Awesome country, easy on the country
October 27, 2008 12:17 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find awesome alt. country\indie folk\country-influenced pop bands. Examples within.

I've really been getting into what I think is called alt. country or indie folk lately. Two bands I really like are (MySpace links) The Damnwells, and The New Frontiers (particularly Black Lungs, and Look at Miss Ohio, which I know is a cover). My favorite Damnwells song is not on their MySpace, so you can hear a short, reduced quality clip of it here (mp3 link). I really like the more western-style guitar work (like the 2-measure guitar run at the end of the Damnwells clip and the slide guitar in several of The New Frontiers' songs).

I'm aware of Wilco, but I don't really like the Bob Dylan-esque quality many of their songs have (also don't really like Bob Dylan, sorry). I am open to straight-up country music, but I don't generally the Garth Brooks-style voice, and find the lyrics so overly country that it would be impossible for me to enjoy them unironically. I don't know a lot about country though, so if you've got something, feel free to suggest it.

I haven't listened much to Neko Case, but from a cursory listen to her myspace, I'd say she's definitely got potential.
posted by !Jim to Media & Arts (56 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
I like Kristin Andreassen. I suppose her stuff is folkindiecountrywhatever.

The Avett Brothers get labeled country-ish. Not sure they are, but I like them, too.
posted by thinman at 1:09 AM on October 27, 2008

I'm about to fall asleep, so I can't include links, but I'll offer some names. Apologies for any you might already be up on:

The Gourds
Ryan Adams (was part of Whiskeytown)
Split-Lip Rayfield
Nickel Creek
Steve Earle
Uncle Tupelo
Old 97s
Band of Horses
Cowboy Junkies
Drive-By Truckers
Lyle Lovett
The Handsome Family
Dwight Yoakam
posted by SaintCynr at 1:19 AM on October 27, 2008

Opal's Early Recordings
posted by K.P. at 2:12 AM on October 27, 2008

Best answer: The ones I'm going to list are definitely alt-country or folk-pop (I think from the above list, Band of Horses might fit in this group too). Neko Case is sort of the queen of alt-country, and "Look for Me (I'll Be Around)" is one of my favorite songs. So good find there. :)

Fleet Foxes

My Morning Jacket

Okkervil River

(kind of) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

(some) Dan Sartain (like "Walk Among the Cobras")

Bon Iver
posted by timoni at 2:49 AM on October 27, 2008

You might like Cuff the Duke, kind of a Canadian rocky-roots-country-thingy feeling.
posted by generichuman at 3:09 AM on October 27, 2008

Here's a few ideas. Sorry, no links. but you'll find them all easily enough:

Beachwood Sparks
Black Twig Pickers
Cash Brothers
NoahJohn / Charlemagne
Clem Snide
Grand Archives
June Star
Mazzy Star
Will Oldham / Bonnie 'Prince' Billy / Palace Brothers
Paula Frazer
Pinetop Seven
Richmond Fontaine
South San Gabriel
Giant Sand / Howe Gelb
The Jayhawks
Willard Grant Conspiracy
Jim White
Pernice Brothers / Joe Pernice
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:31 AM on October 27, 2008

Seconding My Morning Jacket and Ryan Adams.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 3:49 AM on October 27, 2008

The Waylons.
posted by saladin at 4:16 AM on October 27, 2008

A relatively cheap EP worth picking up is In the Reins by Iron & Wine with Calexico. Great spaghetti western style stuff. If I were driving through the dusty plains, I'd be playing this album.

Well, that or Calexico's new one, Carried to Dust.

I'm also stuck on Whiskeytown's Strangers Almanac lately. Get the expanded version for a pretty terrific cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."
posted by GamblingBlues at 4:17 AM on October 27, 2008

Jenny Lewis, especially the stuff with the Watson Twins?

