New York Times – Recalling the Twang That Was Alt-Country

The New York Time has an article featuring interviews with ex-Jayhawks and Golden Smog member Gary Louris and Tift Merritt about the demise, or the actual existence ever, of the “” genre. I think the article leans far too heavily of the Jayhawks as symbols of the genre rather than looking at the whole environment as an alternative to pop country, but it’s still a good read.

Casey Driessen – 3D (Sugar Hill)

One of the appeals of country and roots music is it’s feeling of time-worn familiarity. The rough croon about lost love and bottomless whisky glasses feel like a well worn leather chair. But sometimes someone comes along and fucks the whole thing up. Yeah all the bits are there, fiddle, crooner, stand up bass, dobro – but things are well, all askew. These guilty parties dwell in the lands of country and some hyphenated shadow region – electonica, jazz, and (shudder) rap. Jim White, Buck 65 and Hank III are examples of these genre straddlers, now they have company with Suger Hill recording artist Casey Driessen. The 27-year old Chicago native is a top notch fiddler (he got his first fiddle when he was six) a Berklee College of Music grad, toured China on an embassy sponsored excursion, and recorded on the soundtrack for the Johnny Cash movie Walk the Line and appeared with Steve Earle’s Bluegrass Dukes – needless to say this guy is not your run of the mill fiddler’s fare.

The styles on his newest release “3-D” are all over the place – Irish jigs, complex jazz arrangements, swamp folk and western swing – and it all works in spite of itself. There’s something daring and dangerous about the music – taking something so solid, so defined and turning it on it’s ear all without a net.

Let’s hope that “3-D” injects new life into the roots and Americana genre like Mile’s Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and the Allman Brothers “Eat A Peach” changed everything that came after.

Scott H Biram – Graveyard Shift (Bloodshot)

Scott H. Biram is Austin’s dirty old one man band who delivers the gospel of the First Church of the Ultimate Fanatacism brimming with whisky and muddy holy water. Graveyard Shift, Biram’s new release on Bloodshot, sounds like a man screaming primally from the abyss (which Biram has stared into after being hit head-on by an 18-wheeler at 75 MPH on a Texas highway). This is mangled gut-bucket blues, outlaw country and punk rock conjuring a monster so hideously original and yet so….familiar. Biram channels these tunes from the musical past with his squalling ’59 Gibson electric hollow-body and thay arrive wholly original, soulful and , often, frightening as hell. The lame is cured, the blind see and shitty music is dispatched off this mortal coil.

Gram Parsons – The Complete Reprise Sessions

Gram Parsons - The Complete Reprise SessionsFrom Rhino Records – Gram Parsons The Complete Reprise Sessions produced by Emmylou Harris and Rhino’s James Austin, the three-CD set is a comprehensive collection of Parsons’ legendary recordings for Reprise. Disc one presents his 1973 solo debut, GP, plus seven bonus tracks, including a rare 1973 promo interview. Disc two presents 1974’s posthumously released Grievous Angel, along with three bonus tracks, including another revealing interview. Disc three contains seven previously unissued alternate takes from the GP sessions and eight from the Grievous Angel sessions, plus three more solo outtakes released only on A&M’s 1976 compilation Sleepless Nights.Florida-born, Georgia-bred singer, songwriter, musician and raconteur Gram Parsons was among the first, if not the first, to bridge the gap between country and rock in the late 1960s and early ’70s, as a member of The International Submarine Band, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Then the California-based “Grievous Angel” flew solo, capturing the soul of real country music on two landmark albums, and connecting West Coast redneck rock and the Nashville establishment. Musical protégé and collaborator Emmylou Harris carried his torch by touring and recording with his band, The Fallen Angels. Later generations of artists, from Elvis Costello to R.E.M.’s Peter Buck to the Black Crowes, discovered his legend and recorded his music.

Pitchfork review.

Golden Smog Announce 2 Shows

Golden SmogTo support their July 18th Lost Highway release, “Another Fine Day”, Minneapolis alt-country ubbergroup Golden Smog will take to the stage for two shows this summer.

July 23 – First Avanue – Minneapolis
July 26 – Bowery Ballroom – New York

While “Another Fine Day” features contributions from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Soul Asylum’s Dan Murphy, Big Star’s Jody Stephens and the Jayhawks Gary Louris, Marc Perlman and Kraig Johnson it’s undetermined which artists will show up for the two shows.

The band has been virtually silent since wrapping up a 1998 tou in support of “Wierd Tales”, but last year Louris,Murphy, Perlman and Johnson played a handful of Golden Smog dates (sans Tweedy). Lost Highway states more shows are possible but not confirmed.
Of course the Bowery show sold out before I was able to score tickets! DRATS!

Bobby Bare Jr. 6-15-06 -Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ

Bobby Bare Jr.The man was napping on the tiny, cluttered Maxwell’s stage while various battered and bruised instruments were carted out and placed on the stage around him.

Well he seemed to be napping…and then he suddenly rolls over and does a couple of labored push-ups and then be was up and at the mic sporting an aged Gibson SG with a butterfly sticker. The large man with the mop of curly hair, a “Nashville U.S.A” trucker cap and legacy bonifides (his daddy is the legendary Country outlaw musician, Bobby Bare) from that very same Tennessee city engaged in quirky yet familiar song arrangements, and with a voice that could lull a preacher’s daughter into a life of sin, commenced to tear up the house on this Thursday night.

Songs of love found, lost, found again…drug abuse, beauty all done with humor and whit. Bare featured many songs from his forthcoming September ‘06 Bloodshot records release “The Longest Meow”. “Just pretend you know this song and clap..” he instructed the audience while introducing the new material. Older material from 2004s “From the End of your Leash” was represented with “Valentine” and “Terrible Sunrise.”

In a world of Corporate pre-fabricated music it’s nice to see there are Bobby Bare Jr.s out there making music for the sheer deranged pleasure of it.