Where do you stand? Are you country? Are you Americana? Are you Red Dirt (or how some refer to it, Texas country)? These are questions fans, artists and critics continue to ask. We all continue to discuss and dissect all this music that comes out under these labels. One of the beauties of labeling things is we know exactly what it means when we see it. For example, you go to the grocery store and you’re looking for some cereal. But you’ve never been to this grocery store before so you have no idea where the cereal is put. Luckily for you like every grocery store, there are aisles clearly marked where everything is and it’s quite simple. You seek out the sign with cereal on it and you find it. You walk down the aisle and right there is your box of Cheerios.
Now let’s think of country music, Americana and Red Dirt just like the grocery store example I just gave you. You walk in and you’re looking for cereal, which will represent country music, in the traditional sense of the label. You see the aisle marked cereal and when you walk down it everything seems off. There isn’t any cereal to be found, at least what you’re looking for. There are bags of Oreos (R&B/pop infused country) there marked cereal (country music). Now you’re confused. These are clearly Oreos, but they say cereal on them. This is weird. You seek out the manager. Let’s call him Scott B. Scott tells you everything is fine and that this is indeed cereal. You’re still befuddled and don’t know what to do.
At this same moment another man walks in. We’ll call him Sam H. He too says he is looking for cereal. He goes right over to the cereal aisle and picks up the bag of Oreos marked as cereal and is satisfied with his find. You walk up to Sam and ask him what he’s thinking and tell him that’s not cereal at all. It’s clearly Oreos. But Sam shakes his head and says no this is exactly what he wants. It’s clearly labeled cereal and this is what he wants. All of the radio ads and television ads say this is cereal and a lot of people like it, so it’s cereal and he’s buying it without hesitation. Scott concurs with Sam and assures you that this indeed is what cereal is now.
You’re now thinking the world has gone mad because Oreos, which should be in the cookie (pop music) aisle, are now in the cereal aisle. Despite this labeling snafu, you’re still bound and determined to get your cereal. So now you’re pacing up and down the store in search of that cereal. Finally you find the cereal in an aisle marked oatmeal (Americana). You’re glad you finally found the cereal you’ve been seeking, even though it’s marked something completely different from what you’re accustomed to.
Then you bump into a maker of one of your favorite cereals, Kacey. You ask her what’s up with all of this labeling and why is her cereal in the oatmeal aisle now? She sighs and explains how the cereal aisle didn’t have any interest in showcasing her since the labeling has changed, so she decided to just start marketing her cereal as oatmeal instead since they want her. But you ask her why she would label herself oatmeal when you’re clearly making cereal? Kacey would rather not talk about it any further. Just right then another maker of one of your favorite cereals walks up, Jason. He overheard your conversation and says he doesn’t mind at all. In fact he says he’s been labeled as oatmeal (Americana) for years, and it’s just fine with him. His latest cereal was actually featured in the oatmeal aisle, cereal aisle, soda aisle (rock music) and chips aisle (folk music). As long as the people could get his cereal, Jason was happy with the situation.
You’re amazed at this, yet it all still isn’t clear. The conversation grows by one, as now one of your favorite grits (Red Dirt) makers, Wade, joins in. For years he was simply just grits and even tried his hand at the cereal aisle, but now he’s in the oatmeal aisle along with Kacey and Jason. This doesn’t seem to bug him at all and in fact seems happy to be in the aisle. A large man wearing a outlaw country shirt (Red Dirt/traditional country fan) comes up and says this is bullshit. Grits aisles should be in the grits aisle, that’s the only place it should be and that’s all it should be. Things aren’t the way they should be he explains and we all need to back to the way it was, as this what the labels have always meant. If he has to, the old man says, he’ll go to Texas where the real stores are at and where there are grits aisles. Scott B. walks by and quickly chimes in that grits don’t have commercial appeal in national stores.
You just walked into get some cereal and instead you’ve witnessed and heard so much stuff that your head is spinning. Everything has changed and change is hard. You were so used to things being a certain way, but now all of these neat and easy to understand labels have changed. But you found your cereal, after some trouble finding it for a while. You now know where you can get it the next time you go to the store. It’s still cereal, as it tastes the same, smells the same and it doesn’t look any different either. Only the label has changed. The people who make the cereal have no plans to stop making cereal. Cereal has always been made and will continue to be made.
You ended up getting your cereal. Is that all matters? Is it worth trying to get the cereal back where it belongs? Or do you accept the new label? Perhaps both? If you’re looking for me to answer these questions, I’m afraid I can’t do it. The only person who can answer these questions are you.