The Rilo Kiley work tends to be more electric, though Jenny's delivery never really loses that twang.
posted by rokusan at 4:41 AM on October 27, 2008

Caroming off rokusan, the new Watson Twins album is pretty alt.terrific, & includes a beautiful, elegant cover of the Cure's Just Like Heaven. Just saw them do it live a couple nights ago.

Also, Gillian Welch ("Look at Miss Ohio") -- her output is sparse (four albums in 12 years) but there's a lot of awesome there, particularly the first, second, third and fourth ones :)

Freakwater is great also, a countrified iteration of Eleventh Dream Day.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:30 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a style of music I'm really into as well. I've gone through my music folder for this sort of music. :)

Below, I've given my suggestions (a lot of them are fairly unknown, too, I'd guess). All of them are great, I think, but I've tried to suggest a song of theirs to start with; however, some of these bands are quite versatile, and you may like some songs they create more than others, so give 'em a good try, if you've got the time.

Some of these have more of a folksy-acoustic sound, than country, but I'm sure you'll like a few. Seconding Nickel Creek and South San Gabriel, too.

posted by metalheart at 5:37 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Asylum Street Spankers will make you happy. I promise.
posted by paanta at 5:41 AM on October 27, 2008

How can one mention Uncle Tupelo without mentioning Sun Volt?

More rocking:

Waco Brothers
Webb Wilder
Dave Alvin, incarnated as The Blasters or Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men. Not that his solo work is bad, it just doesn't match the spec.
The Knitters (X + Dave Alvin + Johhny Ray Bartell = Awesome)
Kevin Gordon
Lucinda Williams

More songwriter:

Dave Alvin, solo
Tom Russell
The Walin' Jennys
Alejandro Escovedo
Chris Smithers
Gillian Welch

Mandatory when (whatever that means) is mentioned.

The Beat Farmers.
posted by eriko at 5:48 AM on October 27, 2008

I think the first two Wilco albums are good, but the rest of them not so much. If you listen to Wilco's A.M. and like it, go back to the source and check out Uncle Tupelo; Wilco and Son Volt both grew out of the Tupelo breakup. I like Son Volt a lot better than Wilco, but I also like Jay Farrar's solo stuff better than Jeff Tweedy's.

nthing Old 97s and Lyle, too. (And I will probably be booed roundly, but I really liked Shooter Jennings's first album, despite the title. By God, he sounds like his daddy.)
posted by catlet at 5:52 AM on October 27, 2008

I'll add a couple that haven't been mentioned yet.

* Dr. Dog - somewhat alt-countryish I guess.
* The Everybodyfields - Local favorites.
posted by austinetsu at 6:11 AM on October 27, 2008

A bit off from everyone else's suggestions, and definitely a little odd, but Hank III is a very good option for some quirky stuff. He's Hank Williams Jr's son. Some heavy, some light, some twangy - his style is all over the place..
posted by VioletU at 6:18 AM on October 27, 2008

I love a band called Holopaw. Maybe you will, too.
posted by surenoproblem at 6:49 AM on October 27, 2008

A post I made a little while ago. There are some good suggestions in the comments too.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:50 AM on October 27, 2008

I can't recommend Michael Holland enough (or his old band, Jennyanykind).
posted by paleography at 6:51 AM on October 27, 2008

M. Ward
posted by rabbitsnake at 6:55 AM on October 27, 2008

Pinetop Seven
posted by rabbitsnake at 7:00 AM on October 27, 2008

Bobby Bare Jr.. Son of Bobby Bare, who was a (the?) original outlaw country artist, and Jr. has inherited Sr.'s chops, but is more rocking. But still definitely twangy. Bobby Bare Jr. is probably my favorite songwriter working today, and I amazed that he isn't more renowned. "The End of Your Leash" is an essential record.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:34 AM on October 27, 2008

Avett Brothers - Four Theives gone album

Langhorne Slim - When the suns gone down

Neko Case - Most anything

Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning

upon review I guess I also suggest iron & wine / calexico. But i more or less just put them in the "indie - indie" column and surely not folk / country indie, the first three I mentioned really define that as a genre as far as I am considered. I got big into the folk country indie scene for a while and those are my best suggestions.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 7:35 AM on October 27, 2008

Wow, shocked no one has mentioned Indigo Girls although I'm sure the OP is already aware of them.

