|Margo Price, a native of northwest Illinois, is up for Best New Artist at tonight's Grammy Awards. (Entertainment Tonight)|
Margo Price, a country singer-songwriter nominated on tonight's Grammy Awards for best new artist, has a great voice but can't get play on big country radio. That's "a testament to the way America's poisonous politics are scrambling country music," reports Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post.
"Study after study has documented the widening social gulf that separates the major parties," Jaffe notes. "Republicans and Democrats report increasing levels of animosityfor those on the other side of the political divide, according to surveys. They have few close friends from the opposing political party. They watch different television shows. Those same pressures are fracturing one of America’s most distinctive art forms, giving rise to separate musical genres aimed at liberal and conservative fans." Price told Jaffe, “I’m just singing the truth. That’s what country music is supposed to be — three chords and the truth.”
"Increasingly, though, that truth is shaped by America’s political war," Jaffe writes. "Hit country songs tended to celebrate small-town life. Often, they responded to the growing partisan rancor by emphasizing America’s essential goodness, as Luke Bryan did in his hit “Most People are Good.” . . . Price was offering a different view of America. She sang about sin and struggle and the sorts of misfits who never felt comfortable in football stadiums. 'I’m an outcast, and I’m a stray / And I plan to stay that way,' she sang. Her songs were about small, depressed towns that people longed to escape. These were the very places country music expected her to celebrate."
Nate Deaton, general manager of country station KRTY in San Jose, told Jaffe, “There’s a lot of people in big cities that came from small towns, and there’s an awful lot of us that never lived in small towns, but nonetheless there’s an appealing nature to it.” Price is from a farm family in northwest Illinois; for a story on her in today's Quad City Times, click here.
For most of its 90-year history, commercial country music "accommodated different sounds and styles — the Bakersfield Sound, Outlaw Country, Urban Cowboy country and alt-country among others. What united them was a working-class sensibility that rose above politics," Jaffe writes. "These days the divide in country music has become more obviously partisan, reflecting the political division among its main supporters: white Americans. Mainstream country music has little patience for messages that fail to celebrate small-town America or tilt even remotely anti-Trump.