As certainly as country music tells a story about itself — it is rural, it is authentic — there are dissenters tugging it in new directions. Often those dissenters end up becoming revered in hindsight, even if their loyalties were questioned in the moment.
Take Sam Hunt, the most proficient of the many hip-hop hybridizers that converged on Nashville in the early part of the 2010s. He has just released his second album, “Southside,” which combines his most traditionalist work and his most forward-thinking, and suggests that those need not be two different things.
In the case of Kenny Rogers, who died last month at 81, the layer of pop gesture atop his country set him apart. He was a gentler, more centrist kind of country star than some of his contemporaries, but no less integral to the genre and its growth.
On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about the borders Nashville polices, and the excellence that can emerge when they are tested.