Vinyl disc of "Love, Love, Love" by Ted Jarrett

The Black Songwriter Who Took Nashville by Storm

Before Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” won song of the year at the CMAs, hit maker Ted Jarrett’s music topped the country charts.
Hank Williams Jr.

Whose Country?

It is impossible to talk about the blues and country without talking about race, authenticity, and contemporary America’s relationship to its past.
Tammy Wynette singing and playing guitar at a concert.

Are We Finally Ready to Take Tammy Wynette Seriously?

The unsung godmother of so-called “sad girl” music — and one of pop’s most wrenching chroniclers of feminized pain — has long been misunderstood.
Shadow of Jason Aldean performing on stage.

Jason Aldean's 'Small Town' Is Part of a Long Legacy with a Very Dark Side

The country song that pits idyllic country life against the corruption of the city is a well-worn trope. Aldean's song reveals the dark heart of the tradition.

Jason Aldean Can’t Rewrite the History His Song Depends On

That history has nothing to do with culture wars, and everything to do with what real justice looks like in the United States, and who has access to it.
Black and white photograph of Loretta Lynn holding a microphone

Personifying a Country Ideal, Loretta Lynn Tackled Sexism Through a Complicated Lens

The singer wasn't a feminist torchbearer, but her music amplified women's issues.
Johnny Cash performing with band

The Radicalism of Johnny Cash

The best-selling musical artist in the world in 1969, Johnny Cash sang of (and for) the "forgotten Americans": the imprisoned men of all races.
Picture of country singer Charley Pride performing with guitar and microphone.

Charley Pride: How the US Country Star Became an Unlikely Hero During the Troubles

Tammy Wynette and Johnny Cash cancelled gigs in Belfast during the violent 1970s, but Pride played on.
Morgan Wallen

The Crossroads Facing Country Music After Morgan Wallen’s Use of a Racist Slur

Will the industry remain a bastion of conservatism, or take advantage of the opportunity to broaden its base?
Johnny Cash poses for a portrait for a publicity shot

The Complications of “Outlaw Country”

Johnny Cash grappled with the many facets of the outlaw archetype in his feature acting debut, Five Minutes to Live.

Rewriting Country Music's Racist History

Artists like Yola and Rhiannon Giddens are blowing up what Giddens calls a “manufactured image of country music being white and being poor.”
Picture of DeFord Bailey holding a harmonica amplified by a gourd.

The Unsung Black Musician Who Changed Country Music

From the moment DeFord Bailey stepped onto a stage in Nashville, country music would never be the same. Decades after his death he finally got his due.

The Commercial Rise of Country Music During the Great Depression

The Depression was the gravitational pull that created country stars and their nationwide universe of listeners.

A Lifetime Of Labor: Maybelle Carter At Work

Maybelle Carter witnessed the dawn of the recording era and helped create country music as one of the genre's biggest acts.
Maybelle and Helen Carter.

For Women Musicians, Maybelle Carter Set the Standard and Broke the Mold

One of the most indispensable guitarists of all time, Carter was a quiet revolutionary.
Still from a video game animation of a Black cowboy aiming a pistol at another.

‘Old Town Road’ and the History of Black Cowboys in America

A songwriter-historian weighs in on the controversy over Lil Nas X’s country-trap hit.
Painting of the mouth of a cave.

Down in the Hole: Outlaw Country and Outlaw Culture

Country music has often stood, as it were, with one foot in and one foot out of the cave.

Canon Fodder

Where's the country music on Pitchfork's Best Albums of the 1980s?
Woman playing a guitar, and the cover of the book 'Country Music USA.'

‘Country Music … Was Anything BUT Pure’

On the music’s African-American tributaries, its unpredictable politics, country radio’s woman problem, and working on Ken Burns’ forthcoming doc.

Agriculture Wars

On country music as a lens through which to trace the corporatization of American farming.