We all know the world wide web is a wild, weird, and scary place, but who could have predicted that one morning we’d wake up and the country would be enraptured with clips of the “Yodeling Wal-Mart Boy” — an 11-year-old kid howling out Hank Williams in the middle of a budget superstore? It happened last week, in fact, as America grew captivated by the little man’s vocal flips, sending Williams’ version of “Lovesick Blues” soaring up the download chart. Some genre purists claimed that this meant that we’re hungry for classic country. More likely, it just means we love seeing very young people doing very old things.
But classic country music isn’t an “old thing” — and it shouldn’t be treated as such. You just have to listen to Joshua Hedley and his song, “I Never (Shed a Tear),” to see why. In Hedley’s hands, this weep-and-waltz ballad is the exact opposite of the kitsch throwaway of the Yodeling Wal-Mart Boy. In other words, classic twang is not a meme or a funny viral clip, but a thriving, vital musical force. The magic of Hedley is how universal he makes familiar, gorgeous snaps of ’60s Nashville feel vital and current, not through modernization of the sound itself, but lyrics that stay relevant. “I Never (Shed a Tear)” isn’t a throwback, nor is it futuristic. With lines about love lost and let go — and a bit of romantic denial, too — it’s timeless. Try to find that in the aisles of Wal-Mart.