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Country Divided: Frankie Ballard and Rehab highlight the divergent styles of country music 

Come and enjoy yourself at Rehab and Frankie Ballard's appearance at Maverick's this March.

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There are two distinct sides to the country music coin.

On one side is Rehab, a country hip-hop band whose new single, "Woho by the Hoti," featured in the No. 2 spot of their February album release Gullible's Travels, is a catchy song outlining the wonders of a fortuitously close spatial relationship between their hotel, a Waffle House and a strip club. And it's clear that Danny Alexander, Rehab's front man, found more inspiration in Run DMC than Don Williams.

On the other side of the country music coin is Frankie Ballard, a 29-year-old Michigan native who rose to prominence in 2010 after his hit single, "Tell Me You Get Lonely." Ballard's sound is self-described as commercial country, though the squeaky-clean rising star better identifies with southern-rock.

And while Rehab and Ballard have vastly different sounds and styles, both represent current country and both are playing at Maverick's Country Bar & Grill in the coming days, a testament to the diversity of contemporary country music artists and audiences.

From "hick-hop" to country-pop tear-in-your-beer ballads, the term "country music" encompasses an almost infinite number of sub-genres. This is nothing new; country music has always been adaptable.

What, you didn't know "country hip-hop" was a genre? That's okay, it might not be. Applying genres to the increasingly mashed-up music world might be a thing of the past, according to Alexander and fellow Rehab vocalist Demun Jones.

"The walls of genres are being broken down daily; iTunes and the internet is (sic) so big, people aren't trying to listen to FM radio anymore," Alexander said.

Alexander's point is a good one. Think about the scarcity of local record stores and flagging album sales compared to the online sales of singles and the popularity of music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora Radio.

"If hip-hop and country is (sic) what people think we're trying to do, then that's fine," said the amiable Alexander, who formed Rehab nearly a decade ago with a friend he met while in rehab.

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Meanwhile, Ballard, who's more rooted in the traditional culture of country music, said the radio is still relevant when it comes to country tunes.

"It's one of the last genres of music that still relies on radio. Country music seems to be like the Last of Mohicans. I think it's the fans. For whatever reason, country fans seem to like to listen to the radio," Ballard said.

Ballard, who looks a whole hell of a lot like a young Edward Furlong in Terminator 2, says it's the country culture that continues to drive folks to the radio.

"Country fans are hanging out in the yard or working on the car, we're not inside on the computer," Ballard explained to me by phone.

Rehab's Alexander chose to reveal a darker side of country culture to his fans. Songs and music videos like "King of Tweakers," Rehab's latest single, prove that the Georgia resident has an honest story to tell.

"Man, I been through some ... there were some days that shit sucked," said Alexander of the cautionary tune.

"I know what it's like to be up for three days. You know that stuff, methamphetamine or whatever, that's an ugly, ugly drug," he said.

The more I talked to Alexander, the more I came to understand the evolution of both Alexander as a man and his band, both of which are riddled with dichotomies.

Consider Rehab's 2008 hit single, "Bartender Song (Sittin' at a Bar)", a decidedly honky tonk tune that featured Hank Williams Jr. and peaked at No. 60 on the country charts. It's about as far-removed from hip-hop as you can get. Still, the song was popular enough that it sold over 1 million copies and earned the band a nomination for "Wide Open Country Video of the Year" on Country Music Television's Music Awards. Graffiti The World, the album that featured the popular song, went on to sell over 300,000 copies.

Though late to the scene, Ballard has achieved similar success in the country world. He was recently tapped by both Bob Seger and Taylor Swift to serve as the opening act for the respective uber-stars, despite the fact that Ballard signed his first record deal less than three years ago.

So just where is country music headed next? Your guess is a good as Ballards'.

"It's always changing, country music goes in waves, from pop, to traditional, to outlaw... but I think what's cool about it is how real the lyrics are," Ballard said.

Alexander seemed to agree.

"I'll write about the corner of the room if I can't think of nothing," said Alexander, who added that he's been rhyming and writing lyrics since he was in high school.

"I got old math notebooks that are filled with rhymes, which explains why I got more songs than I got money," he joked.


8pm, Wednesday, March 21

Maverick's Country Bar & Grill, 20565 Brinson Blvd.

$15 at

Frankie Ballard

8pm, Friday, March 9

Maverick's Country Bar & Grill, 20565 Brinson Blvd.

$13.75 at


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