Continuing on, finally, with the Alyt country postings:
The 1980s closed with the lethargic and uninspiring popular country music sounding like a pop barrage that could have passed for a heavily processed studio version of [name bad live singer here/band here]. In the 1990s many musicians who loved rock/punk/metal rediscovered Parsons, Cash, Jones, Williams, and the old rootsy sounds of country. They decided to forge their own path in a modern way, but giving homage to the old greats.
Alt Country found its own with many 1990s bands that are legendary today: Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo, Lucinda Williams, Son Volt, Richard Buckner, Wilco, Golden Smog, Bruce Robison, Slobberbone, The Cultivators, Rosie Flores, Bap Kennedy, Judith Edelman, Hazeldine, Frog Holler, Kelly Willis, Fred Eaglesmith and the Flying Squirrels, James McMurtry, the demigod Robert Earl Keen, Charlie Robison, Gillian Welch, Drive By-Truckers, Mavericks, Southern Culture on the Skids, Calexico, Flat Duo Jets, Chuck Prophet, Chris Knight, Kim Richey, Josh Rouse, Silver Jews, Bad Livers, Bonepony, Old 97s, Cheri Knight, Kelly Willis, Backsliders, Blue Mountain, Bottle Rockets, and, the god Steve Earle, and many, many others…..
The 1990s were an explosion of the Alt Country genre, and creativity reigned. The cities in a triangle of Raleigh, Austin, and a few midwest cities produced a lot of quality acts. In 2011, I will highlight as much as youtube and other net sites allow for their music to shine, these acts and many others. I will not necessarily proceed in order, but perhaps as I will proceed in a way that considers their importance.
Is the 1990s a golden age? I think so. My favorite songs and acts to this day are from this era. The reason many think alt country is dead today is because there is no mass of talent we saw in the 1990s. This is partly because of the explosion the 1990s acts brought about, but it is also because of the path they cut that no other has since. All alt country bands are merely treading their path. There would be no alt country explosion without the Byrds, Parsons, and certainly Jason & the Scorchers. This era was all, or mostly, an indie label movement. Jason & the Scorchers were the first to ridicule and criticize in a public way Nashville’s canned songs and song writers. Nashville, became a focal point of intense ridicule and unartistic expression. Not all alt country bands succeeded. Some of it was very bad, but a lot was better than pop-country radio could deign to compete.
The 1990s spawned a great internet movement that began to take notice of the serious musicians and songwriters of the decade. Postcard was the Tupelo list site that center around the band, but knew the path they were cutting was the beginning of something special. Postcard2 soon followed and was a clearinghouse of all things alt country. Next? No Depression Magazine (now only on the net, and named in honor of Tupelo, and the song from the Carter Family from way back). Then a whole host of websites came online. I particularly like the Chuck Taggart essay, which has been online for at least a decade–and I think more.
AOL Radio began its own alt country channel in the 90s. It was, as they say, a wonderful time. I did nothing but listen to Aol during this time as terrestrial radio floundered and wondered why. Sirius/XM was just around the corner.
A note: it is during this time that alt country also became known as (count em)–Torch and Twang, Roots, Y’all ternative, Twang Core, Americana, No Depression (the same name of the great magazine), cowpunk, insurgent country, and my own concoction, thrash country, etc.
Next up: Uncle Tupelo