History of Country Vol. 22 – 2007-12
Alternative country (known in the style of the Internet newsgroups that championed the movement as alt.country), or Americana, combined the genre with its close cousin folk, just as its patron Emmylou Harris had done two decades earlier. Some artists who started off in country’s mainstream found themselves confined to the Americana ghetto, such as Steve Earle, Townes van Zandt, John Prine, Nanci Griffiths, Lucinda Williams and Jim Lauderdale. The birth of alt.country may be pinpointed to the 1990 release of the album No Depression by Uncle Tupelo (featuring Jeff Tweedy, later of Wilco, and Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn, later of Son Volt). The album’s title itself is symbolic, borrowing from a song by the Carter Family, the immensely influential group of the 1920s and ’30s which mainstream country had long forgotten.
Back then, the genre in which the Carter Family and their contemporaries recorded was known as folk, before the title country began to stick in the late 1940s. Woody Guthrie, the godfather of folk, was part of that tradition. Half a century later, alt.country and Americana drew from both the country and folk traditions, as well as the cowpunk sub-culture of the 1980s, with some acts impossible to define.
Other acts, such as Bright Eyes and Tweedy’s Wilco, move across genres. Other acts still move from other genres into country, sometimes temporarily, such as Ben Kweller, the Texan prodigy who in 2009 released a most exquisite country album after a decade in singer-songwriter pop.
The terms alt-country and Americana have fallen out of favour, even as no alternative names have gained currency. Perhaps it is right to call artists such as Tift Merritt, Shelby Lynn or Allison Moorer just Country; it is singers like them, Krauss, Lambert and Wilson – surely not the likes Taylor Swift – who help keep the traditions of country music alive.
This concludes the History of Country series.
There is a mix, of course. Download link and PW in the comments section.
1. Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles – Stop & Think It Over
2. Gretchen Wilson – One Of The Boys
3. Brad Paisley – I’m Still A Guy
4. Miranda Lambert – Love Letters
5. Patty Griffin – Long Ride Home
6. Lucinda Williams – Fancy Funeral
7. Wilco – Either Way
8. Tift Merritt – I Know What I’m Looking For Now
9. Jordan Trotter – I Want You
10. Rodney Crowell – Sex And Gasoline
11. Drive-By Truckers – George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues
12. Shelby Lynne – Old #7
13. Justin Townes Earle – Working For The MTA
14. Dylan LeBlanc – 5th Avenue Bar
15. Willie Nelson – I Am A Pilgrim
16. Gillian Welch – Six White Horses
17. Alison Krauss & Union Station – Miles To Go
18. Lori McKenna – The Luxury Of Knowing
19. Ashton Shepherd – Where Country Grows
20. Gretchen Peters – Hello Cruel World
21. Mary Chapin Carpenter – What To Keep And What To Throw Away
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