It’s time to reconsider the era of 2000 to 2009 in country music.
I often glass over this period when I think about and write about the history of country music. In truth, this decade was influential on me in terms of my country music tastes. I’ve said before that the ’90s are my favorite decade of country music. I loved the neo-traditional sound of artists like Alan Jackson, Diamond Rio, Pam Tillis, Sammy Kershaw and others.
But thinking about the 2000s, there was some really good music released. In fact, it was a decade in country music where I rarely didn’t have the radio on listening to new country songs.
So let me backtrack on my own statements from the past and give the folks from the 2000s their due.
Reconsidering Country Music in the 2000s
There are moments we remember when we think of periods in our lives. The mention of our childhood might bring back memories of sitting on the riverbank fishing with our rusty bike laid down on the grass behind us. The mention of high school might bring back a memory of the football game on Friday night or a night out with friends at someone’s backyard summer party.
A moment that sticks out for me from the 2000s was when Alan Jackson and George Strait performed Murder On Music Row on one of the country awards shows. The song was probably written with the point of calling out some of the new artists changing the direction of the genre. No names were mentioned specifically, but that’s how some artists, producers and executives took it. SHeDaisy even acknowledged the song on one of their later albums. The female trio was hugely successful in the ’00s and they certainly had a pop-country sound.
As often happens, when changes are evident, the old crowd of standards gets a little wary. They start to rebel as they try to save their current normal. Now, George and Alan certainly had nothing to worry about. In fact, both were able to have some of their biggest successes in the 2000s. Traditional still had its place during the decade.
But things did change and I really look back on two of the first albums I ever owned as a good starting point for what happened in the 2000s. The CDs were the first ever issued by these artists. They were different. They were cool. For me, it signified change in country music. And I had purchased the albums so it’s obvious I was a fan.
The first album was the self-titled debut from Rascal Flatts. Early on I think a lot of folks thought these guys would be the ’90s boy band in country music. Certainly that was true on the surface. Here we are 12 years later and the guys have had yet another #1 album on the country charts. They were no flash in the pan.
But that wasn’t a sure thing back when their first record was released in 2000. The album had four hits starting with the first hit Prayin’ For Daylight. It was a big time game changer. The sound these guys had was obviously influenced by pop, but people were loving it. Other artists were influenced by it as well and saw the change happening.
I was at a Lonestar concert that summer and just for fun they started playing the riff from Prayin’ For Daylight. It was a fun, but a little awkward of a moment. Lonestar was the biggest band in country at the time, but it was obvious to everybody that things were changing.
Pop was on the way in and Rascal Flatts was a big part of changing the direction of the entire genre.
The second album I purchased in 2000 was the self-titled debut from Phil Vassar. The piano man of country was ready with great pop hooks and melodies. The singer came right out of the gates with big hits and really saw his career take off with that first record. The singer had no cowboy hat. In fact, he looked like an adult contemporary singer from the early ’90s.
It didn’t matter, though. Vassar became one of the biggest stars of the decade. Fans loved this guy. He brought all kinds of energy to country music and really changed how people in the genre defined the sound of country music.
I know I’ll forgot some of the songwriters that shaped the era. I have to include Jeffrey Steele. He co-wrote some of the biggest hits that defined the ’00s including songs for Phil Vassar, Montgomery Gentry, and Tim McGraw.
Another would be Brett James. Another would be Shane Minor. So many songwriters came in and became part of the change that took place in the ’00s. the songs were different. The sound was different.
I think it was good.
Kenny and Tim were some of the biggest acts of the ’00s. Taylor Swift came on later. Sara Evans was huge in the ’00s. Toby Keith took his career to new heights in the ’00s. Brad Paisley came on the scene and became part of the change even though he was a little more traditional that some of the artists.
Carrie Underwood really brought in the pop when she stormed on the scene. Now she’s one of the biggest artists in country music history.
The Change was Good
Looking back on the ’00s in country music I have to say that it was a good change. Pop had certainly been part of the genre in the past. The ’60s and ’80s had obvious pop influences in country music. The ’00s were the same way.
Tastes change after a while. Fans look for something new and there are always new artists bubbling under the surface that are ready to change things. For me this happened with Rascal Flatts and Phil Vassar.
What will be the next change in country music?
I’m not sure. I just know I’ll be there ready for some great new country music.