Street Wise Alt
County meets tart, smart, neo-hillbilly,
Is Country Music hip in 2002? Rob Ellen Event
Manager/Publicist/Tour Organiser/Web Consultant/Radio DJ/Music Fan
argues it never has been hipper!!
two good reasons why.
The latest wave of American Rock stars (a la Ryan Adams &
Mavericks ) have burst on to the scene, more than just tipping their
Stetsons in the direction of their country roots, they have rode to
stardom riding and bucking the mustang of a huge up surge in interest
in Country Music. A new wave of song driven bands from the urban area's
of The USA (particularly Chicago) energised with good old Rock and
Roll, dare I say, a punk non conformist values and attitude, have
redefined the country genre for a new generation and a street movement
is in the process of usurping the " uncool " (old and new country)
Coming in from more traditional folk area's is the Americana movement,
steeped in the traditions of rural America and its folk culture.
Americana has hit the heights and much chart success due to in the main
a string of great lyrical and deeply rooted Singer
Songwriters/Performers such as Sean Colvin and Lucinda Williams who
have cultivated the ground and benefiting from the success of their
peer group, beautifully silhouetted against the back drop of the
phenomenal success of the sound track of the movie "Oh Brother Were Art
though". Up till then Americana /alt-country had been flying in the
face of the music business, battling against the machine for
recognition as a form and making good ground under its own song driven
steam. Post "Oh Brother" we find that audience recognition of its own
culture in the states and its importance to more than simple music
enjoyment en masse, has suddenly caused a sea change in the industry
and the abandoned Hillbilly Baby (Which had never gone away ) has now
been adopted by the said machine. Strangely and paradoxically Alt
Country/Americana is no long alternative to the industry template, all
the signs are tin pan alley (particularly in Nashville) is beginning
see organic as the only way to go for any self respecting starlet elect.
hair syndrome for so long synonymous with Country and its show biz
façade have all but disappeared in a puff of hair spray and ruffled by
the wild of a wild and exciting new stampede, and Tin pan alley are
shocked and confused. A fresh creative approach of a generation which
has taken the great and exciting elements of Country music IE
musicality respect & love for the tradition, passion for
performance and devotion to lyricism, have distilled out the crass and
cheesy commerciality which has infected the form for the 30 year period
of Nashville's dominance over the music. They have re-captured the
heart of the music, rediscovered its soul and the business who so long
have turned their back on those vital elements are struggling to catch
Country and Americana, are now the foster Mother and Father of modern
American music, and share more than their roots and are more than
simple branches of the same tree they are both by the organic nature of
their growth, down home, earthy, songwriter based and ironically (In
these times of internet access and mp3 availability) unmodern and
low-tech. An approach which without exception and paradoxically has
connects all the protagonists deeply and instantly with their audience
( In the main encouraged and enabled through the auspice of the afore
mention internet connections) .
These are enduring connections I would argue, way deeper than any
connection made with the throw away nature on the dominating media
induced popular music of the day in the states and here in the UK. To
illustrate further I point an accusing finger in the direction of Pop
Idles. What lasting effect those new performers manufactured by the
media will have on our culture is yet to be seen, but I for one am not
holding my breath.
This sense of abandonment to the machine is possible the main reason to
why the uptake of alt-country has been so spectacular on this side of
the ocean. The Old Timey energy of hillbilly and Blues which fuelled
the Rock and Roll revolution in the 50's and formed the basis of all
youth culture of the late 20th century, has re-emerged and is becoming
"Of The Moment" again, proving in the words of the spiritual that "the
circle is unbroken".
Risking putting a transient hex on it all and banishing what is deep
and meaningful to performer and listener both, to the dusty shelf of
musical history before its time,
Country Music is now
Hip!! There I've said it!!!
emphases and illustrate this very point, two of the acts in the
forefront of the new wave of both movements are playing in the
Highlands this week Representing Father Alt Country Chris Mills
& Mother Americana She Haw
If you live in the north west Highlands & Islands you
maybe able to tune into The Medicine Show to hear them and Chris Mills
in session on Sat 6 July and for more examples every Saturday 1pm to
4pm Friday 7pm till 9.30pm 102.2
& 96.8 Loch Broom FM.
