Recommend me some grungy Americana/Alt-Country
September 13, 2019 11:50 AM   Subscribe

For a long time, if you asked me if I like Country music I would have just said, "well, I like Johnny Cash..." But the comments on this recent FPP sort of blew the doors off that facet of my musical taste. Can you recommend more music along these lines? I'm particularly interested in the raw-er sounding stuff.

Some artists from that post that I particularly liked:
Those Poor Bastards
Rachel Brooke
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Everything I heard on Nine Bullets Radio
posted by Ragged Richard to Media & Arts (49 answers total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
I love this question! What about:

Sturgill Simpson
Brandi Carlisle
Rural Alberta Advantage
Brian Fallon
posted by hepta at 12:01 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Shovels & Rope
posted by j_curiouser at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I just heard about Orville Peck last week and I have been listening to him nonstop ever since.
posted by mogget at 12:13 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Lucinda Williams, especially the album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:14 PM on September 13, 2019 [11 favorites]

You might like to explore the film Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus - looks like the music is easier to find than a streaming version of the film. It's definitely on the darker Southern Gothic side of Americana; you might enjoy 16 Horsepower or David Eugene Edwards' other act Woven Hand.
posted by vunder at 12:15 PM on September 13, 2019

Townes Van Zandt. I'd start with albums For the Sake of the Song or Our Mother the Mountain.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:21 PM on September 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

Pokey LaFarge might work for you
posted by kbuxton at 12:21 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would suggest Ned Van Go - Country with a punk attitude. The lead writer/singer from Ned Van Go, Ned Hill has solo album out also.
posted by tman99 at 12:23 PM on September 13, 2019

More toward the grungy Americana end of the spectrum:

Drivin N Cryin
Drive-By Truckers
posted by bassomatic at 12:37 PM on September 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

Jason Isbell
Drive-By Truckers

Also, the Bitter Southerner, which published the referenced FPP story, has a great end-of-year list of southern albums each year that always has some great country/Americana. It's always wide ranging (lots of great southern rap too) and I've picked up a bunch of a new favorites from it, including both Isbell and the DBT: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 12:41 PM on September 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Beyonce - Daddy Lessons
posted by soelo at 12:53 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Willie Nelson has probably more records than you can listen to in a lifetime.
posted by General Malaise at 12:59 PM on September 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I, too, once included Johnny Cash and Those Poor Bastards as the only country artists I liked. I found TPB from their cover of "I Walk the Line." I've since found these:

16 Horsepower
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir
Antic Clay
Creetch Holler
Crooked Brothers
The Dead South
The Dirt Daubers
The Goddamn Gallows
The Maledictions
Jay Munly
Marissa Nadler
The Pine Box Boys
Sons of Perdition
posted by Boxenmacher at 1:00 PM on September 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Hiss Golden Messenger
Margot Price
Andrew Combs

The Byrds
Gram Parsons
The Flying Burrito Brothers
Guy Clarke

and there's an amazing documentary Heartworn Highways, abiut the outlaw country scene in the 70s. There was a new one released fairly recently about the current americana scene in Tennessee, but I haven't scene it
posted by askmehow at 1:02 PM on September 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Everything that’s been mentioned plus:

Steve Earle
Rhett Miller and/or the Old 97s
Doug Sahm
Gene Clark

(they aren’t all grungey but I think you’ll enjoy them)
posted by sallybrown at 1:06 PM on September 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

Robbie Fulks, an hundred times. Grew up in the south, had a job in Nashville working at a songwriting company, and moved to Chicago after writing his Nashville swan song, F*ck This Town.

Fulks has an album of country covers, and album of Michael Jackson covers, a load of original albums (I'd recommend starting with Georgia Hard, and the followup live album Revenge!), and a few movie credits. He was Chicago based until very recently; he moved to California.

Seconding the crap out of Gram Parsons and his various musical enterprises. Likewise Drive-By Truckers, which has more or less been my favorite band in the last half of my life-- the modern titan that is Jason Isbell was writing for and playing in DBT for a few years before leaving (with some acrimony at the time, it sounds like, over his alcoholism-- he's been sober for half a decade now), and produced some greats.