I've also been really digging the previously mentioned Ryan Adams lately (especially Easy Tiger, his best album IMO).

Also, check out Mike Ness' Under the Influences for country with a bit more of a punk edge (or is that punk with a bit of a country edge?).
posted by jluce50 at 7:46 AM on October 27, 2008

Slaid Cleaves
Malcolm Holcolmbe
Buddy and Julie Miller
Will Oldham aka Bonnie Prince Billy aka Palace Brothers aka Palace Music
posted by kimdog at 7:50 AM on October 27, 2008

Jason Molina
posted by i_love_squirrels at 8:10 AM on October 27, 2008

The Minus Five
posted by Leon at 8:20 AM on October 27, 2008

Old Crow Medicine Show
posted by charlesv at 8:23 AM on October 27, 2008

Some of these have been mentioned but they're worth mentioning again

Whiskey & Co.
A band from Gainesville Florida that combines punk and more traditional country in a great way. Don't be scared off by the "punk" part, my mom loves Whiskey & Co.

Drive-By Truckers
From Athens, Georgia. They've kind of reinvented the idea of Southern Rock, but not in a The South Will Rise Again way, their songs often take a much more critical view of Southern history...

Steve Earle
He's earlier albums, like Copperhead Row, have a much more country-ish sound, but not in the pop-country way most people think of country. His later stuff has a more diverse sound, though still with a lot of country to it. His politics also are rather left-of-center which pushes him into the "alt" side of country.

Hank Williams III
VioletU mentioned Hank III and he definitely is different from the other suggestions people have been making but worth checking out. In his own words, he's "here to put the dick in Dixie."

Lucinda Williams
Beautiful Voice and an extremely talented writer and musician. I grew up listening to her and I've never stopped loving her.

Uncle Tupelo
I haven't listened to them a lot but my boyfriend had them on the other day and they sound like what you're looking for.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 8:27 AM on October 27, 2008

Not to be snarky, but I think you should start liking Bob Dylan. And The Band too.

Nashville Skyline and The Last Waltz, respectively.
posted by sully75 at 8:44 AM on October 27, 2008

People who like music like the music of Sparklehorse. The trackl Piano Fire on that Myspace site is good.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 8:49 AM on October 27, 2008

Steve Krinsky, who does a great show on WFMU, may tend in the direction you describe.
Here's a link to his Shows
posted by The_Auditor at 9:03 AM on October 27, 2008

A lot of the Carrot Top Records folk may do ya good. I've been partial to The Handsome Family and Lys Guillorn, myself.

SaintCynr and la morte de bea arthur's lists are pretty solid. Calexico/Iron & Wine's "In The Reins" is a great idea, as well as Jenny Lewis' "Rabbit Fur Coat", which is a perfect summation of her country explorings. (All of her other stuff disappoints by comparison if you're looking for alt-country.)

Seek out Elvis Costello's fairly recent album "The Delivery Man", too. It's a bit of a hidden gem. (Or it was to me, anyway.)
posted by greenland at 9:15 AM on October 27, 2008

Freedy Johnston
posted by limeswirltart at 9:29 AM on October 27, 2008

Tarnation.. much overlooked but really good IMHO, beautiful vocals, slide guitar. highly recommend.

The Mekons - Fear and Whiskey & Journey to the End of the Night are my favorites

Also check out a Washington DC band, Shortstack

Tori Amos gets kind of alt-country on Scarlet's Walk actually.

Nina Nastasia
posted by citron at 9:30 AM on October 27, 2008

Heh - I have been suckered into country by three artists - Johnny Cash, Cowboy Junkies & Corb Blund.

