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Pan Alley, of course, also touches on the eternal verities of love—or lack of it—but country music deals more directly and uninhibitedly with such emotions.
This does not mean that everyone who sings with virtually raw emotion and carries a guitar is a country singer —although they have doubtless been influenced by its style. A notable case in point is Elvis Presley, a young man from Mississippi who has certainly learned much from country music but probably even more from another uniquely American folk art form, the Negro blues song. This emphatically rhythmic, "rock 'n' roll" style of singing, better known in some circles as "rhythm and blues," finds its roots in the traditional combination of Southern spiritual and work song which was the precursor of jazz.
Country music, on the other hand, is less "jazzy," being a lineal descendant of a tradition introduced into the Appalachian and Smoky Mountain regions of the United States by European settlers.
Country music is often pervaded with a strong melancholy, placing much lyric emphasis on ill-fated love, death, economic insecurity and even sibling rivalry. But it also has great streaks of just plain old homespun fun and native wit. All this serves to explain its universal appeal from Tennessee to Oregon, Saskatchewan, Johannesburg, Berlin, and Sydney, Australia.
For instance, there is basic truth and not a little homely poetry in the lyrics of the classic "Cold, Cold Heart" by country music's greatest "lieder" composer-singer, the late Hank Williams.
The strong spiritual strain in country music is evidenced by country bard Stuart Hamblen's colorful imagery in "This Ole House."
As in the popular market, a prime country staple is the novelty song, such as "Take an Ole Cold 'Tater and Wait."
Back in the Twenties, Jimmie Rodgers, country music's founding father, showed the direction it would take with such unvarnished but telling lyrics as those in "Brakeman's Blues."
Rodgers' famous arias, the so-called "Blue Yodels," are sung to this day; No. 6 is an example.