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The alt.country (whatever that is) thread


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#1 of 20 OFFLINE   Mark Pfeiffer

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Posted April 02 2003 - 03:14 PM

Seeing that there are other threads focusing on specific genres, I thought perhaps it would be worth starting a thread that could serve as a repository about alt.country/Americana/No Depression/etc.

I've been on an alt.country kick for six or seven years now but feel I've only skimmed the surface of the genre. My favorite is Kelly Willis. The best starting point are her two most recent albums, Easy and What I Deserve, although I'd highly recommend her three MCA albums, the MCA compilation, and the Fading Fast EP (if you can find it). She has one of those "can sing the phone book" voices and has learned how to use it through the years. She's one of the few artists I've driven long distances to see (mostly out of necessity--she hasn't played Columbus).

Her husband Bruce Robison is talented too. Some may find his albums a little on the bland side, but he's an undeniably skilled writer. (He recorded "Angry All the Time" with Kelly before Tim McGraw and Faith Hill covered it and also cut his own "Travelin' Soldier" years before The Dixie Chicks picked it up.) His most recent album Country Sunshine is his most organic, and best, work.

Allison Moorer's latest album has a sticker on the front pointing out that the vocals haven't been manipulated for pitch correction, etc. Having seen her three times in concert last summer/fall, it becomes evident why this declaration is on there. She has a terrific, powerful voice that isn't "faked" on recordings. Of her three albums, her second, The Hardest Part, is probably my favorite.

I was really knocked out by her sister Shelby Lynne's I Am Shelby Lynne. Maybe that's why I was let down by the follow-up album.

I've seen a couple mentions in this area for Laura Cantrell's When the Roses Bloom Again. (I'll also cast a vote for her debut Not the Tremblin' Kind.) Basic, throwback country with her sweet voice.

Neko Case's Blacklisted may most represent how she sounds live. Her big, powerful voice paints these noirish songs (on this album especially).

Kathleen Edwards is at times a dead ringer for Lucinda Williams on Failer, but it's not like that's a bad thing.

For starters I've left off what I'd consider the obvious (Uncle Tupelo and its offshoots, for example). Feel free to chime in.
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#2 of 20 OFFLINE   Angelo.M

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Posted April 02 2003 - 03:44 PM


Well, I spend a portion of the year in my other home in Raleigh, NC, and have been doing so for several years. In that place/time, I've had the good fortune to see more than a handful of bands from the alt.country school, including Whiskeytown before the break-up.

And, for what it's worth, although Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt/Wilco got most of the press at the time, Whiskeytown was putting out records which were as good or better than Tupelo and its offspring.

I highly recommend the other voice from Whiskeytown, Caitlin Cary. She has an EP, Waltzie and a full-length album which are both terrific. Also, I've had the opportunity to see Tift Merritt many times: her debut album, Bramble Rose, is not to be missed. She also did an EP w/ Two Dollar Pistols (a fine alt.country unit in their own right) which is wonderful.

Also highly recommended: Scud Mountain Boys (Massachusetts on the Sub Pop label is great), the Billy Bragg/Wilco Mermaid Avenue collaborations (essential), Blue Rodeo, and Jayhawks (obviously; and they have a new record). Also, Gillian Welch, Cowboy Junkies, Steve Earle, Victoria Williams, Daniel Lanois--all are on the outskirts of alt.country (whatever that means). And let's not forget the blueprints: Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

I'll stop rambling now.


#3 of 20 OFFLINE   Matt Birchall

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Posted April 02 2003 - 03:59 PM

This is as good a time as any to mention that the first three Uncle Tupelo albums have been re-mastered and will be re-released next Tuesday. . . Posted Image

#4 of 20 OFFLINE   Vickie_M

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Posted April 02 2003 - 05:24 PM

Quote:
alt.country (whatever that means).

Alternative Country.

Nice to see Victoria Williams mentioned. She's one of my very favorite people. I've met her several times and she's such a sweetie.

I'd also suggest the X offshoot The Knitters The Knitters (as well as Exene Cervenka's album "Old Wives Tales."
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#5 of 20 OFFLINE   Rick Deschaine

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Posted April 02 2003 - 08:19 PM

I think Mark was asking a rhetorical question with the title of his thread.

alt.country (whatever that is) is sometimes used as a subtitle on No Depression magazine which is sort of the alt.country bible.

Unless Vickie, you were being tongue in cheek yourself. Posted Image

At any rate, what a great idea for a thread. There are a number of great artists within this genre. A great place to start is Bloodshot Records. The finest purveyors of alt.country (IMHO).