Joe Pug and Justin Townes Earle are a couple of singer/songwriters I've picked up as people to listen to, by virtue of them opening for DBT or Jason Isbell.

If you like Shovels & Rope, as I do, give Houndmouth a try.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:17 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wanda Jackson is the definition of raw.

Sammi Smith's "This Room For Rent" is one of the darkest, saddest songs ever written, even though the tune is kinda upbeat. Brilliantly written, pure, aching American sorrow.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:31 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

For some vintage country rock, you might try Michael Nesmith & the First National Band.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:43 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Larry McMurtry's son, James McMurtry.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

I believe that grungy country is exactly what Sixteen Horsepower was.
posted by Beardman at 2:57 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, Mark Lanegan was literally O.G. grunge (Screaming Trees) who went country in his solo career. If you like Johnny Cash's baritone, there you go. He and Kurt Cobain had been planning to collaborate.
posted by Beardman at 3:00 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

nth Drive-by Truckers, Jason Isbell, 16 Horsepower, Orville Peck, Shovels & Rope.

Ben Nichols from Lucero wrote an album based on Blood Meridian.

Garrett T Capps is more Texas alt-country.

Have you heard Kacey Musgraves yet?
posted by a halcyon day at 3:34 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Jon Langford of The Mekons also heads up The Waco Brothers (more towards the country-punk side) and The Pine Valley Cosmonauts (leans more "classic" country and bluegrass.)

You'll notice both those links are subsites of Bloodshot Records - poking through their catalog should land you some other acts in the vein you're looking for.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:06 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Handsome Family
posted by pipeski at 4:18 PM on September 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Knitters
Neko Case
Um, is Wilco too obvious/not country enough?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 4:38 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you find you like bluegrass (Carolina Chocolate Drops are definitely in that realm), you might like some of these Cincinnati musicians:
Maria Carrelli
The Tillers
Jake Speed and the Freddies
posted by mostly vowels at 5:30 PM on September 13, 2019

Tyler Childers. My two favourites by him are Follow You To Virgie and Feathered Indians.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 5:38 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

So I was gonna do an alt-country trivia thing, and put together a list of alt-country acts from which to build questions. Missed the deadline for the trivia contest, but here's the list for your pleasure:

Uncle Tupelo (the original "alt-country" band)
Son Volt
Townes van Zandt (mentioned above)
Steve Earle
Gram Parsons
Rodney Crowell
Emmylou Harris
Bottle Rockets
Chris Knight
Old 97's
Tift Merritt
Fred Eaglesmith
Robbie Fulks
Richard Buckner
Blue Mountain
Drive-by Truckers
Jason Isbell
Chuck Prophet
Alejandro Escovedo
Be Good Tanyas
Kelly Willis
Bruce Robison
Rex Bell
Lucinda Williams
Clem Snide/Eef Barzelay
Ass Ponys
Wussy (twangy drone pop)
Neko Case
Kelly Hogan
Handsome Family
James McMurtry
Jason Ringenberg
Split Lip Rayfield
Two Cow Garage
Oh Susanna
Waco Brothers
Gillian Welch
Meat Purveyors
Slaid Cleaves
Iris DeMent
Tom Russell
Cowboy Junkies
Guy Clark
Jason Molina/Songs:Ohia/Magnolia Electric
Baseball Project
Nanci Griffith
Flying Burrito Brothers
Blood Oranges
Billy Joe Shaver
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Blue Rodeo
Dale Watson
Pretty much, look at the previous lineups for Twangfest, and back issues of No Depression magazine.
posted by notsnot at 5:45 PM on September 13, 2019 [9 favorites]

I'm particularly interested in the raw-er sounding stuff.

Get you a dark night, a lonely road to drive, and Chris Whitley's "Make the Dirt Stick."

