Country music is often said to exist within its own bubble. This world, some claim, is self-contained. It has its own stars, its own radio, its own music capital Nashville, and its own dedicated audience. But more often than not, it crosses over. And there’s a good case to be made that we’re in the middle of another country-to-pop crossover right now.
One of the #1 records in the world right now is Las Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. Billy’s daughter, Miley Cyrus has also just released a single with Mark Ronson titled ‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’ and inspired by Dolly Parton. With the release of third album, Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves is also been riding on a career-high. So too is Lady Gaga after topping all previous achievements with ‘Shallow’ from A Star Is Born. With the release of seventh
album Lover, one of Nashville’s greatest exports Taylor Swift has proven she remains pop’s eminent heavyweight.
And then there’s the Yeehaw Agenda – a renewed interest in cowboy fashion and culture. Inspired by black cowboys and cowgirls of ages past (who were estimated to have amounted to a quarter of America’s ranching workforce) as well as a new
cowboy emoji, many of America’s leading artists have been dabbling in the Yeehaw chic. It kicked off with Beyoncé’s ‘Daddy Lessons’ in 2016 and since Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion and Solange have all taken up the Yeehaw cause.
Country hasn’t just been penetrating pop either. It’s become an indie fascination too. In 2019 Mitski and Mac Demarco both released ‘cowboy’ albums – not without its controversy – and influential indie label Sub Pop signed outlaw crooner Orville Peck.
Here in Australia Middle Kids and Julia Jacklin have spent a year enjoying considerable acclaim on the back of the release of country-tinged albums. The Teskey Brothers, a group of Americana loving musicians from just outside of
Melbourne, have also had a bumper year. They tore up the local charts with debut album Half Mile Harvest in 2018 and in 2019 made waves internationally with second record Run Home Slow.
While many among a new generation have been embracing country for the first time, others have been doing it for far longer. And they’ve been doing it in the thousands. If you need proof, look no further than the southern hemisphere’s premiere country music festival CMC Rocks. The multi-day camping festival has been drawing crowds
in the tens of thousands ever since it first kicked off in 2008.
CMC is no small affair. In 2019 it drew a record 23,000 strong sell-out crowd. In 2020 25,000 are expected. But like all great festivals, it isn’t the numbers which make it special. It’s the atmosphere.
CMC might just be Australia’s friendliest festival. Channelling some of that good old-fashioned country charm, its passionate festival-goers look out for one another. Newcomers are welcomed with open arms. The camaraderie isn’t just between attendees either. The artists too, are all about the fans. CMC boasts what might just be the greatest number of meet-and-greats of any Australian festival. People travelling to CMC can talk with just about anybody they have seen onstage, even the headliners.
Speaking of which, one of the biggest acts topping the 2020 CMC lineup is Lee Kernaghan. The son of a trucker, Kernaghan’s stories ply their way through the highways and backroads of outback Australia. “Every town has something special about it,” Lee said in a recent interview. “Whether it is a great café or pie shop, there’s a gem in every town.”
There’s plenty of up-and-comers too. Charlie Collins is a new act you may have caught playing this year’s Laneway Festival, as well as supporting Gang Of Youths on their massive nationwide tour last year. And then there’s Morgan Evans – if you haven’t heard the name before, know that Morgan is one of the rising stars of Australian country. His singles ‘Kiss Somebody’, ‘Day Drunk’ and ‘Young Again’ have won large Australian and American followings. In fact, he’s the fourth
Australian ever to top the US Country Charts. Having relocated from Newcastle to Nashville, he’s even become good friends with Taylor Swift.
Not all of CMC’s acts are Australian. The festival will host no less than 19 international artists as well, not least of all country star Miranda Lambert. Born and bred in Texas, Lambert is a multiple Grammy winner with six consecutive chart-
There’s something in country music that speaks to people. Beautiful and sad, simple yet complicated, country is deeply personal. As songwriter Harlan Howard once put it country is, “Three chords and the truth.” When it comes to telling stories of love, joy, vulnerability, loneliness and redemption country’s artists have few if any peers.
And when it comes to delivering the best and most authentic of contemporary country talent, CMC sits in a league of its very own. All this said you might just have to head there and experience it yourself.
CMC Rocks 2020 Full Lineup
Miranda Lambert (USA)
Kip Moore (USA)
Billy Currington (USA)
Brothers Osborne (USA)
Dustin Lynch (USA)
Tim Hicks (Can)
Jimmie Allen (USA)
Jeffrey Steele (USA)
Abby Anderson (USA)
Runaway June (USA)
The Wolfe Brothers
Mitchell Tenpenny (USA)
Kassi Ashton (USA)
Cassadee Pope (USA)
Jordan Brooker (USA)
Niko Moon (USA)
Sarah Buxton (USA)
Kaylee Bell (Nz)
CMC Rocks 2020
Friday 20th – Sunday 22nd March 2020
Willowbank, Ipswich Qld
Tickets: CMC Rocks