Tag: alt country

MUSIC REVIEW | The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music (2000)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “When the song craft is at this kind of level, no one needs to reinvent the wheel.”
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Alt country is a genre of music I find myself liking, more often loving, every time I listen to a band or performer who falls under that heading.  Wilco, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell (although, he tends to fall under the Americana umbrella these days), and his former band Drive-By Truckers (a combo of alt country and heavy southern rock).  When someone recently recommended I listen to The Jayhawks, it was the first I’d heard of them.  But now that I see they’ve been around since the mid 80s, and now that I’ve heard The Jayhawks with Rainy Day Music, I’m stoked to all of a sudden have 30 years of music to catch up on from some alt country pioneers.

The jangled guitars and slay bell infused hi-hat starts things in a great, vintage, 60s feel on Stumbling Through the Dar.k.  The light, sweetness of the vocal melody, reaching the occasional, impressive falsetto ads to that vibe.  It’s a great way to ease into an album, and the perfect setup for the alt-country, harmony filled Tailspin. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Wilco – A.M (1995)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says; “Tweedy pulls it off effortlessly.”

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These days, Wilco are the kings of white, middle class dad rock.  I say that as a massive Wilco fan.  I might not be a dad, but I’m a white dude closer to 40 than 30,  who was willing to pay a whole lot of money for pretty crappy seats last time the band came through Melbourne.  I don’t think it would be an overstatement to call Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy one of the leading, scene defining troubadours of a generation.  But 20 years ago, he was the dude from Uncle Tupelo (the indie darlings who never quite broke big) who had started a new band.  A band called Wilco, who announced their presence with A.M.

While I Must Be High is standard guitar pop/rock stuff, Casino Queen lives up to the alt-country tag that was attached to this band for a long, long time.  It’s roadhouse, country rock with blues harp paired perfectly with its country fiddle.  The group vocals also make it a song begging for a live crowd to sing/yell along to. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Ryan Adams – Gold (2001)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A long, but satisfying record from a dude who has surpassed the promise Gold showed all those years ago.”

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For the second half of the 90s, Ryan Adams was lead singer of Whiskeytown.  They were never stadium filling superstars, but they reached a level of critical and modest crowd success that any hard touring band would be more than happy with.  They were at the kind of level that when they broke up, no one would be surprised to see the various members go onto bigger and better things, like Jeff Tweedy forming Wilco in the wake of Uncle Tupelo disbanding.  But it would have been just as easy to understand if they fell into obscurity, like a post Libertines Pete Doherty.

I knew nothing of the band at the time, but even if I did, I’m not sure if I would have predicted that Adams would go onto become one of the most prolific, eclectic, respected and successful singer songwriters of the decade and a half since.  A path that started with his solo debut Heartbreaker, but was pretty much assured with its follow up, Gold. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | The Wild Feathers – Lonely is a Lifetime (2016)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: Lonely is a Lifetime might break The Wild Feathers through to a new level, but it’s at the expense of a lot of what made them exciting three years ago.”

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Three years ago, The Wild Feathers announced themselves with a debut of folk, roots and vintage country rock reverence. With Lonely is a Lifetime, they’re going for something more mainstream and accessible. With its slick production values and a lush feel all over, they have noticeably lost some edge in search of hits.


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MUSIC REVIEW | Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams (2014)

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Ryan Adams has held the mantle of the uber alt troubadour ever since 2001, when his album Gold and it’s single New York, New York hit big.  He’d been around for years before that, both in the alt-country band Whiskeytown and as a solo artist.  But New York, New York put him on a new level, at which he’s stayed ever since.  Then, last year, something happened.  I heard Ryan Adams on mainstream, commercial Australian radio for the first time ever.  In fact, I heard him a lot without ever knowing it was him.  Not because I thought it wasn’t up to Adams’ standard, but because I just didn’t expect to hear Ryan Adams on mainstream, commercial Australian radio.  So when I realised it was Adams, I realised I needed to stop dragging my heals, and listen to his latest, the self titled Ryan Adams.


