By definition, “Alternative Country” would seem to be any country music outside of the mainstream. Easy enough … except that music genres have been splitting and dividing at an ever-increasing pace. And now Alternative Country is a label shunned by almost all artists tagged with this descriptor. Why is that?
Part of the problem might be that artists playing Alternative Country – also once known as “No Depression” – by their very nature tend to consider themselves beyond categorization. Their music melds the elements of varying influences such as American roots music, rock & roll, rockabilly, bluegrass, honky-tonk and even punk, and tends to reflect the immediate needs and yearnings of our culture. Alternative Country subgenres seem to burst from an organic source, with artists communing together in specific geographical locations – recording together, playing in multiple bands and then splitting again to write and perform new music … again rejecting popular music’s desire to categorize and define their craft.
So, the problem with defining this type of music (as we’ve just done), is that it defies definition. Let’s just say, you’ll know the Alt Country sound when you hear it.
This afternoon on Great River Radio we will take a closer listen to this music in what we are calling “Alternative Country A-to-Z.” We’ll listen to some of the artists who forged this sound – A P Carter, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons. We’ll try to unravel the influences and troubled lineage of the Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, Son Volt and Wilco sound. We’ll hear from some of the local players in this movement, both past (The Jayhawks and Gear Daddies) and present (Romantica). And finally, we’ll talk about where this music is headed today under the Insurgent Country genre with such bands as A Night in the Box, the Floorbirds and the Get Up Johns.
It’s an ambitious two hours of music this afternoon. One that you won’t want to miss.
Join us from 4-6 p.m. today for Great River Radio.
A: My Winding Wheel-Ryan Adams
B: Four Winds-Bright Eyes
C: San Quentin-Johnny Cash
D: Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife-Drive-By Truckers
E: I Ain’t Ever Satisfied-Steve Earle
F: Frankie’s Gun!-The Felice Brothers
G: Do-Re-Mi- Woody Guthrie
H: Good Fortune-Joe Henry
I: I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow-The Soggy Mountain Boys
J: Waiting for the Sun-The Jayhawks
K: Killing The Blues-Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
L: Jesus On A Greyhound-Shelby Lynne
M: That’s Just How She Cries-Buddy & Julie Miller
N: Star Witness-Neko Case
O: Plus Ones-Okkervil River
P: Love Hurts-Gram Parsons
Q/R: Queen of Hearts-Romantica
S: Our Time Will Come-Clem Snide
W: Jackson-Lucinda Williams (1)
T: Live Free-Son Volt
U: The Long Cut-Uncle Tupelo
V: Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel-Townes Van Zandt
W: California Stars
(1) Yes, we know that T follows S but we were talking and missed the cue
(2) We ran out of time for Z, but we had one and will keep it a secret until a later show.