At last year’s Country Music Awards — an event long famous for gaudy outfits, oversized cowboy hats, and ever-escalating displays of mindless patriotism — Sturgill Simpson made news for busking outside the Nashville gathering and telling anyone who would listen that “Donald Trump is a fascist fucking pig.”
That Simpson was able to perform that act without being physically accosted — a low bar, undeniably — is a testament to how outsider voices are increasingly more tolerated in the insular and conservative world of country music. Acts such as Simpson, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, and Miranda Lambert have been loath to regurgitate the company line preached by the genre’s standard-bearers.
While country music has always had its brand of anti-establishment figures (a legacy that includes Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, and the genre’s pioneer, Hank Williams) this latest cadre of interlopers seem to trace their lineage to one group in particular — Drive-By Truckers.
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