I recently found my copy of Whitley's "Living With the Law" (RIP, that man had a gift) and I've been listening to this song over and over. It's not strictly country--more than a little blues--but raw and powerful. "Phone Call From Leavenworth" is my second favorite off that album, I think. And "Bordertown"...
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:48 PM on September 13, 2019

Lots of good recommendations above! Here are some more current artists:

Colter Wall
Sarah Shook and the Disarmers
Lydia Loveless
John Moreland
Mount Moriah
Phil Cook (particularly Southland Mission)

You might also get a kick out of Hank III, Straight to Hell is the album I’ve listened to the most.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 6:00 PM on September 13, 2019

Steve Earle, covering Nirvana: "Breed"
Lucinda Williams, covering AC/DC: "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock and Roll)" and her "West Memphis"
James McMurtry: "God Bless America" (not a cover)
Drive-By Truckers, "Daddy's Cup"
Ray Wylie Hubbard (my favorite T-shirt): "Snake Farm"

Dr. Wu kindly introduced me to the work of Andre Williams, who is greasy, if not grungy.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:11 PM on September 13, 2019

I've been listening to Little Big Town quite a bit lately. I got turned on to them when they were touring with Sugarland some years ago. The two bands frequently shared the stage (and often, often, often covered other musicians), and it is crystal clear that they LOVE playing together.

Sugarland broke up for a while, but I hear they're back together and touring again.

YouTube has some pretty decent recordings of their live covers, which is probably the best way to approach them before digging into their original stuff.

Walking in Memphis - includes some backstage stuff.
Life in a Northern Town - from the CMA awards show.

The lineup for this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is not a terrible place to start, either.
posted by toxic at 6:54 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hayes Carll, Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:21 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

nthing Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell. Especially the albums Decoration Day and The Dirty South, when Isbell was a trucker himself.

Also I don't think John Moreland or James McMurtry have been nthed enough so far. Especially McMurtry's Complicated Game album, which is not only friggin brilliant but includes the best driving song ever: How'm I Gonna Find You Now
posted by wps98 at 7:28 PM on September 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

And as soon as I post I remember the name of the band I was hunting for the entire time: The Cave Singers. I love their first album.
posted by dobbs at 9:17 PM on September 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Since a million people he’s played with have been recommended, I’m gonna suggest my uncle, Fats Kaplin. His solo stuff is primarily instrumental, but any album you can find him on as a band member or session musician is worth listening to.

My aunt, Kristi Rose, likely also applies, though her discography is slimmer.

I think you might particularly enjoy the music they’ve created as a duo.

Both have stuff available on Spotify and Apple Music.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:43 AM on September 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

Will Oldham
Bill Callahan
posted by dobbs at 7:27 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a Spotify playlist that I call "Twangish" that I've been working off and on for several years. Features a lot of folks mentioned already in this thread (and quite a few that aren't). I haven't added much to it recently, but it currently stands at 99 songs and just shy of six hours. Meant to be played on shuffle.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:45 AM on September 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Americana Fest is going on right now, give me a couple hours and I’ll get you a rec
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:19 AM on September 14, 2019

I'd mention that record by Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon but I'd probably get a chair thrown at my head.

Seconding Richard Buckner.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 10:21 AM on September 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Greg Cartwright's bands Reigning Sound and Compulsive Gamblers. The Root Damage compilation by Sympathy for the Record Industry.
posted by Rykey at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2019

Oh, and! Gibson Brothers (from Ohio, not New York), Jon Wayne, Roky Erickson, and Evan Johns & His H-Bombs.
posted by Rykey at 8:04 PM on September 14, 2019

You might want to give Otis Taylor a shot....

NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

Recapturing the Banjo is a great album. A couple of tracks:

Ten Million Slaves

Ran So Hard The Sun Went Down
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:50 AM on September 15, 2019

Shakey Graves
nthing Shovels & Rope
posted by D.Billy at 7:53 PM on September 15, 2019

Response by poster: Whew, thanks everyone - I have my work cut out for me! No best answers because they're all great. I guess the only question now is: which one of you wants to buy me a banjo?
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:53 PM on September 16, 2019

16 Horsepower
The Handsome Family
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Furnace Room Lullaby era Neko Case
posted by clumbsy at 8:21 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Bloodshot Records would be a good place to start. They have some great compilations. This one is my favorite.

Lucinda Williams, Alejandro Escovedo, the Old 97s earlier stuff (like Hitchike to Rhome), the Mekons, Robbie Fulks, all have that sound you are looking for.

Another one of my favorite compilations is Por Vida: A Tribute To The Songs Of Alejandro Escovedo. It has a bunch of great artists. I prefer some of his songs performed by other people!
posted by apricot at 8:20 AM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

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