John Rich Might Be The Future Of Country (For Better Or Worse)

Dan Gibson | April 3, 2009 3:00 am

Country music as a popular entity hasn’t seem to care much for political or social issues much since the rash of tracks issued in the wake of 9/11, which makes John Rich‘s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” a bit of a surprise. At the very least, it’s enough of one to make the music section of the New York Times.

Rich has been using the conservative media to make a case for his new album, complete with “Shuttin…”, a bailout anthem added to the tracklisting at the last minute.

And he makes for a charming sermonizer. Speaking of his disbelief at government enabling of corporate arrogance on the Fox News’s “Glenn Beck Program” last week, he quipped, “Why don’t you just come to my house and slap me while you’re at it?”

That appearance was part of an album-release media offensive that included turns on “Glenn Beck” and “Hannity,” where he answered one question with a recitation of the first verse of “Detroit,” and gave Sean Hannity a T-shirt that read, “If you don’t love America … why don’t you get the hell out?”

John Rich, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” (live on the Glenn Beck show):

Despite that particular connection, and last year’s truly regrettable “Raisin’ McCain”, it’s hard for me not to like John Rich. His CMT reality show Gone Country has had three interesting runs, including this year’s version, which was won by Sheila E. I don’t know if I could put my finger on exactly what Rich is trying to preserve or revive in country music, but there’s a flair of enthusiasm to what he does and a desire to change the country music industry for the better.

Sheila E, “Glorious Train”:

On the other hand, you can go ahead and perceive Rich as some sort of idealist, then you get a press release pushing his campaign with Crown Royal, a Canadian whiskey owned by beverage giant Diageo. C’mon, John, isn’t the bourbon Patsy Cline used to get lit up on good enough for you? My current (and likely temporary) disdain for imported hard liquor won’t stop me from entering the contest connected to Rich’s endorsement, in hopes of winning the grand prize of a a trip to Nashville to tour the Gone Country mansion (once owned by Barbara Mandrell, I believe) and a tour of the city conducted by Rich himself. John Rich, you might not be able to convince me to drink imports, but I’d be happy to let you be my tour guide.

Protest From the Right Side of Country [NY Times]Country Music Star John Rich and Crown Royal(R) Whisky Offer a VIP Mentorship Experience [PR Newswire]