like to feel heartbreak at the hands of a preacher's daughter in a small Texas town, there's likely an Ernest Tubb song that will set you straight.
But that was before the sound began to infuse with rock and roll. Before Elvis, Honkey Tonk, Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift. Taking successful sounds from other artists and genres, country music has moved to the middle, no longer occupying it's once Blues-Inspired place of earnestness.
THE JAPANESE-BORN COUNTRY MUSIC REVIVALIST
Toshio Hirano isn't trying to bring the sound back all by himself, but he might as well. The Tokyo-born San Francisco resident provides twangy and heartfelt covers of Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams a few nights a month in small neighborhood bars dotted in the Mission of San Francisco. What strikes me about his music is that the words are not his, yet the music is entirely his own. The unsuspecting and charming 60-something artist channels the once-pioneering sound through accented English and downright earnestness, and brings the audience with him in a cultural time machine in ways that endear and expand. He combines sound that is stripped down and familiar with a cultural perspective that is surprising and deep, yet delightfully sincere. In many ways, this is how country music got its start. Simple songs and stories featuring people we know in a place where we've all been, told by a convincing storyteller. Needless to say, I'm entirely convinced by Toshio Hirano and am obsessed by his ability to take us all back to the start.