Understanding the Differences and Similarities
If someone today says, “I don’t like Country Western” you may be confused. Do they mean they don’t care for the cry-in-your-beer story songs of Country music? Or are they saying that Western swing music or the tales of cowboys isn’t their cup of tea? CSS Music to the rescue to set the “record” straight.
Back in the early days of Country music when Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry broadcast their famous radio program, you would hear many styles of music. One minute it’s Hank Williams or Patsy Cline singing a sorrowful song, then Bill Monroe and his upbeat bluegrass music poured from the speaker. (Everything was mono back then.) At that time, Western meant the music of the western U.S. as in Marty Robbins gunfighter ballads or Gene Autry’s cowboy songs, but it also included the western swing sound of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys.
As we’ve discussed before, there is a myriad of Country music styles today as well as derivations of the Western genre. Even the popular Singer-Songwriter category borrows from both Country and Western.
So what sets them musically apart? If you took a Roy Rogers music track sans vocal, you’d probably hear acoustic guitar, bass, pedal steel and fiddle—something often heard in a Traditional Country backing track. But there are subtle differences. Where the conventional lost-my-wife-lost-my-dog Country song plays straight 8th note strums/rhythms, the Western version will have a swung 8th note feel, like in a horse loping along the trail. There are also “licks” played by the fiddle and steel that are indigenous to each that establish the mood of the song and the style.
So when you need music with a Country OR Western vibe, you’ll find Country in Super Themes Country/Bluegrass, Volume 28 and Western swing with tracks like “Texas Swing Saturday Night” on Project Platinum Volume 2. Or simply choose “Western” from our Keywords Alpha List and hear some other variations on this truly American style of music.