Country music is dead. Long live country music.

Saturday night at the Gypsy Tea Room reminded me there’s still hope for country music. At the same time, it reminded me there’s no hope for country music.

You see, Saturday night I was treated to a concert featuring alt-country singer Kelly Willis. (Actually, she was co-headlining with her husband and fellow alt-country singer, Bruce Robison—no slouch in his own right, but let’s face it, the night was all about Kelly for me.) And she was just as good as the other seven times I’ve seen her play. Listening to her reminded me once again that country can still be about the music and that it can still be about the singing. But it also reminded me why mainstream country radio will never touch her ’cause she doesn’t have the rock star flash, and she hasn’t sold out to the homogenized pop-crossover crap that has afflicted country—actually, I should say “country”—music today.

In a related and somewhat ironic sidenote, local radio station 99.5 (“The Wolf”) was out there promoting the show. Which I find patently ridiculous, since they wouldn’t know Kelly Willis if she bit them on the ass. From past experience, they were out there solely to ingratiate themselves to Bruce’s fans—they like to tout Bruce’s local boy roots whenever it’s convenient (he’s from Bandera, TX) by tossing one of his songs onto the airwaves every now and then. Needless to say—and not at all surprisingly—The Wolf was long gone well before the end of the show. Nice show of support, guys.

Second humorous point: The Wolf and other Texas country stations, in a misguided show of pseudo-patriotism, took it upon themselves a little while ago to ban the playing of any Dixie Chicks songs in response to Natalie Maines’s comment about “President” Bush. Just before the ban, the Chicks were burning up the airwaves with their wonderful rendition of Bruce’s song, “Traveling Soldier”. Bruce and Kelly played that song in an amazing acoustic duet during the show, after which Bruce exclaimed “Thank you—and long live freedom of speech!”. The Wolf would have cringed at that one—had they still been there, of course.