Can anyone recommend some alt.country?
October 28, 2004 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend some alt.country? I remember I had a mix cd a few years ago that had some really nice stuff on it (Lucinda Williams singing "Passionate Kisses" really stands out in my memory) but I have no idea where to start. I really like the female vocalist aspect, but I am open to all suggestions. Bonus if I can snag it on iTunes.
posted by sugarfish to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
much of tanya donelly's solo albums are very country in sound and sensibility (particularly the brilliant single "after your party", a beautysleep b-side, and the little ditty "goat girl" from lovesongs for underdogs) like most reviewers, i found whiskey tango ghosts (her most recent album) a little boring, but it has one or two little gems in it.

i also put the jesus & marychain album darklands in the alt-country category, but am frequently called a freak for doing so.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:28 AM on October 28, 2004


The Be Good Tanyas
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:36 AM on October 28, 2004


Since you like Lucinda Williams, you should look into Neko Case, Julie Miller, Gillian Welch (only her last one is subpar), Rosie Flores, Freakwater (country offshoot of Chicago's alt.noise Eleventh Dream Day) and Emmylou Harris of course (later works like Spyboy and Red Dirt Girl are less traditional). Also try Boston's Mr. Airplane Man, for a more bluesey stripped down take. (in fact, not really alt.country, but real interesting)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:42 AM on October 28, 2004


I second stupidsexyFlanders recommendations.

Also, if you missed Mary Chapin Carpenter's stuff (she did win a Grammy, so a lot of people have heard of her, and this might be pointless), go back and grab some of her albums -- she is fabulous. In fact, she covered passionate kisses.

You might also like the folk angle: Patty Griffin, Nanci Griffith, Dar Williams (maybe start with Mortal City or Honesty Room). Eva Cassidy does mostly covers of mainstream stuff but her voice is a pleasure to listen to.
posted by weston at 9:59 AM on October 28, 2004


I'm quoting from a recent email exchenge where the question "what concert shall we go to?" was discussed...
...Robbie Fulks is the baddest ass alternative-country artist in the chicago area, maybe even the world. if you think Wilco is alt-country, this guy will show you the truth. a strong part of blood shot records (which has other artist like the Waco Brothers, the Sadies, Old 97's, and the Bottle Rockets) Robbie started as a slack-keyed guitarist before writing his own music and producing for Bloodshot. he does everything. honky tonk, straight up country, bluegrass, power pop. and you always get at least one Michael Jackson cover at every concert. I've yet to see a show of his that was anything but amazing. And everyone I've ever taken (shy of one) have always asked me when we're going to see him again.

amazing songs by Robbie:

She took a lotta pills (& died)
We'll burn together
Roots rock weirdos
Fuck this town
Let's kill saturday night
Also, he's on the iTunes music store.
posted by funkbrain at 10:04 AM on October 28, 2004


Not mentioned yet:

Uncle Tupelo, which split into Wilco and Son Volt. Sorta.
Lucy Kaplansky.
Cry Cry Cry (Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky, and Richard Shendell doing covers).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:11 AM on October 28, 2004


I could go into this subject at length, but I'm going to start by recommending that you check out This is Americana, a very inexpensive disk recently put out by the Americana Music Association that would be another excellent sampler of what's out there. It's about $2 or so.

Some of my favourites in the female vocal categories - Neko Case, Allison Moorer, Tift Merrit, Oh Susannah.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:11 AM on October 28, 2004


I also like Trailer Bride.

And you might want to check out the Bloodshot Records label; they've got some great people.
posted by occhiblu at 10:12 AM on October 28, 2004


Yes, Neko Case, and don't miss seeing her live if she comes to town. She's as sexy and witty and beautiful as her voice. I would quit my job to be her hair roadie, if she'd have me.

