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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Patrick » Music » Alt-Country

I'm not sure if anyone knows who coined the term, 'alt-country', but it's fairly easy to tell who the earliest influences were: individual singer-songwriters who fell just slightly outside of the box of traditional country music. Gram Parsons was in the box for the most part, but always seemed to have one foot out, ready jump. Townes Van Zandt would also prove to be considered a luminary in the field. Guy Clark, Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore would further explore the boundaries of country music, and Steve Earle would help to infuse a 'rock' sound with Guitar Town, in 1986. Dylan, Springsteen, and Beggar's Banquet-era Stones also remain major influences.

Substances destroyed Parsons and did the same to Van Zandt. No doubt we've seen Ely, Clark and Earle impaired more often than not, but herein lies the tragic beauty of the genre. The ability to paste the raucous attitude of the 1970's punk into a Woody Guthrie chord structure and couple that with the idea that its okay to get as drunk as you want as often as you want. Well, now...that's just living a dream, isn't it?

Uncle Tupelo came along in 1990, rejected-punks-turned-country geniuses, and Farrar and Tweedy have continued to give us great music ever since with Son Volt and Wilco (although many would argue that Tweedy hasn't put out any 'country' music in 10 years). Latter day traditionalists such as The Jayhawks, Whiskeytown, Neko Case and Richard Buckner are typically more 'country' than 'alt', while you're much more likely to hear bands like the Old '97s and Drive-By Truckers on alternative rock stations or in amphitheatres.

So, its with all this that I offer you some of my favorite songs from some of my favorite 'alt-country' bands. A few classics, a few new, some will be familiar, some not, but with their subtle twang, occasional fiddle, perfect sing-along melodies, and often heartbreaking lyrics they give unique takes on such classic country themes as love, death, drinking and sex, sometimes all in the same three minutes.

1. "Last To Know" - Alejandro Escovedo
2. "In State" - Kathleen edwards
3. "Sky And The Ocean" - The Volebeats
4. "The Ocean Cliff Clearing" - Richard Buckner
5. "Thanks A Lot" - Neko Case
6. "Houses On The Hill" - Whiskeytown
7. "Ain't So Lonely" - Lucero
8. "Tom Ames' Prayer" - Robert Earl Keen
9. "I'd Run Away" - The Jayhwaks
10. "Busted Afternoon" - Old 97's
11. "John Peel" - Paul Burch
12. "Little White Dove" - Jess Klein
13. "Flowered Dresses" - Slaid Cleaves
14. "Can't Let Go" - Lucinda Williams
15. "Drown" - Son Volt
16. "Say You Miss Me" - Wilco
17. "L.A. County" - Lyle Lovett
18. "Last King Of The Road" - Jon Langford And The Sadies
19. "Mind Over Matter" - Ana Egge
20. "Post To Wire" - Richmond Fontaine
21. "She Took A Lot Of Pills (And Died)" - Robbie Fulks
22. "No Depression" - Uncle Tupelo
23. "His Indie World" - Mary Lou Lord

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Anonymous rparis74 said...

our tastes are eerily similar, my man.

2:21 PM  
Blogger xo said...

Looks like a great mix. Have you ever heard Tarnation? They were a short-lived band on 4AD -- alt-country with really haunting vocals.

5:53 PM  

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