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John Lamb, Published August 07 2010

Real country: Today’s genre seems to be more rock ’n’ roll and Hollywood

Detroit Lakes, Minn.

"Y’all like real country?” Randy Houser asked Thursday at WE Fest in Detroit Lakes. “And when I say ‘real country,’ I don’t mean that pop crap.”

Or at least that’s what I think he said, because the country singer’s husky voice was mumbled by either his thick Mississippi accent or a fist-sized bunch of chaw in his mouth.

Regardless, it was an odd thing to say, and not just because he co-wrote Trace Adkins’ hilarious hit “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” Houser had just thanked Gloriana, the up-and-coming country act, which played before him and Gloriana is nothing if not pop country.

People will quibble about what “real country” is, but there’s no doubt Nashville has gone pop. And rock. Thursday’s headliner Keith Urban is really a rock act with a country accent.

Why? First, I’d start with the guitar solos – there seemed to be at least two in every Urban song. I guess if I could rip it up on guitar like the awesome Aussie does, I would solo, too. But off the top of my cowboy hat, I can’t think of any blistering Johnny Cash solos.

Another sign country has gone mainstream: Just think about what really made Urban a suburban household name – the women he dated. Urban was with supermodel Niki Taylor until he met and started dating Australian actress Nicole Kidman. The couple later married.

In fact, all three headliners this year have been married to a Hollywood actress.

After years of an on-again/off-again relationship, Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson married in ’06. They divorced a few months later, just before Rock assaulted Anderson’s ex, Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee.

Still, neither of these nuptials captured tabloid headlines like Kenny Chesney’s whirlwind courtship of Renee Zellwegger. America barely caught its breath when four months later the actress filed for divorce citing “fraud” as the reason for the failed marriage with the country star who plays WE Fest tonight. It was never clarified what fraud was committed, but maybe she didn’t know he was bald until the honeymoon.

Country stars didn’t generally make the cover of People magazine until they started hooking up with Hollywood hotties.

Lately the only greater threat to starlets than country crooners seems to be professional hockey players who hit on actresses harder than a check into the boards – just ask Carrie Underwood.

Personally, I’d rather see America’s sweetheart Sandra Bullock rebound with some honky-tonker right out of “Hope Floats” than see her get hung up on some toothless Russian skater with questionable mob ties.

So if singers are saving starlets from the icy grip of post-Soviet stick-men, then they’re really protecting American values (face it, we’ve adopted Urban and Kidman), which makes them patriotic. And we all know country music is the most patriotic, flag-waving (or flag-wearing out here at WE Fest) form of entertainment there is.

Ahhh … the circle of pop life.

So Sandra, if you’re looking for a nice country singer, meet Randy Houser. But you may want to get an interpreter. Maybe he’ll even write a song about your “Bullockadonk.”

If you go

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

WE Fest lineup