Country makes a comeback

Brianne Carlon

College students grab cowboy boots and head to The Dusty Armadillo for dancing

Men and women alike enjoy country line dancing at The Dusty Armadillo in Rootstown. (Right) Many men dress in their best country-western attire when line dancing at The Dusty Aramadillo in Rootstown.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Stomping. Clapping. Heel-clicking and yee-hawing. The dance floor is completely covered by hundreds of co-eds line dancing in unison. Dozens of cowboy hats adorn the enthusiastic crowd.

This is the usual scene at college ID Wednesdays hosted by the Dusty Armadillo country bar in Rootstown.

“We usually have between 450 and 600 college students on Wednesday nights,” owner Shawn Martz said.

The Dusty Armadillo, a country bar with a nightclub feel, started college ID night in January 2004 after receiving numerous phone calls from college girls asking for a night they could enjoy the country atmosphere, Martz said.

This interest went hand-in-hand with the sudden popularity of country music among college-aged individuals.

Jim Casto, sophomore pre-business major, recently started listening to country music.

“I used to hate it when I was in high school,” he said. “But last semester, I went to a party and the people across the hall put on some country CDs. Everyone was singing along, and I didn’t know the words so I figured I better get to know some, and it grew on me.”

According to Entertainment Weekly, country album sales increased 12 percent in 2004, versus 1.6 percent for the music industry as a whole.

Marty Young, disc jockey at the Dusty Armadillo, said country music has a new edge.

“Artists are getting away from traditional country and finding inspiration from hair bands of the ’80s like Poison,” he said. “It started with Kid Rock’s ‘Cowboy.’ ”

Doug Tayek, senior history major, said it is more the context that attracts college students to country music.

“The artists sing about what they know, and a lot of it is what I went through,” he said. “Waking up to leftover beer and pizza ­— who hasn’t done that in college?” he said referring to Kenny Chesney’s “Keg in the Closet.”

Casto said country parties are becoming more popular as well.

“The parties are fun because songs are more focused in on a party-like atmosphere where people can sing along,” he said.

Young said country is not a necessarily new trend.

“At that time (a couple years ago), people secretly liked country, but hip-hop was big so they didn’t admit it,” he said. “Bars would play country music but switch over to hip-hop at midnight, so students could get away with listening to it.”

However, with names like Chesney, Tim McGraw and Gretchen Wilson, it is OK to admit liking country music now, he said.

“There are certain songs that I have to play every week because they pack the dance floor,” he said. “ ‘Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy’ by Big & Rich is a must.”

Entertainment Weekly refers to this as the “Big & Rich revolution,” saying, “These progressive classicists have their roots firmly in pre-1975 country but lace it with hard rock and even hip-hop.” Big & Rich’s album has sold 2.1 million copies since its release last May.

“But some of these songs have been around for 10 or 15 years, like ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie’ (by Brooks and Dunn) and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ (by Lynyrd Skynyrd),” Young said.

The Dusty Armadillo hosts line dancing lessons every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Contact student life reporter Brianne Carlon at [email protected].