She's on Bloodshot Records, a great label for what you're looking for. Kelly Hogan, Sally Timms, Jo Walston (lead vocal for The Meat Purveyors) -- all release consistently great records and every Bloodshot band show I've ever attended has been worth it (high levels of skill, energy, fun, booty-shaking, boot-stomping, etc).
posted by melissa may at 10:15 AM on October 28, 2004


Jinx, occhiblu!
posted by melissa may at 10:17 AM on October 28, 2004


Yep Roc Records has a pretty good roster of artists (Dave Alvin, Los Straightjackets, Two Dollar Pistols, etc.)
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:19 AM on October 28, 2004


I'm not a huge country fan, but I also like Neko Case. Check out Bobby Bare, Jr. too.

Edith Frost is not really considered country, but she may be right up your alley. She has 3 albums, plus a free album of her demos is available for download.
posted by pitchblende at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2004


Repeating suggestions for Gillian Welch (how dare you say Soul Journey is subpar! Shame!), Oh Susanna (I still think Johnstown's her best cd) and Freakwater. Also, please try Old Crow Medicine Show.
posted by transient at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2004


A couple of local faves are Diesel Doug and the Long Haul Truckers and the Piners. You could always try some old-skool stuff by Gram Parsons too.
posted by Icky at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2004


Speaking of bands with Trucker in the name, Drive-By Truckers is the current favorite in our house.

Also Whiskeytown (mucho better than Ryan Adams' solo ouvre, though don't miss his "Heartbreaker") and Caitlin Cary.

Check out the Geraldine Fibbers as well.

I also deeply love Dave Alvin.
posted by padraigin at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2004


allow me to add to the thundering chorus of NEKO CASE.
posted by mwhybark at 11:47 AM on October 28, 2004


Golden Smog is an occasional band containing members of Wilco, The Jayhawks, Run Westy Run and Dan Murphy from Soul Ayslum. Their albums are all excellent.

The Jayhawks are also well worth checking out.
posted by jeffmshaw at 11:50 AM on October 28, 2004


They might be skewing to the alt-ier side of alt country, but Vic Chesnutt and Lambchop are both great.
posted by picea at 12:01 PM on October 28, 2004


Everybody else already took my answers..... but I'll still go ahead and toss Kelly Hogan into the gumbo. As well as Jason Ringenberg and Steve Earle, of course.
posted by spilon at 12:02 PM on October 28, 2004


I just picked up a Jesse Sykes record that I'm quite fond of. It's alt.country of the pretty, downtempo variety.

Kelly Hogan, on Bloodshot, is also one of my favorites. I just saw her touring with Jon Rauhouse and his Steel Guitar Airshow.

The Drive-by Truckers are incredible, though louder and harder than what you mentioned earlier. I'd recommend Decoration Day or The Dirty South with maybe a slight inclination toward the former.

Bobby Bare Jr. is simply incredible. He writes songs similar to Clem Snide (whom I also recommend) but a little more sarcastic and a little more rock and a little more country. Before his death, Shel "Boy Named Sue" Silverstein used to edit all of Bare Jr.'s songs, so you can imagine the effect that would have on ones lyricism.

If you want to leave behind the "alt" a bit, pick up some Dale Watson. He's the last of the great honky-tonkers and if one of those artists about whom people say, "I don't like country, but I like..." Amazing baritone voice and stellar musicianship on the part of his band. Even if you don't like his records, he's well worth seeing live. He is about the most charismatic performer I've ever seen.
posted by stet at 12:11 PM on October 28, 2004


The Old 97's have moved into more of a pop place now, but they're still my favorites. Too Far to Care is the best record. All others save the latest are classics as well.

Whiskeytown (esp. Faithless Street), Bobby Bare Jr., Wilco, Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo as recommended above.
posted by yerfatma at 12:14 PM on October 28, 2004


I can't believe no one is giving props to Alejandro Escovedo. Start with More Miles Than Money, his live disc.
posted by blueshammer at 12:17 PM on October 28, 2004


On the more rock tinged edge of things, I'd heartily recommend both Jason & The Scorchers and the Bottle Rockets. For stuff from awhile back Lone Justice and E*I*E*I*O are both worth seeking out. As is anything by the Blasters.

