I browsed the newsstand this morning before heading to my last day at my job in Jersey City and I scanned Rolling Stone (can’t suck all the time) and there was a positive review of the new Lucinda Williams CD “West” (Feb 13). But the tone the praise took the form of an attitude I’m finding more and more outside of No Depression. I’ve read it in reference to artists that have their past formally in country and roots but take the genre to new, interesting and sometimes odd places. Ryan Adams, Neko Case, the Dixie Chicks and Calexico that have taken chances in their sound to mixed success. What gets my goat is the condescending tone taken that the reason these artists are so much “better” in their cultural gatekeeper eyes is that they’ve finally shaken the unseemly twang thang. Bullshit!
When Miles Davis did Bitches Brew did the press say “Thank god he finally stopped that jazz garbage.” The twang hating reminds me of when Dylan went electric but in reverse. Instead of Dylan being ostracized by the folk purists the press would be yelling “Turn it to eleven for god sakes!”
Artists that do the same thing time after time can be dependably consistent or annoyingly boring. So for every Wayne Hancock there’s a Jim White. The roots are firmly planted in tradition but the branches move in many directions, but always to the sky.
It’s the yin and yang of twang.