Neotraditional country

Neotraditional country
Neotraditional country
Stylistic origins Country music
Cultural origins USA 1980s
Typical instruments GuitarSteel guitarDobroHarmonicaBassFiddledrumsMandolinBanjo
Derivative forms New country

Neotraditional country, also known as "new traditional" country, is a country music style that emphasizes the instrumental background and a 'traditional' country vocal style. Neotraditional country artists often dress in the fashions of the country music scene of the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. Some neotraditional artists are sometimes associated with the alternative country movement.


Neotraditional country was born as a reaction to the perceived blandness of mainstream country music. New (or "neo-") traditionalism looked to the elders of country music like Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams and Kitty Wells for inspiration, and was a precursor to the more general categorization known as New country.

In the mid-1980s Ricky Skaggs, a picking prodigy who took his inspiration from Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley (Skaggs was a Clinch Mountain Boy as a teen), began making music that he believed brought country back to its roots.

Another Neotraditional Country artist was one of Skaggs' friend and former band-mate, Keith Whitley. After his success with "Don't Close Your Eyes", Whitley was said to be a promising new artist; however, in 1989, he died of an alcohol overdose at the age of 34. Despite his death, Whitley's sound remained influential among country artists. At that same time, artists like Gail Davies, whose hits included re-makes of songs by Ray Price, Webb Pierce, Carl Smith, The Louvin Brothers and Johnny & Jack, set the tone in the late '70s and early '80s. Following that Randy Travis, George Strait and The Judds used vintage musical stylings, covers of classic country material, and carefully crafted vocal delivery to help bring New Traditionalism to the vanguard of country music for a time. Neotraditional country music became very popular during the 1980s and the 1990s, but with the coming of the new century, pop-rock-oriented musicians took over the charts.

In 2000, George Strait and Alan Jackson recorded a song titled "Murder on Music Row" which spoke directly to the rift between neotraditionalists and new country artists. Among the lyrics are brazen barbs at the Nashville establishment such as "Someone killed tradition and for that someone should hang."

Neotraditionalism vs. alternative country

Though the terms are erroneously considered synonymous, Alternative country is not the same as Neotraditional country. Alternative country artists reject mainstream country music completely and generally have a more rough-and-tumble sound. On the other hand, many Neotraditional Country artists are considered "mainstream" musicians (George Strait, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis...) that merely adhere to a more "traditional" country music sound.

Furthermore, many Alternative country artists are even heavily influenced by Alternative rock, something that is usually rejected by neotraditionalist country music, which is rather influenced by folk and bluegrass music. Alternative country artists usually have more of a rock and roll sensibility (if not in sound, at least in their musical approach), and frequently collaborate with artists and producers in other genres.

Examples of Neotraditional country artists

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