I used to really like Vince Gill, but as country music radio changed and left his style of music behind I sort of lost track him. Then he started getting a lot of press for his new album Okie, which came out back in August. I feel like it’s a really interesting juxtaposition that makes it both too old school for current country radio but also too progressive.
The music for sure is the same old Vince Gill style from back when he was popular in the 90s. It also still contains some very traditional country songs about faith, family, and his country music idols. But it also contains songs that touch on much more progressive issues like sexual abuse (Gill has shared his own experience of a coach that tried to take advantage of him as a kid), teenage pregnancy and the hard decisions about how to handle that, racism, and attempts to see beyond ourselves to difficulties faced by others. Despite touching on some hot button issues Gill does not take it to overly political place, but rather shares his hopes that we can all be fair-minded and kind.
It’s a great country album that evokes my country music sweet spot. I recently watched Ken Burns’ excellent documentary Country Music and someone, exactly who I don’t recall at the moment, said that the 90s were an excellent time in country music when the doors felt wide open. All the various styles of country music that had evolved over time seemed to be welcome. Women seemed to be welcome. And then after such a short time the doors slammed shut again and it became a good ol’ boys club of a very specific brand of country. That led to the breaking off of Americana music into its own genre. I still like country music to a degree, though I don’t love it as much as I once did and that’s because that statement made me realize that the style of country music that I really adore is what Americana is. Pretty much every single one of my favorite artists right now fall under the Americana label. Vince Gill will never be labeled Americana because he was a country artist first when his musical style was what country music was, but I would say if he came into the fold now he’d for sure be labeled Americana. This album is a great example of that.