If you’re in Nashville, Tennessee this weekend then you know it’s the CMA Fest (Country Music Association Fest). Close to seventy thousand people from around the United States and the world have flocked to Music City to hear their favorite artists, and to discover new ones. The thing about Country Music is that like most genres there’s a culture around it. From food, to the fashion there’s the community that makes them just as strong as the music.
Top performing acts have taken to the stage at the Nissan Stadium the past three nights with one more day to go, playing their sub genres in Country and wearing outfits that resonate with their personalities.
There have been style phases in Country Music since its early roots. Getting its start in the early 1920s, string bands in Appalachia and other mountain cities began to record and were marketed to specific types of people. During this time male singers, called hillbillies wore overalls and the women wore Gingham dresses. But there’s a far cry to this style unless you’re Granger Smith’s alter ego Earl Dibbles, Jr., who’s still rocking the overalls.
Twenty years later in the 1940s, women artists were wearing cowgirl attire and Patsy Montana was at the helm of this change. The idea of the cowboy wearing a Stetson was saturated in American literature from the likes of Carl T. Sprauge, who was also a Country musician. It was around this time that the “Maddox Brothers and Rose”, a sibling group who wore matching suits of colorful carrot man embroidery around the shoulders or hem of their pants, fringes, enamel snaps, and rhinestones by Polish tailor Nathan Turk. Trained in Warsaw at a tailor, Turk moved to the US as teenager and was known for his shop in Van Nuys, California. By the time Patsy Cline’s career was going strong in the early 1960s, her stage style was reminiscent to Rose Maddox with a cowgirl aesthetic.
Up until the early nineties, Country artists dressed up on stage. But today artists are more relaxed, dressing in their own respective and personal Country styles. Just as Johnny Cash always wore black, Luke Combs who performed last night always wears a black Columbia fishing shirt and jeans. Singing hits from When It Rains It Pours to She Got The Best Of Me, and Lovin’ On You, Combs has the CMA Fest audience fully engaged and to their feet siging along to his ballads. He also sang a song that will drop next week from his new upcoming album. The 32-year old announced that it was his last performance before the birth of his child, a boy with wife Nicole Combs.
But also last night, Nissan Stadium artists from Brother Osborne, Luke Bryan, and Randy Houser all wore relaxed wear. John and TJ Osborne have shirt and jeans looks on stage but their styles were different last night. John with his grand beard wore jeans and a button-down shirt but his brother sported jeans and a t-shirt. Randy Houser opted for camouflage pants, a long sleeve black shirt, a navy bandanna tied around his neck, and an army green western hat that seemed to be caught in between Harrison Ford’s Indian Jones and a Stetson.
But Carrie Underwood stole the style for the evening donning sparkle. From her thigh-high silver rhinestone boots, to her cut-off black shorts, and a red rhinestone shirt, the 8-time Grammy, 16-time ACE Award, and 23 CMT Music Award winner who has a new album that dropped on June 10th, Denim and Rhinestone stole the night. But this has been a trend for during the festival. Sparkle glam is the language they’re speaking.
Priscilla Block who performed on the Nissan platform on Thursday wore head to toe sparkling silver. She expressed her gratitude to perform in the 60,000+ arena. And Carly Pierce took to the stage on Friday night wearing a short 1960s inspired dress full of pink and black sequins. Performing with Winona Judd, the audience gave her a standing ovation before and after the song as a hug from the death of her mother, Naomi Judd, who was a Country music legend. The mother daughter duo was due to hit the road this fall to tour but on April 30th Naomi took her own life at her home.
And Kelsea Ballerini, the Hole In The Bottle star wore a shimmery black jumpsuit with silver and gold accents. But Brittney Spencer opted for a denim jumpsuit when she opened the evening performances by singing the National Anthem.
Also, on Friday were men of Country who stole the evening. With a satiable energy Shenandoah opened. Lead singer Marty Raybon wore a quintessential blue western shirt with shoulder embroidery that’s reminiscent of the attire that the Maddox brothers wore. And Zac Brown, lead singer of the Zac Brown band wore jeans and a black buttoned-down shirt and a dark green fedora. Brown invited soulful Country singer Marcus King on stage. The Greenville, South Carolina native who wore a black Western jacket with white accent along the edges that’s nostalgic of Country music singers from the 1920s with a gray fedora. He took the audience away with his Blues inspired guitar shredding.
Both Darius Rucker and Jason Aldean wore jeans and a t-shirt, the latter in a yellow Dolly Parton shirt with his typical flared jeans and boots and large Western hat added a Country touch to his simple style.
Both Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett’s styles mirrors Rucker and Aldean’s. Swindell got the audience to their feet with his hit She Had Me At Heads Carolina, though with a baseball hat, not a Western one. Lainey Wilson who joined him on stage to sing their duet, Never Say Never wore her typical flared pants and Western-esque attire with a felt fedora hat.
You can’t put Country artists or fans in one box. Because the genre is sub-genred it makes for diversity in styles and sounds. But whatever an artist is wearing on the big stage or one of the smaller stages this weekend, they are Country and they are welcomed by Country lovers.