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PUTTING THE WEST IN MIDWEST
01 May, 2006
Visit Detroit Magazine - Kim Silarski

Metro Detroiters take great pride in the contributions their Motor City has made to the larger musical scene. The Motown sound is beloved around the world, techno continues to make waves, and artists such as Madonna, Aretha Franklin and Eminem command global audiences. But how about country music? Is there any twang in the D? More than you might expect.


“Country music is a little underrated in Detroit,” says popular Detroit-area singer/songwriter Jill Jack, whose recent CD, Moon and the Morning After, captured attention not only locally but also in Nashville, Tennessee, the epicenter of country music making. “Because of the massive success of The White Stripes, Kid Rock and Eminem,” she says, “local rock and hip-hop acts get a lot of attention. The country, folk and acoustic music scene here can get lost in the shadows.”


That said, locals know there are many places around town offering live country music, including several longtime favorites and a strong spate of newcomers. (See Getting There on Page 17.) The options range from your classic saloon with a house band to a BBQ joint/roots-music nightclub in a trendy suburb to a storefront in a funky town more akin to a coffeehouse. And, much as Detroit is a melting pot of ethnicity and cultures, so, too, are local country acts, which are flavored by the other musical genres that thrive here.


Jack, winner of a dozen Detroit Music Awards (DMAs) in recent years, performs regularly, with and without her band, at venues all around town. Another act to look for is Terrie Lea & the Mustangs, who took home several 2005 DMAs. “Terrie Lea just busts butt,” Jack says of her fellow artist. The Forbes Brothers, who once claimed Jack as a sibling, are another hardworking, hard-playing group who’ve earned kudos of late. And always worth a listen is Grievous Angel, who generate “that old country twang, with a lot of rock in it,” says Jack. Of course, there’s cutting-edge “alt-country” here too, from groups such as Blanche or The Wrenfields.


The Detroit area is also a strong market for country music on the radio, according to Tim Roberts, program director at Southfield’s WYCD (99.5 FM), the area’s premier country station. “Detroit’s always had a large population of country music fans,” he says, “and they’re spread out in pockets throughout the area.” Offering contemporary and classic country, the radio station is a major player in the annual Downtown Hoedown, said to be the biggest free country concert in the world. (See sidebar at right.) It’s one of metro Detroit’s hallmark events, marking the start of the outdoor concert season. The sizzling lineup, complete with established artists and others destined for greatness, always includes acts representing the cream of the U.S. country music crop.


Finally, a few insider tips to get your Motown two-step off on the right foot: Check out www.detroitcountrymusic.com, a great overview and resource for those interested in the local scene. And don’t forget your duds. Just about any casual wear is welcome at the venues and events we’re touting, but why not go whole (or maybe just part) hog? Scott Colburn Western Wear has been metro Detroit’s leading purveyor of cowboy hats, boots and classic country clothing for years. Just browsing amid the aromatic leather and fancy dance clothes at this and other Western outfitters is worth the trip.

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