Country in the City

As Nashville invades New York, a home-grown hayseed scene thrives beneath the CMA's radar

The CMA awards "can happen in New York or L.A. just as easily as in Nashville," he says. New country acts are "selling as big as the pop acts. It's not too surprising. I think it's a mistake, though. They lose a little bit by not tying themselves into the history of things like the Grand Ole Opry. It becomes a little bit too much like the Grammys or any other awards show."

"New York City has always tried to fashion itself as the music and culture capital of the world, except [for] country music," says singer-songwriter Orville Davis, who's hosted open mics in Inwood for seven years but refuses to take his band downtown to play for the door. New Yorkers, he says, "look at country as being a bunch of dumb hillbillies, but when Tramps used to be open, you used to have Willie Nelson come in, Merle Haggard come in, and the place used to be packed with people that know their country."

Alex Battles (right) at the CasHank open-mic hootenanny at the Buttermilk bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn
photo: Shiho Fukada
Alex Battles (right) at the CasHank open-mic hootenanny at the Buttermilk bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Now though, he laughs at the CMA coming to a city with no industry backing the music. "That's what's really nuts—they're going to have the CMAs here with no fucking radio to support it," he says. "How duh is that?"

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