There is not a day that goes by without me listening to Corb - prior to his "alt-country" career, he was part of "The Smalls".

However, Corb can write lyrics like no one else - and performs 'em very well.

IMO - the best albums are:
- 5 Dollar Bill
- Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!
(I have them all, but those two get the most play for me)
posted by jkaczor at 9:34 AM on October 27, 2008

Uncle Earl
posted by collocation at 9:52 AM on October 27, 2008

Seconding Great Lake Swimmers.

Also, there are some artists on the soundtrack to the movie Shortbus that you might find to your liking.
posted by archimago at 10:21 AM on October 27, 2008

Best answer: There was a big resurgence of this about three to five years ago in Ann Arbor, where I covered rock/pop music. Most of the bands are still going, but there are some stone classics there.

Dabenport—Dabenport's self-titled debut album is still one of my favorites, now four or five years out. It's got gorgeous guy/girl harmonies, subtle pedal guitar work, and achingly beautiful melodies. I remember playing it on a portable CD player in an airport, halfway around the world from my girlfriend and it hit that sublime mix of joy and longing and regret. It's one of those rare albums that is emotionally perfect for nearly every moment of my life, whether tempering hope with nostalgia or tinging melancholy with uplift. As for the rest of their work, the lead singer from this album got pregnant by her engineer husband, who didn't want her hanging out in smoky bars (which, I suppose, she didn't want to anymore either), and so she left the band. The other lead singer, the guy Aaron, he was the writer and main force behind the band, and he's kept on, replacing her with other women, college students mostly, who never have the same voice or tension and always left me fundamentally unsatisfied—they were all good, but the first girl, that first girl was absolutely great and will never come back.

I've bought this album three times now, after being given a promo twice. I give it to friends, I drop it on mixes, I come back to it every now and then. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Matt Jones—Matt Jones was the drummer for a while with Dabenport, but writes his own stuff. He's accessible through their myspace too. He leans toward the rhythmic whump of acoustic guitars, and always reminds me of someone else even when I know the people he's singing about. He's lately trended towards softer and more strings (last I heard, he was dating a violinist), but he's still worth listening to for alt. country.

Chris Bathgate—His uncle (I think his name is Tim Steil) is a MeFite, which I only found out pretty recently. He has the slow, quiet reserve of folks like Bonny Prince Billy but can rip it up on occasion.

Great Lakes Myth Society—Despite an unwieldy name (better than their previous Original Brothers and Sisters of Love), the GLMS makes music that's incredibly easy to get and to love. Combining the sea chanteys of Great Lakes sailors with country and folk tunes, the melodies can seem archaic but the lyrics are always contemporary. They're Michigan now, informed by the past, rather than slaves to it. And if you ever needed a song to make you love a salt truck's spray on the highway, they've got it.

Corndaddy—Corndaddy trends toward the rockin' hootin' shoutin' side of country rock, knocking out burners like they were made for long drunk nights at the state fair.

Volebeats—The Volebeats were making revival rock in the '80s, before anyone knew it was coming back. They kept going through the 90s, even as one of the main songwriters, Matthew Smith, got famous for his band Outrageous Cherry. More history here.

There's also, if you're interested, even further afield stuff to be found: The damaged campfire chants of Patrick Elkins, the tape-loop fuckery folk of Actual Birds, the emotionally-raw and never in-key Kelly Caldwell (sometime singer for Saturday Looks Good To Me), the sophisticated Jim Roll, who's worked with writers like Denis Johnson (of Jesus' Son fame).
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 AM on October 27, 2008

Full-disclosure: The record label I work for is pretty much known for the a lot of "alt-country" listed in this thread. But I'd also like to recommend Ha Ha Tonka -- they're a young quartet on our label from the Ozarks, who have similar vocal harmonies of Fleet Foxes (whom I also love) and really smart songwriting. Some MP3s here; kick-ass video here.