Top American Independent Artist
starts Highland Tour on Independence Day
Evening Standard| London | Blue-eyed boy
Chris Mills [is] a Costello-like singer/songwriter with a voice that
could melt chocolate. He wears cardigans onstage, sings about love as
soon found as lost again, and fills the heart with wistful joy.
BBC Radio Scotland Tom Morton
July 4 2pm.
Inverness Maple Court July 4 8pm.
Ullapool Harbour Lights July 5 8pm.
Loch Broom FM The Medicine Show 1pm July 6.
Evanton Balnonie Inn July 6 8pm.
Nairn Invernairne Hotel July 7th 8pm With She Haw.
Alt-country luminary singer/songwriter CHRIS MILLS' debut UK album is a
record rich with both urgency and contradiction. Produced in two
separate sessions by Brian Deck (Red Red Meat drummer and studio
magician/producer for Wheat, Modest Mouse, Rex, and Lois) and friend
and mentor Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Bros), it's a record that began
its journey in the worst blizzard they'd seen in Chicago in years. And
it ends, with the otherworldly epic "Signal/Noise", in a storm of radio
interference and a heavenly host of Phil Spector-saturated voices
melting into the ether.
And in between, straining at the boundaries delineated by ambitious
alternative pop, raw-knuckled roots rock and the unquiet ghosts of folk
song craft, you can hear the sound of a world spinning between
heartache and exhilaration. By turns tender and unforgiving, the ten
tracks of Kiss It Goodbye are, says their author, "probably all love
songs of a sort, even if some of them are horribly twisted." Those
twists take the listener from the nakedly affecting "Watch Chain" and
"Tooth And Nail" simultaneously paying homage to and subverting the
well-turned lyrics of the heartbreak greats, to a chilling "Napkin In A
Wine Glass" told from the brutally dispassionate point of view of the
two principals in a tale of domestic violence - "I don't even know if I
understand everything that's going on in that song," Mills says quietly
- to a rockin' "All You Ever Do" with its subversive, ambiguous take on
the small-town world of John Mellencamp's populist radio hits.
Chris releases a new album with Loose Record within the next two weeks
. I have copies of his début album here and will send his new one to
any one interested in air play or reviews ASAP. Chris is available for
interviews and personal appearance's.
Check out the player at the bottom of
the page to listen to Chris.
Amy Pickard sing with big country charm and Southern grace that sounds
authentic. Perhaps that’s becauseit
is.”– Philadelphia City Paper.
On record and in live performance, She-Haw has an uncanny rapport, an
ease which recalls the informality of a front-porch jam session.
She-Haw’s original country sound has been described as “tart, smart,
neo-hillbilly,” with “haunting harmonies” that “pull old-fashioned
Appalachian Gothic into the here and now.” Amy anchors the songs with
her guitar and Beth adds percussion, playing some combination of a
beaded purse, a wooden spoon, a screwdriver and a woodblock. They’ve
brought their modern-traditional take on country to crowds at Lilith
Fair 1999 (where they opened the tour’s Philadelphia leg) and The
Tweeter Center (where they played the side stage for Neil Young and The
Pretenders). She-Haw has also picked with country/folk luminaries
Asylum Street Spankers, Tarbox Ramblers, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Jim
and Jennie and the Pine Tops, Frog Holler, and the Rolling Hayseeds.
Check out the player at the bottom of
the page to listen to She Haw
Nairn Invernairne Hotel + Chris Mills Sunday 7th 8 pm.
BBC Radio Scotland Tom Morton Monday 8th 2 pm.
Portmahomack Caley Hotel Monday 8th 8 pm.