For less rock-ish stuff there's Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam, and the estimable Billy Joe Shaver whose "Live Forever" is one of a select few songs that makes me openly weep.

And of course there's one of the grandaddies of them all....
posted by jonmc at 12:33 PM on October 28, 2004


Kelly Willis isn't touring as much since she started a family but she's a tremendous singer. What I Deserve may be her best album.

She and Robbie Fulks have done a couple of duets, too - you can get "Parallel Bars" on the excellent No Depression compilation.
posted by nicwolff at 12:38 PM on October 28, 2004


Silver Jews! Especially the American Water and Bright Flight albums.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:46 PM on October 28, 2004


Jason & The Scorchers audio here
posted by jonmc at 12:57 PM on October 28, 2004


while not quite alt.country, but more alt.bluegrass.....i am a huge fan of The Bad Livers very cool band out of austin. definitely check out the album "Delusions Of Banjor"
posted by ShawnString at 1:03 PM on October 28, 2004


Oh, gosh, thanks so much everyone! I will definitely be checking out all of your recommendations!

(I picked up This is Americana while I was out today, because, hey, two bucks. Getting ripped to my iPod... now.)
posted by sugarfish at 1:04 PM on October 28, 2004


real audio samples of the donelly stuff at 4ad
posted by crush-onastick at 1:08 PM on October 28, 2004


Pine Valley Cosmonauts
Cowboy Junkies
posted by joaquim at 1:33 PM on October 28, 2004


Scott Miller and the Commonwealth.
The Long Ryders.
posted by trox at 1:42 PM on October 28, 2004


If we're expanding the field to include Cowboy Junkies, then get yourself some Over the Rhine. Free stuff here, here, and here. (Start with this last link -- it's their most recent stuff, and some of their best, esp. of what's available online.)

Specific recommendations for Alejandro if you go the singles route: Last to Know, Pissed Off 2AM, Broken Bottle.
posted by blueshammer at 1:44 PM on October 28, 2004


Another vote for anything off Chicago's venerable Bloodshot Records. Also, the marvelous Sally Timms, Waco Bros., and Pine Valley Cosmonauts are all part of the grand family tree that is the Mekons, those beloved Chicago-by-way-of-Leeds country-punks. Their new 2-disc "best of" is a good place to start.

Also consider: Jolie Holland (folky alt-country that channels Billie Holiday), Chris Mills (has played with with Sally Timms, Steve Earle, Kelly Hogan, etc.) and my personal band-obsession-of-the-moment, Califone (I've raved about them elsewhere, but I just can't help myself), who cobble together a rustic-meets-futuristic blend of blues, folk, and electronica. The term "Alt-country" doesn't really do them justice (though they certainly have strong ties to that scene in Chicago) -- think of Tom Waits and Brian Eno in a codeine haze stumbling onstage to jam with Wilco.
posted by scody at 1:56 PM on October 28, 2004


...if you missed Mary Chapin Carpenter's stuff...

If you liked Williams' you may like Mary-Chapin Carpenter since MCC liked Passionate Kisses well enough to cover it.
posted by terrapin at 3:09 PM on October 28, 2004


Kasey Chambers
posted by gyc at 3:17 PM on October 28, 2004


I was going to post this hours ago but kept getting jruns. Now I'm too lazy to check who posted what so some of these are probably seconds or thirds.

boy singers (recommended album)
========

Robbie Fulks (country love songs)
OP8 (and girl singer as well)
The Sadies
The Handsome Family (in the air or through the trees)
Son Volt (trace)
Uncle Tupelo (march 16-20, 1992)
My Morning Jacket (tennesee fire)
Lonesome Bob (things fall apart)
The Star Room Boys (why do lonely men....)
Cuff the Duke (may not qualify as country. check the tunes on the site)
Paul Burch (wire to wire or pan american flash)
Lambchop (is a woman or what another man spills)
vic chesnut (drunk)
Johnny Dowd (wrong side of memphis)
Ass Ponys (lohio or some stupid with flare gun)
Pernice Brothers (australia 2002)
Jon Rae Fletcher and the River (the Road)
M Ward (amnesia)
Scud Mountain Boys
Palace Music (Viva Last Blues)
Bonnie Prince Billy (i see a darkness or master and everyone)
Bottle Rockets (see them live. albums don't do them justice)
Charlie Chesterman (songs from the book of flames)
Okkervil River
supersuckers (only Must've Been High)
Songs: Ohia (didn't it rain is best but axxess and aces is more country ish. impala is even more country)
Skydiggers (skydiggers)
Simon Joyner (songs for the new year)
Wil Oldham (day in the wake)


