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The Future of Outlaw Country

by Cody Reymond, Reporter

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Grit, struggle, and pain. Maybe the rawest form of country, the outlaw movement brought country back to its Americana and folk roots, and now Colter Wall is leading a new outlaw movement.

Originating in Texas and Tennessee in the 60’s, the genre was popularized by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Hank Ill, and Tompall Glaser. While other large country artists such as Johnny Cash dipped into outlaw country, most of the mainstream artists stuck to the more popular styles.

Despite a surge of popularity in the 70’s and 80’s, outlaw country has faded in popularity throughout time. However, in recent years, the genre has resurfaced in blockbuster films and aspiring artists.

Dubbed “The Man From Speedy Creek”, Colter Wall has recently emerged into the spotlight and is bringing fame back to the genre. His debut extended play came out in 2015 and gained immediate attention. “Sleeping on the Blacktop” was featured in the hit 2016 movie, Hell or High Water.

Although outlaw and folk are niche genres, Colter’s shows are nearly all sold out. A promising aspect of this is that even his shows overseas are packed, despite country being more popular in the United States and Canada. Throughout the past several months he has featured many new songs in concerts and radio shows that could be hinting to the content on a future album.

Having deep inspiration from older artists, which can be found in his songs, Colter is reviving the outlaw genre. His songs embrace the struggle older artists captured and his rough, grumbling voice combined with that rich, dark music is bringing back popularity.

Many older fans often describe him with having the guitar skills of the late Townes Van Zandt, and a voice as memorable as Johnny Cash. Wall uses his gritty, baritone to emphasize and add immense power to his lyrics.

Sadly, his studio versions are too theatrical and take away from his raw talent. All of his live versions where he is armed only with an acoustic guitar, his gruff voice, and sometimes a bass drum, are immensely better. Colter pours his heart into his performances and his voice moves the listener. His skills with the guitar are shown and are very impressive.

Some of his more remarkable songs include, “Kate McCannon”, “Sleeping on the Blacktop”, “ Me and Big Dave”, “Snake Mountain Blues”, and “Waiting ‘round to Die”. I could list out nearly all of his songs and say they are great, but I feel that his 2015 extended play lacks the maturity and impact of his album, Colter Wall. Due to him being on tour and not being able to record a new album, some of his songs are only found on YouTube and some radio show websites.

Wall’s music is very deep and brings light to many serious topics such as violence, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts while still remaining enjoyable. He cleverly disguises alcoholic tendencies and depressive thoughts in the light and seemingly happy track, “Motorcycle”. Colter often implements historical events into songs such as “Bald Butte” and “Johnny Boy’s Bones”. Another mentionable trait of Colter is his appreciation of the ones that came before him. He continues the tradition of a murder ballad which is “Kate McCannon”. However, Colter does not fear breaking the mold and creates his own personal style heavily based on his gravelly voice. He stated that many of his newer songs are inspired by events from his life, which allows the listener to take a journey and experience a part of his life.

Only 23, Colter has a huge career in front of him. Magazines such as Rolling Stone have already shown interest in him and he has also gathered attention from Hollywood. “The Man From Speedy Creek” could help bring back outlaw country and leave behind a legacy as impactful as those who birthed the genre.

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The Future of Outlaw Country