I have quite recently come to terms with my Southern roots and realized I have the power to filter out the bad country music and enjoy the good stuff.
However, I still think there should be two names, Country & Western for the crap that is impossibly stupid and something very cool for the stuff I like. "Alt Country" doesn't really describe it, since I don't like much of that either. Nor does Rockabilly quite cover it.
Maybe the division is in the term Country and Western. Maybe there's Country, where you sing about your tractor, and then there's Western where you sing (to strong bass) like an outlaw whose heart gets broken on a regular basis.
Whatever it's called in real life, I now have a playlist on my iPod.
It contains lots of Dwight Yoakam, and some Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Lee Rocker, Cracker, Cowboy Junkies, Lucinda Williams, Dixie Chicks, Whiskeytown, Maria McKee, Chris Isaak, the Judds, Hank Williams and Travis Tritt.
It also has Credence Clearwater Revival, The Jayhawks, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In addition, it contains country flavored songs from rock artists like Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, REM, and the Grateful Dead.
I love this playlist. It was the soundtrack for delivering the Press on this beautiful, bright, crisp day.
P.S. I found a whole treasure house of good music under the category "Bakersfield Sound." It all seems to have the sounds I'm looking for -- bass, dobro, steel pedal guitar, driving beats. Examples: Flying Burrito Brothers, the Desert Rose Band, the Mavericks, Brad Paisley and Marty Stuart.