girl singers
=======

Sally Timms (twilight laments for lost buckaroos)
Neko Case
Freakwater (awesome band. try old paint)
Catherine Irwin (one of freakwater's singers)
Janet Beveridge Bean (the other FW singer)
Gillian Wlch (hell among the yearlings)
Jolie Holland
The Bad Livers
Sarah Harmer (songs for clem)
The Guthries (has both girl and boy singers - Off windmill is great album)
posted by dobbs at 3:28 PM on October 28, 2004


Oops. Bad Livers shoulda been in boy singers.
posted by dobbs at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2004


Calexico. Steve Earle (again). If you dig folkies, Townes Van Zandt. The Byrds' "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" (with Gram Parsons). Again with Kelly Willis and Oh Susanna.
posted by notsnot at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2004


You might also like a band Pete Krebs was in for a while Golden Delicious who cover some pretty traditional Americana songs and do some good ones of their own. I also like the Stairwell Sisters, the Crooked Jades, The Benders and The Mammals. Both the Stairwell Sisters and The Mammals have excellent female vocalists. You can listen to some free Mammals music here the song "Four Blue Walls" on that page is one of my favorites with some excellent vocals by Ruth Ungar.
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 PM on October 28, 2004


Iris DeMent, The Knitters, or the Knitters Tribute record.
posted by obloquy at 7:59 PM on October 28, 2004


Laura Cantrell. Her first record was the late John Peel's favorite album.
I think of the Magnetic Fields' Charm of the Highway Strip as a country album. I reckon Stephin Merritt does, too.
The Old 97s' charm has largely worn off for me, but their old stuff is goooood cowpunky fun times music.
Depending on how hillbilly you're willing to go, there's always the Gourds.
I'm told that Alejandro Escovedo is one of the very best at the alt.country, but for some reason I've never gotten around to listening to him myself.
I've got a soft spot for Radney Foster, but I don't usually admit it or recommend it to people I want to think I'm cool.
Kelly Willis is purty. She has a purty voice, but not the best taste in songwriters, if you ask me.
Kelly Hogan has much better taste in songwriters, and one hell of a voice.
posted by willpie at 8:12 PM on October 28, 2004


(also, Junior Brown and a big "word up" to Sally Timms)
posted by willpie at 8:15 PM on October 28, 2004


Neko Case
Wilco
Uncle Tupelo
Early Son Volt
Tift Merritt (I was in fourth grade with her and had the HUGEST crush...)
Junior Brown
Two Dollar Pistols (they did a nice EP with Tift)
Whiskeytown
Flaco Jimenez
Caitlin Cary
Giillian Welch. Oh God, Gillian Welch.
Alejandro Escovedo
Laura Cantrell
Okkervil River (another friend is in this band)
Alison Krauss
Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire
Lyle Lovett
Emmylou Harris
and it's not quite alt.country, but check out Ernest Tubb, Bob Wills, Johnny Cash, the Carter Family, et cetera.

How can no one have mentioned the Mavericks by now?

Pick up an issue of No Depression magazine and see what reviews push your buttons.
posted by Vidiot at 12:25 AM on October 29, 2004


Also check out Chuck Taggart's (yep, he's one of us) recommendations here.
posted by Vidiot at 12:32 AM on October 29, 2004


If you like Lucinda Williams, check out Jennie Stearns.
posted by maurice at 7:04 AM on October 29, 2004


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