Other bands I love (and not on my label): South San Gabriel was mentioned upthread, but I would also recommend Will Johnson's other project, Centro-Matic as well. They lean more towards the Spoon-ish end of indie rock, but have some rootsier moments.

Also: AA Bondy. Oh! And Richard Buckner.

There's also a bunch of new-school Nashvillians (some who are bringing back old-school Opry): Clem Snide, Lambchop, Bobby Bare Jr, Justin Townes Earle, Paul Burch, David Vandervelde, Ghostfinger, etc ... Everything from Countrypolitan to honky-tonk to just rock.
posted by pfafflin at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Love love love Cub Country.
posted by autojack at 11:00 AM on October 27, 2008

Try listening to Boot Liquor Radio, which plays a wide range of Americana/folk/country music. I got into a whole load of new artists from listening to it.

If nobody's mentioned the Drive-By Truckers yet, then I will.
posted by essexjan at 11:25 AM on October 27, 2008

Pfafflin mentions the Volebeats, which reminds that Laura Cantrell is pretty great, and does a killer version of their song Two Seconds.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:55 AM on October 27, 2008

Yonder Mountain String Band - I grew up in Virginia hating country music, but I caught this band at a festival and now I can't get enough. They're light enough on the country sound and can really jam.
posted by Mark5four0 at 12:06 PM on October 27, 2008

Townes Van Zandt's live performances are great. That's straight country but you will love it. Try "A Gentle Evening With Townes Van Zandt" and "Live at the Old Quarter..."

Nobody has mentioned Richard Buckner yet, and he's my favorite Alt-Country artist.

Will also pile on recommendations of Okkervil River, Will Oldham, and Iron & Wine.
posted by brandsilence at 12:18 PM on October 27, 2008

The Be Good Tanyas and (already mentioned) Old Crow Medicine Show.
posted by sa3z at 12:31 PM on October 27, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, you guys are amazing! AskMe comes through again! I think I've got months of new music ahead of me. Keep it coming!
posted by !Jim at 12:41 PM on October 27, 2008

Check out Attack in Black, especially their vinyl/itunes only release, Curve of the Earth.
posted by philscience at 1:18 PM on October 27, 2008

Hayes Carll may be a little too Dylan-esque for you, but is really good. Won the Americana Music Association award for "Song of the Year" this year (though it's not one of my favorite songs by him.)

Also worth checking out:
Will Kimbrough
Todd Snider
Tommy Womack
Scott Miller & The Commonwealth (especially "Reconstruction")
Patty Griffin
Allison Moorer (especially "The Hardest Part")
The Bottle Rockets

And a lot of other people already mentioned in this thread.
posted by whatideserve at 2:55 PM on October 27, 2008

If you like Neko Case, you'll probably like The Sadies. They toured with her a few years back and also played as her back-up band on the same tour.
posted by ga$money at 3:52 PM on October 27, 2008

Fake Problems
posted by symbollocks at 6:54 PM on October 27, 2008

Shame on everyone for not mentioning Pavement (Range Life, duh. Also Father to a Sister of Thought). And then what about the Silver Jews? Ween has their Country album. There's some early Beck (Stereopathetic Soul Manure) where he gets a little country.

I know they're not indie, but I'd throw Cracker in there too.

These are all a little more indie/alt than country. But these are obvious choices.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 7:01 PM on October 27, 2008

Let me second Cuff the Duke, the Sadies, Neko Case, Gillian Welch, Great Lakes Swimmers

Not yet mentioned: Jon-Rae and the River, Bowerbirds, songs:ohia and/or magnolia electric company.

Also, sooner or later I think you should consider wandering over here.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:16 AM on October 28, 2008

More to the alt: folk side of things, but it sounds like you might like Breathe Owl Breathe. They're one of the best bands I started listening to this year.
posted by pipstar at 3:33 AM on October 28, 2008

posted by softlord at 5:44 AM on October 28, 2008

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