Radio: Whose country is it?: Robert Hanks on Country 1035, London's newest station

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You don't have to strain your eyes to spot the contradiction inherent in Country 1035: a country music station broadcasting exclusively to London? These are Big Road, Big Car songs, for listening to while you drive your Chevvy or your pick-up or haul your rig along the interstate. Sometimes the songs are about pick- ups and Chevvys and rigs and interstates. They are interrupted by announcements of congestion at Turnpike Lane or Junction 12 of the M25 clockwise or the Hanger Lane gyratory system.

The volume of traffic bulletins suggests that, even if the local geography isn't suited to it, Country 1035 thinks of itself as a drivers' station - providing a fantasy of wide- open spaces, perhaps, to people for whom being hemmed in by the Sierras is a problem of commuting rather than a description of the landscape.

On the other hand, there may not be that many traffic bulletins - they just stand out because there's very little speech. Occasionally, a DJ pops up to tell you that this is Country 1035, and there are a few adverts, mostly egging you on to make a will (niche marketing, really: this being country, the songs have already left you in a receptive frame of mind for talk about death and loved ones). Otherwise, it's just music, music, music, twang, twang, twang, occasional station jingles and voices announcing 'Country 1035' and urging you to 'tell your friends - neighbours - people you work with,' with a slight air of 'Is there anybody I've forgotten to mention?'

Probably the decent thing is to come clean and say that so far (it started last Thursday) I've rather enjoyed it, far more than I expected to. Genuine country music fans probably wouldn't, though. Most of the music comes from the popular, inoffensive end of the genre - Glen Campbell singing 'Wichita Lineman', Crystal Gayle with 'Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue' - and some of it is barely country at all (in particular, it looks as though the record shop was doing a special on the Eagles the day they stocked up). There is genuine country stuff - with its characteristic, incongruous mix of uncomplicated hymns to family and church and small-town virtue, and the ballads of drink and whores, faithlessness and despair. But the distinctive thing about Country's playlist is that it's white pop music - as opposed to the black pop music (soul, blues) which is the staple of Jazz FM, or whatever it calls itself these days.

Still, let's stick with the idea of Country as a country station: that means that it is, unless somebody knows better, the first station in Britain to be wholly dedicated to another country's culture. Jazz and rock may have strong American associations, but they have been assimilated over here, whereas country music is, by definition, American. There are British country practitioners (they have a showcase in Radio 2's British Country - a series ended last Thursday); British rock has evolved its own styles, but the essence of British country is imitating the Americans.

Which made it a little odd on Sunday night, listening to Country 1035, to hear headlines about Unionist bombs. When we've reached the point where Britain can support free-standing country stations, you wonder whether the indigenous culture is distinctive enough for anyone to get so het up about it.

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