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by Jim Allen

May 27, 2013

Countrypolitan Reconsidered

by Jim Allen  |  May 27, 2013

The rote version of country music history holds that the honest, "authentic" honky-tonk sound of the '40s and '50s was supplanted in the '60s by the slick production style initially known as "the Nashville sound," which evolved into the even more elaborate "countrypolitan" sound. Every misstep in country music in the '60s and '70s has been laid at the doorstep of producers like Chet Atkins and Billy Sherrill, whose penchant for placing sweeping strings, polite piano and choral background vocals behind everyone from a pre-outlaw Waylon Jennings to a post-honky-tonk George Jones scored big on the radio and at the record store.

While there was no shortage of schlock under the Nashville sound/countrypolitan umbrella, it was no greater a percentage than you'd find in any other movement. In actuality, the narrative in which an evil Sherrill squashed everything good about country while cackling madly and twisting the ends of his moustache is a myth. He didn't have a moustache. Also, some of the most sonically sophisticated and emotionally stirring country songs ever recorded came out of the aforementioned movement. Here's the proof, including some ubiquitous hits, some relative obscurities and some serious country crooning.

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