Thanks to my local paper, I found a great music site, called allmusic.com
It is extremely comprehensive. Did you know that there are, in fact, 41 different styles of country music??
This site lists the top artists, songs, and albums (in the editors' estimation) in every genre imaginable. And it links everything to pages where you can purchase the music. I've only begun to scratch the surface of this site, but it's by far the best I've found for music.
Guess who's the number one representative for traditional country music? That's right - Merle Haggard. So, these guys do know what they're talking about.
I've learned a few things about sub-genres along the way, too. There are so many terms floating around for various forms of music, and I did not have a clue what meant what.
So I learned:
Neo-Traditionalist Country: Neo-Traditionalist Country refers to country artists that play in the style of hardcore traditional country such as honky tonk, yet they are essentially revivalists. Since they are revivalists, they bring a variety of contemporary techniques -- such as pop/rock or singer/songwriter influences -- to their music, yet these are always subservient to the dominant strain of country music. Furthermore, where new traditionalists brought the sound of traditional country back to the mainstream, neo-traditionalists always operated on the fringes. Top artists include: Roseanne Cash, Asleep At The Wheel, Carlene Carter, Reba McEntire (??) Top songs: "'Til A Tear Becomes A Rose", "1982", "Here Comes The Rain".
Alternative Country: Alternative Country refers to country bands that play traditional country but bend the rules slightly. They don't conform to Nashville's hitmaking traditions, nor do they follow the accepted "outlaw" route to notoriety. Instead, alternative country bands work outside of the country industry's spotlight, frequently subverting musical traditions with singer/songwriter and rock & roll lyrical (and musical) aesthetics. Top artists include: Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam, Dale Watson. Top songs: "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere", "Guitar Town", "Guitars, Cadillacs" (hey, some of my favor-ITE songs!)
P.S. I didn't know Dwight was "alternative country". I thought he was just "country".
Americana: Much like its next of kin (alternative country-rock), Americana developed during the 1990s as a roots-oriented reaction to the slick commercial sounds that dominated mainstream country during the decade. But while alternative country-rock developed out of punk, alternative rock, and country itself, Americana sprung from less raw and edgy source material. In fact, much of what fell under the Americana umbrella was in fact a revival of dormant country styles, including Western swing and rockabilly. Though considered an alternative radio format, Americana did not break with country tradition; instead, it embraced it -- something, ironically enough, that the music hitting the Nashville charts throughout the era did not do. Top artists include: The Mavericks, Steve Earle (again), Uncle Tupelo, Lucinda Williams. Top songs: pretty much nothing I've ever heard of. (And here I thought I might be an Americana artist - ha!)
So, I guess I must be neo-traditionalist, due to the fact that I am desperately trying to revive hardcore, traditional country music. And I am "subservient to the dominant strain of country music". Yes, I am subservient to it.......Well, I like it, if that's what that means.
But I digress. Go and check out this site. It's fun and informative.