I was always one of those metal heads who claimed to listen to all musical genres -- except for country. But in the past year, I've realized that classic country songs, with their imagery and energy, are pretty hard to dislike. Take David Allan Coe's "If That Ain't Country," for example. Listening to this the other night, my first thought was, "Why the hell hasn't a metal band covered this song?"
"The old man was covered in tattoos and scars/ Some he got in prison and others in bars... Sometimes he'd get drunk and mean as a rattlesnake...And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your ass." Yes. (Watch out for the n-bomb, however.)
Metal and country may seem like strange bedfellows, but there's plenty linking the two. First and foremost, both are music for the working class, where stylistic traditions are essential to an artist's integrity. Similar thematic elements are there, as well: death and sex are prominent topics, and as much as heavy fans may not want to admit it, romantic tragedy factors heavily into goth and doom metal themes, right alongside themes of angst and frustration.
I came to realize that some of my favorite heavy musicians are heavily influenced by country music, and that much of the music I love comes from the South: The Sword,
Hellyeah, Zakk Wylde, Volbeat, Pantera, Texas Hippie Coalition, Rebel Meets Rebel...damn.Hank III, a guy with the blood of actual country pioneers running through his veins, is no stranger to mixing country and metal. He once said: "In metal and country, the writing is different. With country, you tell more of a story. Metal is more about the beat or the riff. Country is acoustic and you do the vocals first, where in rock, the vocals go last, worrying about the riffs and beats."
In the '70s, country influenced hard rock, and a new wave of southern bands emerged, emphasizing fast guitar leads with lyrics centered around the values, aspirations, and excesses of the southern working-class. (It was a lyrical sensibility shared with the outlaw country movement.) Bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top dominated, and their influence would show up in the 1990s, when bands like Eyehategod, Acid Bath, Corrosion of Conformity, and Down came up from the Southern underground.
So, realizing how hard country can be, I picked some country songs I think should be covered by metal musicians, with som help from a country-knowledgeable Colorado friend. Because there's nothing better than a great song transformed into an even greater metal song. And if that ain't metal, I'll kiss your ass.
Below: Country songs that should be covered by metal bands