There. I’ve written the headline so you don’t have to.
What is Nashville like? It’s a question I’ve been asked many a time. The follow up question is often, ‘Is it worth a visit, as I’ve always been keen to see it.’ Even now my answer would always be, ‘Yes.’ However I’d have to confess it’s a place which, in so many ways, has changed beyond recognition. Perhaps it was always changing and perhaps too the changes seemed to go unnoticed to the casual tourist. What is certain now however, is that Music City is going through a period of civic turmoil.
I’m sure some of this is familiar to you, but in case you hadn’t noticed here’s a recap: Three weeks ago a lone shooter killed six people including three elementary school children. In the wake of the tragedy locals assembled in and around the State Capitol to protest about the lack of gun control. In a fevered atmosphere, three democratic representatives cheered on the demonstrators. In a strange twist of events the majority Republican House representatives tried to label the protest an insurrection and sought to expel the three Democrats. They, in turn became known as the Tennessee Three, and in the way all politics seems to go these days, the country took sides. What was clear however was that Nashville parents and children were concerned enough about the lack of any meaningful gun control to attend protest over a considerable number of days. Inevitably I came across the story in more detail through Margo Price’s twitter feed.
in the background to all this has been the State’s recent draconian legislation which outlaws drag artists. It’s not hard to imagine this has been seen as a hostile act towards the LGBTQ+ community. Such was the outrage on this particular subject that the there was a benefit/solidarity concert featuring some big country names including Maren Morris, Allison Russell, Amanda Shires, Brittany Howard, Brothers Osborne, Hozier, Jake Wesley Rogers, Jason Isbell, Joy Oladokun, Julien Baker, Mya Byrne, Sheryl Crow, The Rainbow Coalition Band, and YOLA. During the gig at The Bridgestone Arena Maren even dared Tennessee authorities to ‘arrest me’ for introducing her son to some of the drag queens. So don’t even wonder what any of this has to do with country music!
So there is and has been over some time a growing gap between the liberal artistic ‘Americana’ community and the more conservative culture of ‘the south.’ In amongst all of this is the ever present issue of race, which in America, underscores every political twist and turn. The most popular country artist (and perhaps even simply ‘artist’ of any genre) in the U.S. just now is Morgan Wallen. You won’t hear his music on the AC as we, like many others have been put off by his racist tag, which he never seems to have tried hard enough to disown. On one notorious night his career hung in the balance and the outcry that surrounded the late night out burst threatened to end his nascent fame. After that things took a strange turn and it seemed despite (or was it because) of the incident his career took off into the stratosphere. Is this another sign that all is not well in America’s Music City?
To get behind some of this and see how it is changing and moulding the music from Nashville we’ll be talking to our own correspondent, Bill DeMain this week and trying to learn a little more about how America’s Music City can return once more to being best known for making music.
We will be bringing you lots of music along the way with tracks from Ruston Kelly, Caitlin Rose, Sierra Ferrell and Tanya Tucker featuring in two hours of country music…our way. Join me on BBC Radio Scotland or on BBC Sounds from five past eight this Tuesday evening. I’d suggest you might not want to miss this one.