Country music is a broad term, covering a great many styles of music predominantly created in the United States of America - however there are growing traditions of country music elsewhere, particularly in Canada and Australia.
Country music is generally characterized by its use of the guitar and its heavily-accented vocals describing life's hardships. A common joke runs that if one plays a country song backwards, the singer's child recovers from an illness, he gets his job back, his wife returns to him and his dog isn't run over by a car.
Common lyrical themes deal with cowboys and other anti-heroes, often presented as common men and women just trying to make it through the day.
Country music, itself influenced by blues and negro spirituals, was an influence on early rock music, jazz, and gospel. Many different varieties of country music have arisen over the years, from the slick production of the Nashville sound to the rougher edges of outlaw country. There have been several cycles from periods of experimentation and fusion with other genres giving way to returns to traditionalism and back again. Recently, there has been a great deal of crossover between country and pop, beginning with Shania Twain in the mid-1990s and continuing through to Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. On the other hand, there is also a loosely-defined group of alt-country artists operating outside the mainstream of country and incorporating influences from other genres ranging from folk to punk. .