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Green River Ordinance Helps Fuel “What Is Country?” Controversy

photo by Sean Menary/Shore Fire Media

Green River Ordinance might not be a familiar mainstream act, but the five-man band from Texas has garnered a significant and loyal grassroots following over the past 15 years. The band’s music incorporates elements of country—particularly in terms of subject matter and style—as well as rock and folk, creating a seamless blend of those various styles.

This past week, the band became ensnared in the age-old controversy that boils down to the question, “What is country music?”

Their latest album—titled 15—landed at No. 1 on the Billboard magazine Folk chart and No. 8 on the rock-oriented chart. But the album was completely left off the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, causing some consternation within the group and their fan base.

The omission is puzzling, as Green River Ordinance’s current single, “Red Fire Night,” has a rural setting and utilizes mandolin and harmonica in its instrumentation.

The song debuted at No. 2 on the iTunes country chart while the video for the single was recently added on CMT. Plus, the band made its third appearance on the Grand Ole Opry Saturday night, Feb. 6.

Fifteen — Jan. 22, 2016

Had 15 been included on the Top Country Albums chart, it would have been the No. 1 country debut of the week.

“It was disheartening,” says guitarist and mandolin player Joshua Wilkerson of the Billboard omission. “We had such a good couple of weeks and we were counting on being on the country charts. Not because we feel like it validates the album, but just because it’s something to be proud of. At the same time, we’ve very proud of being No. 1 on the Folk chart.”

For lead vocalist Josh Jenkins, the issue brings up an important subject for discussion.

“I think this is a good time to have the conversation about what’s considered country and what isn’t,” Josh told NCW. “We have always felt that our music fits in several genres. And that comes from the fact that we don’t write for a particular format. Our music comes from the heart and from experience.”

Having a No. 1 country album could possibly lead to increased concert bookings, marketing opportunities and simply more exposure for Green River Ordinance. But at least for now, they’re being shut out of the picture.

Learn more about Green River Ordinance 

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