Gimme Something Good is the mainstream, commercial Australian radio infiltrator that made me finally catch up with this record.  And I can see why it broke through.  It’s Ryan Adams, but it’s Ryan Adams at his most accessible, while still sticking to his guns.  Guitar based, sing songwriter stuff with its heart on its sleave that gets away with it, because you know he means every sentimental word of it. (more…)

***2014 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans (2014)

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As far as gateway bands go, I can’t think of another one who has made me change my views on a genre as much as Drive-By Truckers.  Before them, I had written off pretty much every country band or singer.  After hearing the Truckers 2008 album Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, I realised country really has its merits when done well.  And while that appreciation has lead me to newer stuff like Chris Shifflett and the Dead Peasants, and older stuff like Waylon Jennings, there’s still nothing in country music that gets me more pumped than the release of a new Drive-By Truckers album.  And it’s that time again, with English Oceans.


For me, I don’t know if story telling songwriters come any better in 2014 than this band.  Lead Trucker, Patterson Hood, can make any story sound lived in and vintage, vital and fresh all at the same time.  And proof of Mike Cooley’s invaluable contributions can be found in the fact that while he generally only contributes about half as many tracks as Hood to any album, those half as many are always stand outs.  In the case of English Oceans, he starts as strong as ever with Primer Coat, about a man old before his time, “graduated in ’84, quit drinkin’ in ‘92”.  It’s got that signature Cooley drawl that gives anything he sings undeniable gravitas. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans (2014)

DBTEnglishOceans

As far as gateway bands go, I can’t think of another one who has made me change my views on a genre as much as Drive-By Truckers.  Before them, I had written off pretty much every country band or singer.  After hearing the Truckers 2008 album Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, I realised country really has its merits when done well.  And while that appreciation has lead me to newer stuff like Chris Shifflett and the Dead Peasants, and older stuff like Waylon Jennings, there’s still nothing in country music that gets me more pumped than the release of a new Drive-By Truckers album.  And it’s that time again, with English Oceans.


For me, I don’t know if story telling songwriters come any better in 2014 than this band.  Lead Trucker, Patterson Hood, can make any story sound lived in and vintage, vital and fresh all at the same time.  And proof of Mike Cooley’s invaluable contributions can be found in the fact that while he generally only contributes about half as many tracks as Hood to any album, those half as many are always stand outs.  In the case of English Oceans, he starts as strong as ever with Primer Coat, about a man old before his time, “graduated in ’84, quit drinkin’ in ‘92”.  It’s got that signature Cooley drawl that gives anything he sings undeniable gravitas.

Pauline Hawkins is a call and response between Hood’s voice and Cooley’s guitar, before the closing out duelling solo.  A sound that’s almost signature to Drive-By Truckers, who have figured out a way to pile on the layers, without ever collapsing under the weight.

Things almost turn into a 50s cowboy TV show theme tune with Made Up English Oceans.  It’s bouncing bass line and rolling drums walk through what sounds like the setup for some sort of western epic.

The Part of Him shows that Hood isn’t content to just write amazing lyrics, but come up with music to match.  The driving main riff, the interaction between his voice and guitar, the way everything works in perfect unison, means no single instrument or band member steals focus at any time.  It’s like an old grandfather clock, and everyone knows exactly which precisely placed gear they are.

A weird combo of country vocals, almost honky tonk piano and unexpected sentiment, The Natural Light sticks out the most on English Oceans, while also coming at the perfect time to mix things up as the final third of the album begins to head toward the finish.  It’s also the perfect lead in to When Walter Went Crazy, by far the most restrained, stripped back offering, an obvious breather before closing things out.

And English Oceans closes things out on a surprisingly positive note, with the finger picking optimism of First Air of Autumn, before Grand Canyon, an almost epic that feels like it’s always just holding itself back from becoming an actual epic.

One of the most impressive things about Drive-By Truckers is their ability to stay within their shit kickin’ country sound, while still giving each album its own individual  personality.  2001’s Southern Rock Opera was the kind of concept album its title would suggest.  Brighter Than Creation’s Dark was all introspection and restraint.  In 2011, Go Go Boots was almost a raucous party record.  With English Oceans, they make it about the individual stories, but as disparate as they may seem from one another in some ways, they all work together to make a single, coherent album.

But if I can’t convince you to listen to this album, Marc Maron’s awesome interview with Patterson Hood should do the trick.

Drive-By Truckers