Digging Up Heavy Metal's Country Roots
I have always been one of those metal heads that claims to listen to all musical genres--except for country. But in the past year, I've realized that classic country songs, with their imagery and energy, are pretty hard to dislike. Take David Allan Coe's "If That Ain't Country" for example. I was listening to this the other night and my first thought was, "Why the hell hasn't a metal band covered this song?"
David Allan Coe
"The old man was covered in tattoos and scars/some he got in prison and others in bars/ sometimes he'd get drunk and mean as a rattlesnake/and if that ain't country, I'll kiss your ass." Yes.
Metal and country may seem like strange bedfellows, but there's plenty linking the two. First and foremost, both are music for the working class, where stylistic traditions are essential to an artist's integrity. But similar thematic elements are there, as well: death and sex are predominant and abundant topics, and as much as heavy fans may not want to admit it, romantic tragedy factors heavily into goth and doom metal themes, right alongside universal themes of angst and frustration.
As I pondered the idea that I may not completely despise country music anymore, I came to realize that some of my favorite heavy musicians and bands are heavily influenced by country music, and that much of the music I love comes from the South: The Sword, Hellyeah, Zakk Wylde, Volbeat, Pantera, Texas Hippie Coalition, Rebel Meets Rebel...damn.
Hank 3, a guy with the blood of actual country pioneers running through his veins, is no stranger to mixing country and metal. He once said: "In metal and country, the writing is different. With country, you tell more of a story. Metal is more about the beat or the riff. Country is acoustic and you do the vocals first, where in rock, the vocals go last, worrying about the riffs and beats."
Rock music's origins lie mostly in the music of the American South, and some of the original stars of rock 'n' roll came from there, like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Domino. In the '70s, country influences hard rock, and a new wave of Southern bands emerged, emphasizing fast guitar leads with lyrics centered around the values, aspirations, and excesses of Southern working-class young adults. (It was a lyrical sensibility shared with the outlaw country movement.) Bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top dominated, and their influence would show up in the 1990s, when bands like Eyehategod, Acid Bath, Corrosion of Conformity, and Down came up from the Southern underground.
So in light of my realizing how hard country can be, I decided to offer a couple country songs that I think should be covered by metal musicians. And since I am not the most knowledgeable about country, I had a friend from Colorado provide some fantastic suggestions. Because there's nothing better than a great song transformed into an even greater metal song. And if that ain't metal, I'll kiss your ass.
Check out the playlist on the next page.