20 years ago, artists such as Clint Black, Ty Herndon, Jo Dee Messina, and George Strait hit the Billboard Top 25 for Hot Country Songs of the week, and I’d be willing to bet that many students at Texas A&M today, who were born close to this time period, have no idea who some of these artists are and the songs they produced. Today, so-called “country artists” on Billboard’s website include Florida Georgia Line, Kelsea Ballerini, and LoCash (which is not a name I would choose for my son, but everyone likes their coffee a little different, I suppose), and even some of the artists who have been around a while, such as Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney, are increasingly finding it more popular to sing duets with traditionally pop or rock singers, like P!nk and Demi Lovato. Our country has seen this sort of blending before. Blues from African Americans in the south spread to the north and influenced rock sensations like Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the word “country” began to encompass everything from bluegrass to gospel to western swing. However, it raises a valid question that haunts the minds of those who watch the Grand Ole Opry and whose parents grew up watching Hee-Haw (such as myself): Have we gone too far? Is this blending too much? Or, is it time to move on? Is this how our grandparents felt when our parents started listening to Michael Jackson and Prince for the first time?
For about a decade, Mic Check Poetry in Bryan has been nourishing the poetry-starved members of the community by bringing weekly open mic poetry to the Bryan/College Station area. Then in 2011, the non-profit wanted to further feed the poetry addicts by hosting an annual state-wide slam poetry contest called the Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival. This year is no different, with only a few short days until the 3-day festival commences!