Let’s face it. For a host of reasons, it’s pretty rare to see African Americans making country and roots music. But when they do, more often that not, they’re doing it the right way, pushing the music forward creatively while fiercely helping to preserving the past, becoming part of the solution instead of prolonging the problem.
Carolina Chocolate Drops
One year ago, I posted the same picture of Rhiannon Giddens, with her fingers touching and her eyes shifted to the side like she’s about to hatch some devilish plan, and I told you, the sainted Saving Country Music reader, to watch out for what she had in store. “We’re not screwing around anymore here folks,” I said.
I remember saying it myself when the Carolina Chocolate Drops first came on the scene. Excellent band, and great to see some diversity represented in country and Americana music in a way that illustrates the role African American’s played in creating roots music. But there was something a bit off about watching a black band playing for a distinctly white audience.
She’s not doing it through slithering her way into pop country songwriting circles, or selling out with some big single that may impact country radio. She’s doing it by being her own badass self, and in a way that gives the music and entertainment industry no choice but to pay attention, and figure out how to apply her talents to whatever they’re doing.
New religious freedom laws in North Carolina and Mississippi, and pending legislation in Tennessee, has the South and the United States in an uproar over religious and civil liberties in an already contentious political season. And all of a sudden, music, and country music specifically, is getting caught in the crossfire.
We just didn’t have this kind of verification of the strength of Rhiannon Giddens’ vocal abilities until this project. Sometimes it takes someone else’s songs to really challenge a singer to where their limits are tested, and their utmost talents are expended trying to do a classic composition justice. That’s what makes Tomorrow Is My Turn such a worthy effort.
Every time the topic of country rap is broached, accusations fly that people who oppose the emerging sub-genre are simply opposed to country music evolving. But country rap would be bad even if the verses were sung instead of rapped. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to mix elements of American roots music with elements of hip-hop. Enter Adam Matta, an extraordinary and gifted old-school beat boxer.
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.
Billy Don BUrns, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Chris Knight, Davy Jay Sparrow, Don Williams, essential albums, Foghorn Stringband, Jackson Taylor, James Leg, Joe Buck, Joseph Huber, JP Harris & The Tough Choices, Justin Townes Earle, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Left Lane Cruiser, Lone Wolf, Marty Stuart, McDougall, Paige Anderson, Rachel Brooke, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Restavrant, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Sara Watkins, The Alabama Shakes, The Calamity Cubes, Tom VandenAvond, Willie Nelson
This is what they’re trying to do to Southern culture these days folks. They’re taking away your pride, your heritage, your farms, your music, your family life and sense of community, and replacing it with a piece of molded plastic for you to vomit your carcinogenic refuse into after you’ve blessed your oral cavity with the sweet gift of Cancer. Congratulations!
The leader of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers recently extruded a new musical tentacle into the creative world in the form of The Dirt Daubers, an old-time mountain string band of sorts that he fronts with his lovely wife Jessica. But with a series of slight disturbances in what for lack of a better term we’ll call the “underground country” movement recently, I asked JD Wilkes for his counsel.