Less country music Christmas albums, and more country music Halloween albums I say. And if a cottage industry happened to crop up for spooky country music every October, it would stand to reason Madison, Wisconsin’s Those Poor Bastards would have the market cornered. Beware interlopers and carpetbaggers, these bastards have been purveyors of their self-described “Country Doom” for a decade.
One of the great things about roots music is its Gothic legacy of cautionary tales, ghost stories, murder ballads, messages to the infirmed, and other such methods of macabre that allow country and roots artists to paint in dark colors when they so choose. This makes roots music one of the best realms to draw from when putting together your Halloween playlist.
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.
Lonesome Wyatt is a pioneer of Gothic country with his band Those Poor Bastards, and one of the originators of underground country whose song “Pills I Took” was covered by Hank Williams III on his landmark album Straight to Hell, he is one of the few artists who will never be forgotten regardless of the long-term fortune of the underground country sub-genre.
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.
Rachel Brooke is one of the few select artist with enough mustard to rise out of the ashes of the country music underground and become a force in the greater roots world. Like an early Emmylou Harris, the music industry should be shuttling her across the country to lend her singular vocal texture to other projects in between putting out excellent solo albums that time finds hard to forget.
I have been struggling to write this article for almost two years, but have been putting it off because there’s some hard things to say, and I didn’t want to “talk down” a movement that was already trying to deal with pretty alarming trends. But I think that especially now, zooming out and trying to be honest and critical in a constructive way is important, because there is positively no doubt that underground country is dying.
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”.
From the outside looking in, one may look at the lineup of The Muddy Roots Festival for example, and wonder how all these bands could all be booked right beside each other and it work seamlessly. This illustrates the dramatic sonic and geographical diversity that goes into creating what we know now as the underground country roots, or “Muddy Roots” world.
I think at this point it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that in 2012 we’re all going to die of death. You know, that whole Mayan thing. But I thought just to be on the safe side, just in case we all don’t die, we’ll probably want to listen to some music, so wouldn’t it be cool to know what some of your favorite artists have planned for 2012.
This is some of the best true country songwriting I have heard all year. I am floored folks. I’ll be honest with you, knowing the context of this album going in, I didn’t think it had much chance to charm my little music heart, but that is exactly what it did. Ray’s songs are just so true, honest, well-written, and authentic, it makes his adeptness at song craft absolutely undeniable.
Over the weekend the .357 String Band said farewell in the form of a pair of shows in their home state of Wisconsin. Regardless of how obscure they were, along with Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, Flatt & Scruggs, and a few others, the .357 String Band was one of the greatest, most groundbreaking, and influential bluegrass bands of all time.
The first song on the “Ray Lawrence Jr.” track from Hank3’s Ghost to a Ghost is “When You Lose All You Have.” They say to write it, you have to live it, and Ray wrote the song while living in a Phoenix homeless shelter. A truck driver and a divorcee, Ray had reached the end of his rope in 2008, and penned the song as a self-portrait.
After a one year hiatus, the legendary Deep Blues Festival will be re-emerging this year on July 16th in Cleveland, OH. This year the torch has been picked up by Jim Chilson of the blues band the Ten Foot Polecats. Chilson was kind enough to give me some of his time to talk about why he decided to rekindle the Deep Blues flame, and about the difficulty some blues-based bands find being accepted in the traditional blues music circles.
Rachel Brooke’s new album Down In The Barnyard has been creating a lot of buzz lately, and on Wednesday she talked with Jashie P of Outlaw Radio Chicago about the album, her upcoming tour with Those Poor Bastards, a proposed 7-inch release on Farmageddon Records, and how Shooter Jennings is helping her with his “XXX” movement.
Rachel Brooke’s much-anticipated release Down In The Barnyard has been given an official release date of February 22nd. It can be pre-ordered now…A few songs from the new album will be debuted on Outlaw Radio tonight (1-26-11) on SCM LIVE at 8 PM Central, and later will be archived on episode 129 on the Outlaw Radio Page. There will also be a tribute to Charlie Louvin tonight at 6:30 Central…
Following is my list for the essential albums for 2010, broken down into a few of categories.This is meant to compliment the Album of the Year candidates in this super-packed year for stellar music. Hopefully next year, Saving Country Music can branch out a bit and cover the more traditional mainstream acts, but it will always be on top of the smaller acts trying to get their music out there, not instead of them.
I’m happy to announce that Charlie Louvin: Still Rattling The Devil’s Cage, a film project by Blake Judd and Keith Neltner has been fully funded through Kickstarter. The project was put together to develop a DVD whose proceeds will go to Charlie Louvin and his mounting medical bills associated with his ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer.
On New Year’s Day in 1953, country music’s first superstar Hank Williams died of what could be considered an early-era overdose–heart failure due to a lethal combination of morphine and alcohol. He was the first superstar musician to die in this manner, issuing in an era that would see the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Elvis, and many many more.
Any review for Those Poor Bastards should probably start off with a disclaimer that gothic country is not for everyone. Nor do I claim to be an expert of the music; I’ve always felt like I’m on the outside looking in. Having said that, I have really become intrigued and entertained with what Those Poor Bastards do, and think of Lonesome Wyatt as virtually peerless in procuring sounds to set the exact mood he envisions for songs.
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