I read this past weekend that Loretta Lynn said something along the lines of country music is dead.

In a story by Mike Stunson at www.kentucky.com, Lynn “voiced her displeasure with current country music during a recent podcast, and she didn’t hold back. The 87-year-old country music pioneer told Martina McBride that she thinks country music is ‘dead.’”

The famous Coal Miner’s Daughter has a point, to be sure. Some – but certainly not all – of today’s country often includes crossovers into pop, rock and even rap music.

“I like it country – pure and simple and real,” Lynn said on Facebook. “I am so proud of all the artists out there, especially the younger ones, who know what I mean and are still keeping it country.”

As a lifelong fan of country music, as well as classic rock, jazz, and other genres, I can understand Loretta Lynn’s frustration with a lot of the music today that passes itself off as country. When I was much younger, it was always “country and western” music. Whatever happened to the “western” half is anyone’s guess.

The typical C&W listening standards back in the day included the obvious: Hank and Hank Jr., Waylon and Willie, George, Cash and Hag. Before that, there was Buck, the Roys, Acuff and Clark, Grandpa and Little Jimmy. The other Hanks, Cochran, Snow and Thompson, shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

From the better gender, there were Kitty, Tammy, Loretta and Dolly and the Jeans, Pruett, Seely and Shepard.

Somewhere in the late 1980s or early 1990s, country artists incorporated a different, maybe more upbeat, sound with their music. And that’s fine. After all, everyone’s musical tastes are not identical.

But there are young, traditional country artists out there. Ohio’s Wyatt McCubbin at 23 is certainly one. McCubbin is a singer and songwriter from Selma, Ohio.

From his website (wyattmccubbin.com), he shares this: “As a kid, I remember hearing everything from Merle Haggard and Alan Jackson to Bonnie Raitt and Joe Cocker through the speakers of my dad’s old cassette player. My mom and dad schooled me on all kinds of music, but it all had one thing in common, it all had soul.”

Since graduating high school in 2013, Wyatt makes regular trips from Ohio to Nashville writing with and gaining support from some of Nashville’s top songwriters as both a writer and a country artist. He signed a publishing deal with SNG Music in Nashville in August 2017 and has recently recorded a new album with hit making producer/writer Carson Chamberlain.

McCubbin has performed with or opened for artists such as Merle Haggard, George Jones, Charlie Daniels, Dwight Yoakum, Easton Corbin, Josh Turner and others.

Christopher and Taylor Malpass – The Malpass Brothers – also play and record traditional country. So does Mo Pitney at 26.

Just a bit older, but still among the younger generation, are Chris Stapleton and Jamey Johnson, two of my favorites.

Stapleton’s “Broken Halos” is as country as it gets. Johnson’s “Give It Away” was made famous by George Strait, but I like the writer’s version much better. Johnson’s duet with Lee Ann Womack as a tribute to King George as the Artist of the Decade was one of country music’s greatest live duets.

And then there’s Johnson’s “Between Jennings and Jones.”

Now to find me in a record store won’t take too long,
I’m right there between Jennings and Jones.


Suffice it to say there are still young artists who play the more traditional country music. Let’s remember, too, that Waylon Jennings won a Grammy for recording “MacArthur Park,” certainly not a Top 40 country standard by any standard.

As Tom T. Hall said in his song “I Love,” “I love music when it’s good.”

There’s no need to pigeonhole or criticize today’s young singers and songwriters. Granted, some of us prefer more traditional country. But given
their due, I suspect we’d enjoy many of today’s so-called crossover artists.

Now, where did I leave my Ernest Tubb CD?

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.