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Dec 03

The country music station plays soft/ But there’s nothing really nothing to turn of

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The country music station plays soft/
But there’s nothing really nothing to turn of

Dylan, Visions of Johanna

There are two country stations in Edmonton, and both of them tell us something about the way chart country is moving as a genre. About ten years ago, Nashville’s demographic moved from mostly rural to mostly suburban, and therefore from an audience that cared about farms to an audience where farms where a place for nostalgia (still country music is popular in regions where it’s audience is only two or three generations away from the farm.)

With this move, a certain sentimentality creeped into the love songs and drinking songs of its most popular stars. Compare Kitty Wells “Coal Miners Daughter” to Trisha Yearwood’s “She’s in Love with the Boy”. One is documentary, and the other a pastiche of feelings, one lived through pain and hurt because of familial obligation and one had the cheery naivety of someone who thought love cured all. (Chuck Klosterman wrote an essay on the Yearwood song comparing it’s authenticity to NPR favourite Gillian Welch, and finding Welch lacking, the problem is that they are both simulacra, aimed at different audiences. )

KISN country, 103.9, is the Country music stations in Edmonton plays the music of Yearwood and her daughters, all sachraine love songs that do not feel real but focus grouped. Now, I do not expect Britney to feel every inch of emotion when she sings, and I really expect about as much from the Dixie Chicks, and I think that the audiences of this station expect about the same. The ads are for malls in the suburbs and the cars in the raffles are Rav 4’s. There is nothing agricultural here.

The station I listen to is different. 790 is an AM station, so it has a larger base in the rural regions, and has studios in Edmonton and Camrose to prove this–Camrose being a centre for agriculture in this province. Aside from a classic country show on Sunday Mornings, and a Bluegrass show on wednesday, the play list does not differ much from KISN but the advertising does. They shill Moran Livestock Accessories, Cattle Auctions, Pickup p Trucks and Western Clothing. They raffle off quater sections of Canola and tickets for George Strait rather then Shania Twain.

It is then what surrounds the music that marks a station as more or less authentic, it is their large rural base that allows them to claim being more local, and that localness is less rooted in a historical connection to the land and more connected to “real” geographical signifiers. I always feel, when listening, like an outsider.

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