Ryan Adams was one of the unquestionable leaders of this punk-infused country music conquest, and that is why it was so disconcerting to read recently that apparently he not only does not like country music, but he apparently never has, never really cared about it even when he was playing it, and certainly doesn’t want anything to do with it now.
Of course country music must evolve, just as at times certain buildings must go if they have completely lost their functionality and the cost of preservation is not in accordance with the historic value. But there always has to be that measure, that attention and reverence paid to the past to where we don’t allow unchecked “evolution” to result in remorse of what was lost along the way.
The underground country movement initially formed around the mid 90’s not because somebody launched a website or a record label. It wasn’t because of a festival or because someone came up with a special name for a new genre. It came from the songs artists were writing, recording, and performing; songs that spoke very deep to the hearts of hungry listeners.
Where 2011 felt like a high water mark year for live performances and an average year for recorded projects, 2012 feels vice versa. When I look back on 2011, it seemed like there were moments I experienced that I will never top the rest of my life. 2012 is the year that some albums and songs were released that may never be topped. Still there were a quite a few memorable performances worth noting.
Here is the list of 25 albums Saving Country Music deems essential for 2012 listening, and then I added an extra one I couldn’t leave off. Please note this list only includes albums that have been reviewed so far. There are a few more good and important albums in 2012 that have yet to be reviewed. The first 7 albums on the list (from Little Victories to Lee Bains) were all serious considerations for SCM’s Album of the Year.
Well I can tell you this. No matter what you were expecting from this album, you’re probably going to be surprised. Who Dat is a completely different direction for Joe Buck, while still being exactly what he’s always done. That’s the root genius of it. Yes, without question this album is a lot more tame, but what this approach does is bring out the roar of quiet anger.
By request, here is my list of the greatest underground country albums of all time. The underground country movement started roughly in the mid 90’s on lower Broadway in Nashville that at the time was a run down part of town. Young musicians from around the country, some from punk backgrounds, came together from their mutual love of authentic country music.
The fight for the purity of country music is almost as old as the genre itself. The conflict between pop and traditionalism, and the fight for creative control for artists runs like a thread throughout country music’s history, defining it as much as the twang of a Telecaster, or the moan of a steel guitar. Here are some of the most iconic images of country music revolution, and the stories behind them.
The Queen of Underground Country, the lovely and talented Rachel Brooke will be releasing her new album A Killer’s Dream on December 4th, featuring Florida’s Viva Le Vox as her backing band, and a duet with Lonesome Wyatt of Those Poor Bastards. This will be her 3rd full-length album. Watch the world premier video for the song “The Black Bird”.
The Muddy Roots Festival has just announced that they will be heading back over to Europe once again this summer for the 2nd Annual Muddy Roots Europe June 14-16, 2013 at Cowboy Up Saloon Waardamme Belgium. Muddy Roots will also be adding a brand new domestic show called the Muddy Roots Spring Weekender on May 10-11 in Adams TN, just north of Nashville.
I bet when you saw Bob Wayne’s name in the title of this article, you had some sort of immediate emotional reaction, didn’t you? You either thought, “That foul mouthed punk, I can’t even stand to see his ugly face,” and you blame him for perpetuating a perversion of country music. Or you said “Hell yeah.” Like him or not, Bob Wayne has arrived. One way you can tell this is by the polarization that precedes his name.
There’s never been a question in anyone’s mind if Johnny Cash actually shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. But that lyric, and Johnny’s song “Folsom Prison Blues” have gone on to become an iconic piece of country music history. This language was nothing new in 1955. Murder ballads and gunslinger tales trace back to the very roots of country music and America’s Gothic, violent identity.
American Idol introduced Jason “Wolf” Hamlin as one of this year’s contestants on the episode that aired Sunday night. If you reacted positively to seeing Jason “Wolf” Hamlin on American Idol and said “Well hell, I kind of like this guy. I may actually watch this stupid show this year!” just understand that is exactly what the folks in Hollywood wanted you to say.
When it comes to one man bands, Scott H. Biram is the franchise. He is the top of the heap, the one that inspired so many others. He’s tussled with semi trucks and spilled his guts out on the highway just like he’s spilled his guts out on countless stages all across the Western world until he earned that glorious ‘H’ in the middle of his name.
I love this album. You may look at the track listing and ask yourself why we need yet another version of “Wayfaring Stranger”. The answer is because the great Col. JD Wilkes has never done one before. A perfect mix of classics and originals, don’t just pigeon hole this project as just another rag tag bluegrass bit, there a lot of hot jazz, rockabilly and blues mixed in with the old time string band approach.
Last week as I was traveling through Tennessee, I took some time to visit downtown Nashville, where I hadn’t been in a few years, and I brought along one of my best friends named Pointer. Pointer goes wherever I go. Funny thing is, we don’t always like the same things. I thought it might be fun and informative to share Pointer and my pictures of our downtown Nashville trip for those who’ve never been there.
That’s right my friends, royalty will be gracing the Muddy Roots Festival stage in Cookeville TN on September 3rd & 4th. And when I say “gracing”, I don’t know that there has ever been another to rock with such grace than the Queen of Rockabilly herself, Wanda Jackson. Few artists can still call themselves relevant and engaging over 50 years after their career started. Even fewer can say they once dumped the King of Rock n’ Roll.
The best way to describe Crazy Again is an “accidental documentary”. Released in 2006, but only screened at a few film festivals, and to my knowledge never made available until recently through Amazon’s streaming video service, the film follows Dale Watson on a tour to Atlanta and back, and then features an interview with him in New Mexico where he describes in great detail a period of his life where he goes through a mental collapse and a spiritual rebirth.
I’m not one to chase every single limited-release 45 rpm put out by my favorite bands–that can get expensive quite quickly–but since we are nearing Record Store Day where the 7″ limited-release reigns supreme, and this little gem was thrown in my lap, I thought I would tell you about it’s virtues, and by proxy, the virtues of the single-sized vinyl format for those still perplexed why technology has regressed to move forward.
“Mean” might be the worst track on her Speak Now album. It is the most “country” song on the album, but it is not catchy, or clever, or well-crafted. Calling someone “Mean” is just such a base accusation. This isn’t punditry, it’s name calling. Maybe this song would have worked if she delved into the psychology of why people are mean, or even created some sympathy and understanding for her bullies. But instead she descends into the same “Mean” mentality herself…