Willie Nelson had a vision: unite the hippies and the cowboys. AndWillie’s vision is the world’s command, so thus, outlaw country was born. Add the grit of Waylon Jennings, the soul of Kris Kristofferson, and the faux-trashiness of Dolly Parton, and the genre started to blossom and expand into ’70s and ’80s.
Thankfully, it’s kept growing, because not everyone digs Luke Combs or whatever the hell kind of music Eric Church releases. Trust me, folks. That shit is not country.
Lukas Nelson (Willie’s son) takes a few pages out of his dad’s book while incorporating his own soulful blues influences with “Find Yourself.” I once had a friend who described Kacey Musgraves’ album Golden Hour as “Gram Parsons, if he were a beauty pageant contestant” and I couldn’t think of a better phrase myself. Her drug-induced songwriting meshes perfectly with Neil Young-esque guitar on “Slow Burn” (go look up “High Horse” for a polar-opposite, glittery disco-country tune). The Drive-By Truckers pull out all the rock and roll stops on “Drag the Lake Charlie,” while Sturgill Simpson gives Nirvana’s “In Bloom” the redneck treatment.
So go ahead and crack open a cheap beer and enjoy the sound of the future of outlaw country, with a few old favorites thrown into the mix. Because really, it wouldn’t be any kind of country without the classics.
If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.