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Outlaw Country: A Honky-Tonk, Rockabilly Love Affair

Fresh from the Scenes playlist bank, we present a down-home, rock-meets-folk style: outlaw country.

Outlaw country is a subgenre of country music composed of a group of terrific songwriters. This subgenre came to fruition in the 1970’s; however, the influence for outlaw country’s style and lyrical material is rooted in honky tonk music, cowboy songs that John A. Lomax recorded decades before, and past country singers.  Hank Williams and Pasty Cline appear to be great influences to most of these songwriters.

Outlaw country’s composers and songwriters are men, women, ex-convicts, a Rhodes scholar, and recovering addicts from the South, the Midwest, Texas, and California. The individuals of such music not only wrote classic songs; they also played each other’s songs at shows and used each other’s material on their own albums. Kris Kristofferson’s career, for example, began after Johnny Cash decided to record Kristofferson’s song entitled “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Over time, after learning and performing each other’s songs, a super group was formed called The Highwaymen.

The strain tying all of these artists together is their ability to put the strain of life within their songs. Most songs speak of loss, regret, or desire to move on from a dire situation. Many of the songs speak of roaming the country in search of oneself. Others speak of heartache. And, true to the title of this subgenera, many songs tell tales of outlaws committing criminal acts in order to survive in this world.

Outlaw country songs reject the fast-paced life of the modern world and its rules, instead seeking a life of freedom away from unnecessary toils many face every day.

Check out an outlaw country playlist here.


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