Stars collide: Debate rages over John Williamson music claims

AFTERSHOCKS continue to reverberate following John Williamson’s explosive comments this week about the “Americanisation” of Australian country music, with fans and leading musicians rallying behind the True Blue balladeer.

After sensationally standing down as long-standing president of the Country Music Association of Australia (CMAA), Williamson took aim at the association’s “obsession” with American country music, saying it was “hell-bent on creating more Keith Urbans”.

He also blasted the CMAA for allowing an album by Australian stars Troy Cassar-Daley and Adam Harvey, made up almost entirely of American covers, to be nominated for album of the year at next month’s Golden Guitar awards.

Tamworth’s own country music golden girl, Felicity Urquhart, applauded Williamson’s stance.

“I say good on John, he speaks his mind as he sees it and he makes a good point,” Urquhart said.

“I’m far more interested in what singer-songwriters can come up with themselves rather than an album of covers.

“That’s what makes new sounds and new stories.

“There’s only five spots for album of the year and it would be nice to see them taken up by original material.”

Aussie country music legend Graeme Connors, who has bagged more than 14 Golden Guitars and even had one of his own wrongly awarded to Lee Kernaghan last year, agreed.

“If you want to write about Texas, go and live there,” Connors said.

“If an artist lives in a culture, they should write about and celebrate that culture.

“Aping someone’s style from 3000km away is a dead end artistically.

“This homogenisation of country music around the world is to our detriment.”

He said the fixation on American artists was symptomatic of an “industry in panic”.

“I think because of the lack of traction country music is getting in the marketplace, record companies are chasing anything that might assist in raising the profile,” Connors said.

“There’s only one Keith Urban and I applaud what he’s done – he lives in the culture he reflects.

“But there’s no point in a 17-year-old living here trying to recreate his work.”

But CMAA board member and managing director of Compass Bros Records, Graham Thompson, criticised Williamson’s comments, saying the awards were underpinned by a “commercial reality”.

“It’s not the CMAA’s role to dictate what type of country music an artist should play,” Mr Thompson said.

“At the end of the day, John is out of step.

“Kids growing up now aren’t listening to Willo (John Williamson) and Slim Dusty.

“I just can’t fathom his comments. He called me in February and congratulated me on the best awards ever and now he’s saying this.”

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