Monday, August 16, 2004

Is Alt-Country Dead?

From the Dallas Morning News an article on how alt-country became musical roadkill by THOR CHRISTENSEN:

"The exuberance it had in the beginning has faded away now," says singer Alejandro Escovedo. "I don't think alternative country really exists anymore. It was just a little spark, and it didn't really change anything."

So how did this "next big thing" wind up as just roadkill on the music-biz annual report?

Like so many fizzled experiments in pop music, it was a mix of unrealistic expectations and bad marketing. It was also a case of déjà vu.

In the early '80s – 10 years before anyone thought to add "alt" to "country" – the movement was known as "cowpunk." As Lone Justice, Jason & the Scorchers and Rank & File began attracting critics and radio play, predictions of platinum records swirled

"When it started, it was just punk rock," says Mr. Escovedo, ex-member of Rank & File. "We were listening to Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins and Chuck Berry, just trying to educate the audience and ourselves about all these great things you never heard on the radio."

The article goes on to site the influence of Uncle Tupelo and the "No Depression" sound.

"Any music that has the word 'country' in it, people under 21 immediately think 'dumb-ass redneck," says Old 97's guitarist Ken Bethea. "It's like a wall: The rock crowd that buys popular music hates country. If Neil Young and Tom Petty came out today, they'd be called 'alt-country,' and they'd be doomed."

More on those alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo.


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