From The Waco Brothers, Kelly Hogan, Robbie Fulks, earlyOld 97's, Ryan Adams, the inimitable Neko Case... well I could go on and on...OK; Alejandro Escovedo, Sally Timms, Ok I'm done for now.

Bloodshot's not the only label, there's also New West and Hightone to name a couple of others, but their my favorite.

A new band to recommend; Th' Legendary Shack Shakers. A bit of a cross between Southern Culture on the Skids and The Reverend Horton Heat. I had the most fun at their live set at SXSW this year. Very rowdy indeed. They performed an excellent cover of Ghostriders in the Sky.

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#6 of 20 OFFLINE   John Watson

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Posted April 02 2003 - 10:18 PM

I would look forward to a Jimmie Dale Gilmore album.

I don't know whether an unusual voice is a key element of alternate, but I call his a cross of Hank Williams and Roy Orbison, but its the twist in the lyrics that often gets me the most...

The soundtrack of BROTHER WHERE ART THOU makes me want to suggest that there's lots of alt country, if we don't forget the past.

Posted Image

#7 of 20 OFFLINE   Michael Hughes

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:05 AM

Kathleen Edwards is a star in the making, not sure if I would call her alt country. This type of music falls more under the general Folk/Singer Songwriter category, but most of these artits are so hard to categorize, the bottom line is they make good music. Lyle Lovett has been tough to categorize his entire career, as has Steve Earle. A lot of these artits move through differnet genres as they seek new challenges. But In my CD player right now is the New Dan Bern "Fleeting Days", the new Dar Williams "The Beuaty of the Rain", the new Joseph Arthur "Redemption's Son" and George Harrison's final album "Brainwashed" which is nothing short of spectacular.

Some other fave new artists of mine to kick around: Beth Orton, Kim Richey, Howie Day, The Kennedy's, Ed Harcourt, Pete Yorn.. to name a few

#8 of 20 OFFLINE   Mark Pfeiffer

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Posted April 03 2003 - 01:59 AM

Quote:
I think Mark was asking a rhetorical question with the title of his thread.


Yeah, I was just trying to be clever. And yes, I took it from No Depression. Posted Image

Quote:
Kathleen Edwards is a star in the making, not sure if I would call her alt country.


In my opinion she fits under the alt.country banner more than Beth Orton. Daybreaker is the only of the three that would "fit", in my opinion, and even that might be a stretch. (FWIW, No Depression did an article on Orton and probably reviewed the album, so by those standards, it would fit.) But I'm not here to try and draw boxes around who is and who isn't alt.country, a tag that some of the artists reluctantly accept even though they feel they are making "country" music.

Back to Edwards, I hope she plays a show here. I considered driving to Louisville last week to see her there.

And don't forget that the new Lucinda Williams album comes out next week. One of the few benefits of having musical tastes different from my friends here is that occasionally I can get great seats for concerts. Had a second row seat when she started the tour supporting Essence. A great show. Kasey Chambers opened and played a few tracks from her (at the time) unreleased Barricades and Brick Walls.
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#9 of 20 OFFLINE   Patrick Larkin

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Posted April 03 2003 - 02:10 AM

I have trouble placing some of these artists in an "alt.country" category. To me, a.c is typified by Uncle Tupelo where one of their songs could be country and grungy at the same time. To me, the alt part means hard. Son volt is also a perfect example of a.c.

Laura Cantrell is just country-pop. And I must say, I enjoyed her live show very much when she opened for Elvis Costello last year.

#10 of 20 OFFLINE   Angelo.M

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Posted April 03 2003 - 03:14 AM

Vickie: Thanks for clearing that definition up for me. Don't know what I would have done without your post.

I guess your sarcasm meter is broken.


#11 of 20 OFFLINE   Eric Peterson

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Posted April 03 2003 - 07:01 AM

I love the term Alt-Country because to me it means that it's real country music and not that homogenized pop-country garbage that passes for country today.

I'm a huge Hank III fan and have seen him live a couple of times, and both times have discovered another good artist as the opening act. Hank always plays two sets, one of pure country and a second all-out metal show with his band Assjack. www.hankthree.com

Those Legendary Shack Shakers - These guys blew me a way and the best term that I could come up to describe them is "Punk-A-Billy". Imagine a punk band dressed like hicks with a harmonica playing singer and a stand-up bass player. Since the Hank III show, I watched them play a headlining set and once again, they didn't disappoint. http://www.cockadood...t.com/main.html

Unknown Hinson - This guy is an absolute riot and plays some form of Country-Rock, but he looks like a vampire and most of his lyrics are very tongue-in-cheek and seem to be parodying classic country music and the redneck life style. http://www.unknownhinson.com/index.htm

#12 of 20 OFFLINE   Vickie_M

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Posted April 03 2003 - 11:45 AM

:b Posted Image :b
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#13 of 20 OFFLINE   Scott Stephens

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Posted April 03 2003 - 03:45 PM

Interesting thread, and it's good to see some artists discussed who normally don't get alot of press.

