Crossover Wonders: New Adventures in Country

Nashville has always been drawn to diverse sounds. But it's never been more wide open than now. Here's a rundown.

Cowgirl disco Credit: Veronika Surovtseva/Getty

COUNTRY EDM
ROOTS: Dolly Parton goes disco in 1978 with "Baby I'm Burnin'." Two decades later, Swedish techno crew Rednex have a hit with a qlow-stick-waving version of "Cotton-Eye Joe," and dance remixes of Shania Twain hits start showing up. WHO'S DOING IT NOW: The dubstep drop in Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" is just the tip of the iceberg. Jerrod Niemann s chart-topping "Drink to That All Night" features a full-on house beat, and this year Big Kenny of Big and Rich is putting on the Electro Shine revue, a tour that's half hoedown, half rave. BEST SONG: Swedish house music producer Avicii combines EDM and bluegrass on "Wake Me Up," which goes Number One in on five continents and turns his album True into one of the biggest pop successes in dance-music history.

COUNTRY RAP
ROOTS: African-American country singer Cowboy Troy unveils his "hick-hop" at the 2005 CMA Awards show. He cites Charlie Daniels' speed- rhyming classic "The Devil Went Down to Georgia' as an influence. Another key moment: C.W. McCall's 1975 hit "Convoy," a lingo-filled CB-radio gabfest. WHO'S DOING IT NOW: In 2008, Georgian golf pro Colt Ford releases the Southern-rap-influenced Ride Through the Country. Three years later, Jason Aldean teams up with Ludacris for a hit cover of Ford's "Dirt Road Anthem." Lately, bro-country star Luke Bryan has been singing "Baby Got Back" and "Rack City" in concert. BEST SONG: Having already displayed his country-rap bona fides on "Over and Over," a 2004 duet with Tim McGraw, rap star Nelly gets called in to add a verse to Florida Georgia Line's hip-hop- tinged single "Cruise." It goes on to spend 24 weeks at Number One in the spring of 2013. 

COUNTRY METAL
ROOTS: Bret Michaels rocked a cowboy hat for "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," and Axl Rose drawled "I Used to Love Her But I Had to Kill Her." In the Nineties, Garth Brooks returned the love, covering Kiss and ripping off their fire-spitting theatrics for his huge arena concerts. WHO'S DOING IT NOW: These days, it's hard to find a country artist who doesn't brag about going through a Guns N' Roses phase. The Band Perry combine big hair and big hooks especially well, and singer Brantley Gilbert recently reached Number One with a grunge-influenced sound and Ozzfest fashion sense. BEST SONG: Five months after playing Metallica's Orion Festival, Eric Church hits the CMAs with two extra guitarists and a pounding rhythm section to perform his heavy-for-country new single "The Outsiders." He even rocks the crowd by closing the song with a flame-spewing, head-banging metal breakdown.

COUNTRY REGGAE
ROOTS: With its outlaw style and down-home vibe, country has been big in Jamaica for decades; reggae greats like Bob Marley and Toots Hibbert have covered country tunes. But it wasn't until 1982 and the Bellamy Brothers' huge hit "Get Into Reggae Cowboy" that country began exploring Jah's wisdom. WHO'S DOING IT NOW: In a surprise to pretty much nobody, Willie Nelson came out as a reggae fan with his 2005 cover of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come." Five years later, Kenny Chesney recruited the Wailers to play on his original "Spread the Love." BEST SONG: Sugarland's "Stuck Like Glue" features Jennifer Nettles affecting a light pseudo-patois while Kristian Bush strums on the upbeats. Somehow, they pull it off, even adding dancehall Auto-Tune to the backing vocal.