By and large, Nashville gave up long ago on being original.
All the true greats of country music that are still around - Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, the walking soulless void they call George Jones - all transcended the Nashville establishment decades ago, and don't depend on it at all for their fame.
When Loretta Lynn released her instant classic Van Lear Rose last year, her success came from rock radio play and coverage on NPR, not from country radio or press. The same thing happened when Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash! released American Recordings in 1994. Remember the famous ad that American Records took out, the one with the picture of a young Johnny amped up, giving the Eff You Finger to some photographer? The ad copy snarked: "American Records and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support."
Country is at its heart a pop format, focused on What's Hot Now: by and large the genre is simply crass and has been for at least 20 years. (Then again, the music industry in general is crass, so I shouldn’t pick on the big hat crowd.)
If Johnny Cash couldn’t get respect, how much harder must it be for the guys who never quite became legends?
For three decades Texas-born singer and songwriter Rodney Crowell has been operating just behind the scenes, writing hits for Nashville royalty and periodically releasing a record of his own. Like Willie Nelson's mirror double, he is much better known for the great songs he has written than for singing them. In 1974 he wrote one of the all time great country songs, "'Til I Gain Control Again" which Crystal Gayle took to #1 a decade later, and also wrote hits for Emmylou Harris, Bob Seger (!), and Roseanne Cash. After a stint in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band in the mid-70s, he struck out on his own with his debut album, I Ain't Livin' Long Like This in 1977.