The Nü Troubadours
by Justin Farrar | November 19, 2012
Funny thing is this: I'm not even a huge Kid Rock fan, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't utterly fascinated with how the Great Lakes rebel almost single-handedly opened up a huge rift in pop music where hip-hop, classic rock, country music and grunge all collapsed into something that, while too variegated to really be considered a genre, is definitely a movement of some kind -- what I call the Nü Troubadours (as in nü-metal + American roots music).
Now I say "almost single-handedly" because I'm from the East Coast, and I really want to give Everlast his due credit, considering he dropped the platinum-selling Whitey Ford Sings the Blues in 1998 (the same year as K.R.'s epochal Devil Without a Cause). Yet admittedly, it's the Kid's style -- far more playful and stripper-friendly -- that has penetrated both the South and the Midwest more deeply. It's hard to imagine such quirky artists as Colt Ford ("Answer to No One"), Rehab ("Bartender Song") and old pal Uncle Kracker ("Nobody's Sad on a Saturday Night") even existing were it not for the runaway success of "Cowboy." Hell, the same probably goes for Tennessee rapper Haystak ("Big Ass Whiteboy") and Canadian Redlight King ("Old Man") as well.
Related to these more hip-hop-oriented artists (though significantly more brooding) are the handful of post-grunge dudes who in recent years have cultivated a sound reflecting the pop dynamics of modern Nashville. The debut full-length from Staind's Aaron Lewis, The Road (also released this month), is probably the most high-profile example. But Corey Taylor (of Slipknot and Stone Sour fame) and Scott "It's Good to Be the King" Stapp have both flirted with similar sounds.
Lastly, my playlist also includes a track each from G. Love ("Fixin' to Die") and Georgia singer-songwriter Corey Smith ("Drinkin' Again"). While both come out of the folk-pop/adult-alternative zone, their knack for fusing funky, rap-like verses and acoustic-flavored Americana definitely makes sense when placed alongside the harder-rocking cuts.