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Jan 14 2008

Country rock, anyone?


The Observer-Reporter‘s Terry Hazlett says that local radio stations have dropped the ball. No one offers a format that’s a hybrid of country and rock.

“This year, I put together some personalized CD mixes for my son, nieces, grandsons and a few of my wife’s coworkers, knowing full well most of the discs would never see a CD player,” he says. “They would, however, eventually work their way to an iPod. The odd thing about the music requests was that the choices were always rock and country. Finger Eleven and Rascal Flatts. Taylor Swift and Daughtry. Carrie Underwood and Fleetwood Mac. Bon Jovi and Brad Paisley. Oh, yeah. And Hannah Montana — well, her dad is a country singer.”

Hazlett says a country-rock format would “have mostly youth appeal” but “a good many old rock ‘n rollers would be tuning in, too. Current country takes considerable cues from classic rock.”

He came to the “epiphany” while listening to the mix of hit music on the new “B94” WBZW-FM (93.7). “The one genre I didn’t hear was country, which I thought was very odd, considering the Christmas I had just experienced,” he says. “It’s time to rock on into the 21st century — with a cowboy hat in tow.”

. . .

A PBRTV aside: Edison Media Research said in 2006 several stations have tried a hybrid of country and rock with mixed success. The biggest problem is that the listenership tends to skew heavily male; also, most classic rock songs don’t endorse the “family-friendly” (read: “conservative and Christian”) message that many modern country artists embrace.

“In fact, the format has been most mass-appeal in its least pure format: when it is, essentially, a gold-based Country outlet that has a few Skynyrd titles,” wrote Sean Ross of EMR. “Clearly, a niche for some sort of Country and Rock hybrid exists; the question is how it can be built into something more.”

This PBRTV writer suspects that Pittsburgh — with its love of “classic rock” and its mix of rural-suburban communities like Westmoreland and Washington counties — would be an ideal place to test such a format.