11 Types Of Country Music

by Barbara

Country music has a rich and varied history that reflects the cultural and geographical tapestry of the United States. From its roots in folk traditions brought by European settlers to its evolution into a mainstream genre with global appeal, country music encompasses a wide range of styles and subgenres. In this comprehensive article, we delve into the various types of country music, exploring their origins, defining characteristics, and notable artists. By examining these distinct styles, we gain a deeper understanding of how country music has evolved and diversified over time.

1. Traditional Country

Traditional country music, also known as classic country or old-time country, emerged in the early 20th century and laid the foundation for the genre’s development. Rooted in Appalachian folk music, Western music, and blues, traditional country is characterized by its straightforward melodies, simple harmonies, and storytelling lyrics. Artists such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash are iconic figures who helped shape this genre.


2. Honky Tonk

Honky tonk music originated in the bars and dance halls of the American South and Southwest during the 1940s and 1950s. Known for its upbeat tempo, prominent piano or steel guitar instrumentation, and themes of heartache, drinking, and nightlife, honky tonk became immensely popular among working-class Americans. Artists like George Jones, Lefty Frizzell, and Kitty Wells epitomized the honky tonk sound and contributed to its enduring popularity.


3. Bluegrass

Bluegrass music has its roots in the Appalachian region and is characterized by its fast tempos, virtuosic instrumental solos, and close harmony singing. Developed by Bill Monroe and his band, the Blue Grass Boys, in the 1940s, bluegrass music incorporates elements of Scottish, Irish, and English folk music, as well as African American blues. Artists such as Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, and Alison Krauss have helped popularize bluegrass music both within the country music community and beyond.


4. Outlaw Country

In the 1970s, a rebellious movement known as outlaw country emerged in response to the polished and heavily produced Nashville sound. Outlaw country artists, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard, embraced a raw and gritty style characterized by honest lyrics, rock-influenced instrumentation, and a rejection of mainstream conventions. Outlaw country remains influential within the genre and continues to attract artists who value authenticity and creative freedom.

5. Country Pop

Country pop represents a fusion of country music with elements of pop music, aiming to appeal to a broader audience. Emerging in the 1970s and gaining mainstream success in the following decades, country pop is characterized by polished production, catchy melodies, and lyrics that often focus on themes of love, relationships, and everyday life. Artists such as Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban have achieved crossover success by blending country authenticity with pop sensibilities.

6. Contemporary Country

Contemporary country music encompasses a wide range of styles and influences, reflecting the genre’s evolution and diversification in the 21st century. This umbrella term encompasses subgenres such as country rock, country soul, and country blues, among others. Contemporary country artists draw inspiration from diverse musical traditions while incorporating modern production techniques and lyrical themes. The genre continues to evolve, embracing new sounds and innovations while maintaining its connection to its roots.

7. Country Rock

Country rock emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s as artists began blending the sound of rock music with country instrumentation and songwriting techniques. Characterized by electric guitars, prominent drums, and lyrics that often explore themes of life in rural America, country rock found popularity with bands like The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Gram Parsons. This genre continues to influence contemporary artists who seek to bridge the gap between rock and country music traditions.

See also: Why Do You Really Hate Country Music?

8. Neo-Traditional Country

Neo-traditional country music emerged in the 1980s as a response to the slick production and pop-oriented tendencies of mainstream country music at the time. Inspired by the traditional sounds of classic country and honky tonk, neo-traditional artists such as Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam, and Alan Jackson brought a renewed focus on storytelling, authenticity, and traditional instrumentation. Neo-traditional country remains a significant influence on modern country music and continues to resonate with audiences who appreciate its rootsy sound.

9. Country Soul

Country soul blends elements of country music with soul, gospel, and R&B influences, creating a distinctive sound that emphasizes emotional depth and vocal prowess. Originating in the 1960s and 1970s, country soul artists such as Ray Charles, Charley Pride, and Dolly Parton infused their music with soulful melodies, heartfelt lyrics, and soul-stirring vocal performances. This genre continues to inspire contemporary artists who seek to explore the intersection of country and soul music traditions.

10. Alternative Country

Alternative country, also known as alt-country or insurgent country, emerged in the 1980s and 1990s as a response to the commercialization of mainstream country music. Characterized by its eclectic influences, experimental approach, and rejection of Nashville’s conventions, alternative country artists blend elements of rock, folk, punk, and blues with traditional country instrumentation and storytelling. Bands such as Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, and The Jayhawks are pioneers of the alternative country movement, which continues to evolve and attract artists who value artistic freedom and creativity.

11. Country Blues

Country blues is rooted in the rural traditions of African American musicians in the American South, blending blues music with elements of country instrumentation and lyrical themes. Emerging in the early 20th century, country blues artists such as Jimmie Rodgers and Mississippi John Hurt developed a distinctive style characterized by acoustic guitars, heartfelt vocals, and storytelling lyrics that reflected the hardships and joys of rural life. Country blues remains a foundational influence on modern country music and continues to inspire artists who appreciate its raw emotional power and musical simplicity.


Country music’s rich tapestry of styles and subgenres reflects its deep roots in American cultural history and its ongoing evolution in response to changing musical trends and societal influences. From traditional and honky tonk to contemporary and alternative country, each subgenre offers unique insights into the genre’s evolution and diversity. By exploring these distinct styles and the artists who define them, we gain a deeper appreciation for the enduring appeal and cultural significance of country music in the modern era. As the genre continues to evolve, it remains a vibrant and influential force in the global music landscape, bridging generations and bringing people together through the power of storytelling and song.

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