I'll throw in my 2 cents. I tend to favor artists like Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, and the Jayhawks. If you like these bands, RUN--don't walk--to your nearest music store and pick up any album from the phenomenal band Jupiter Coyote. These guys are truly phenomenal musicians and have a fantastic sound that brings to mind the Allman Brothers with a little bluegrass and at times a harder edge, yet they remain original enough to really shun any direct comparisons.

I happened upon one of their CDs in a video store in Frisco, Colorado (ski town) several years ago and have been a rabid fan ever since. These guys run their whole show--touring, marketing, selling CDs, running their label, yet they somehow find the time to pour their heart and soul into their music without missing a beat. Their live shows are fantastic, and each album brings a greater depth to their music.

If anybody decides to pick up a CD, "Here Be Dragons," "Luck Day," and "Waxing Moon" are good places to start.

Sorry to ramble, but I really admire these guys and their music. It's a crime Jupiter Coyote and more artists like them fly under the radar while Celine Dion and her clones sell millions. Oh well, I guess that's part of the appeal. Anyway, check them out. Their website is www.jupitercoyote.com.

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#14 of 20 OFFLINE   Tim Hoover

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Posted April 03 2003 - 07:18 PM

The Shack Shakers are one of our local bands. It's nice to see them getting successful.

It's also nice to see Daniel Lanois get mentioned. Although primarily known as a producer (U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, etc.) he has two really terrific albums currently out, with a third on the way. He also scored the movie Sling Blade.
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#15 of 20 OFFLINE   David Lawson

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Posted April 04 2003 - 12:44 AM

I'm also glad to see a thread about this genre, though (like Mark) I'm a bit surprised at some of the suggestions thus far. I do like some of Howie Day's stuff, but I'm not sure he fits. I hope no one suggests the "Country Mike" tracks from the Beastie Boys, either. Posted Image

I'm going to have to sort through my album collection at home for more recommendations, but two that I know haven't yet been mentioned are Jolene (the earlier albums, in particular) and Mojave 3.
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#16 of 20 OFFLINE   Angelo.M

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Posted April 04 2003 - 02:28 AM

With respect to Daniel Lanois, his new album, shine, has been streaming from his webpage for a while. It is astounding.

#17 of 20 OFFLINE   Rob P S

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Posted June 19 2003 - 11:15 AM

Some of my faves:

The Backsliders - "Throwin' Rocks at the Moon"
The Bottle Rockets - "The Brooklyn Side" and "24 Hours a Day"
Radney Foster - "Del Rio, TX 1959"
Jack Ingram - "Livin' or Dyin'", "Hey You" and "Electric"
Chris Knight - "Chris Knight" and "A Pretty Good Guy"
Any Alison Krauss disc
Jim Lauderdale - "Pretty Close to the Truth"
The Lonesome Strangers - "Land of Opportunity"
The Mavericks - "What a Crying Shame"
The Thompson Brothers Band - "Blame It on the Dog"

#18 of 20 OFFLINE   MatS

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Posted June 19 2003 - 01:32 PM

make sure and check out Drive By Truckers new release "Decoration Day" which came out this week

#19 of 20 OFFLINE   Mark Pfeiffer

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Posted June 20 2003 - 02:30 AM

Nice to see the thread revived.

I've seen Kathleen Edwards and Laura Cantrell in concert within the last two weeks. Edwards put on a very good show. Played all (or most) of her album plus some interesting covers. Did a slowed down version of Concrete Blonde's "Caroline", a countrified take on AC/DC's "Money Talks", a John Prine song whose title I don't recall, and a Black Sabbath song I didn't recognize. All in all, a 17 song set, I think, and a pretty good show. I was impressed that she played as long as she did considering she has just the one album. (In contrast, I saw Neko Case earlier this year at the same place, and she played for an hour despite having three albums and numerous side projects.)

Cantrell was really good too. At first I didn't know if there were going to be more than ten people in the club, but a respectable crowd ended up filtering in. The Schramms opened and then performed as her band. Nothing flashy about her, just a very solid set and interesting anecdotes about the genesis of some of her songs. Came back for three encores. The second one genuinely didn't seem planned, adn the third certainly wasn't. A real good example of a performer winning over the audience.
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#20 of 20 OFFLINE   Angelo.M

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Posted June 20 2003 - 05:51 AM

Fans of alt.country should check out the best new thing I've discovered in quite a while: Dolly Varden.

Dolly Varden's home page.

Incredible stuff. Enjoy.






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