Luke Combs is about as big of a country music artist as there is right now. He sang a song a few years back called “Can I Get An Outlaw” where he feigned angst about all these country music artists who are just out to sing pretty songs and be accepted by mainstream groups. This was contrasted to the history of country music, which has always been represented by the outlaws. That is, the artists who, frankly, don’t give a crap about what other people think. They were singing to their core audience, and if you didn’t like them, that was your loss.
Waylan Jennings. Willie Nelson. Johnny Cash. Hank Williams Jr. These are all legends, largely because they sang songs based on their experiences, regardless of what the powers that be might want to hear. They were from the other side of the tracks and didn’t care what the music charts said. If they could find an audience for what they had to say, that was enough.
Country music has changed. I remember back in 2001, when the Dixie Chicks said unpopular things about George Bush for invading Iraq. That was an example of a country act speaking against a popular action by a sitting president. A lot of people had to come to grips that country music is not some Republican mouthpiece and either love or hate them. Fast forward to 2020 where the Dixie Chicks dropped the word “Dixie” from the name of their act in order to not offend anyone.
What happened? Is speaking truth to power no longer the issue here? Are country artists ashamed of where most of them came from? Do they think that being cowardly about their upbringing will make others respect them more? I’m not saying that we should judge others by the color of their skin just because our ancestors did. I am saying that you cannot call yourself a country music outlaw and at the same time be afraid of what anyone else thinks about you.
It doesn’t work that way. Either you are an outlaw, a sellout, a mainstream performer or a coward. Luke Combs may think of himself as an outlaw but I think he shifts among the other three categories.
This culture is long overdue for an artist to speak out against it. And it seems like outlaw country is dead. The most likely candidate now is from the world of rap with Tom MacDonald. Perhaps Eminem will join him now that he has witnessed the scorched earth policies of the Woke Cult.