I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of what Country Music has become. The genre now known as “Modern Country” is full of fake accents, fake tans, and crappy lyrics; and the guitars in modern country have become less and less distinguishable from pure rock guitars.
I am a fan, however, of the Bass Guitar. In searching the internet for the popular opinion of “country songs with the best bass”, I have failed to find anyone who shares my opinion. So I will give it here and now.
A bass before its time
It was 1996. Modern Country hadn’t quite fully spiraled into the abyss yet. In most country songs at the time, you were likely to hear a 4-string bass, content in playing I, V progressions or 4 chord standard pop.
Deana Carter’s Did I Shave My Legs For This? released and it wasn’t trying to change the world. But the world wasn’t ready for track 6. Speakers weren’t ready for track 6.
Before We Ever Heard Goodbye
Warning: If you listen to this with earbuds or cheap headphones or your laptop speakers, you won’t even hear what I’m talking about. This song is best experienced on a real Hi-Fi system. Use your Home Theater if you must to take advantage of the subwoofer. These notes are low.
Written by Deana Carter and Chuck Jones (acoustic guitar), Before We Ever Heard Goodbye was a run-of-the-mill country ballad until :37. At that point it became a subwoofer-stressing country legend.
Glenn Worf, a legend in his own right and storied session bassist, was brought in to hit the low notes. At 37 seconds, Worf gently plucks his 5-string bass and lets out a thunderous G#. It surprises, but doesn’t overpower the accompanying strings and acoustic guitar. The bass sits in the mix well, but the engineering is excellent. A G# is not especially low on a bass guitar, but Worf’s G# is clear and deep, with the high frequencies dialed back greatly and almost no attack.
At 1:02, the chorus begins. Bassist Glenn Worf has established his bass as a key element in the song. By now, the song is simply not the same if you don’t have the speakers to reproduce the lows that emanate from the track.
1:40 in the song, the third and final verse begins, and we are granted a brief reprieve, but also a taste of Glenn Worf’s power. His bass will have the final say. Just after the line “You gave me your ring on a chain”, we are teased with what Worf is capable of. The note hits an octave below the main bass melody, a very low C#.
The deepest bass in country music (a graphical view)
In another view, we can see the low note in the frequency spectrum.
This low C# is about the lowest bass note you are going to hear in a country song. At roughly 34.6 Hz, most stereo speakers can’t even replicate it properly. On a 5-string Bass at standard tuning there are only two notes that are lower
But what really makes this song special is how the bass gets room to be heard. Because “Before We Ever Heard Goodbye” is a ballad, there isn’t a whole lot to get in the way of the bass. Those low, deep, bass tones can resonate sustained and untainted.
More Bass (but this is country (who cares, crank the bass))
At around the 2:05 mark, the bass has a killer pre-chorus fill that lets the listener know that the bass is no longer merely part of the song, it is it’s soul and energy. For the remainder of the song, bassists will hear that the bass is the star. Even during the excellent guitar solo, the bass is making itself known.
The lows are so rich and powerful now that they really call out the rest of the recording for it’s lack of polish. The vocals sound overdriven and somewhat harsh, but the low bass roars. It isn’t angry sounding, but it is firmly planting its flag in the soil and declaring that great bass and country don’t need to be distant relatives. Here, they join forces to shake the world of country music, and your walls.