Results for alt-country

interviews

Lydia Loveless

Country and punk might seem like strange musical bedfellows, but don't tell that to Lydia Loveless. On her new record Indestructible Machine, the rising alt-country star sings country songs about small town life, drinking too much, and cheating partners with a punk rock snarl. She performs a few of those tracks live in the studio this week. Lydia's embrace of country and punk has a lot to do with her upbringing. She grew up in Coshocton, a small town in rural Ohio where her dad booked country bands. By the time she was thirteen she was playing new wave music in Columbus bars with her sisters. Lydia chafed at her parochial surroundings as a teen, and that angst continues to inform her songwriting. If nothing else, Coshocton provided Lydia with ample material. Just take a listen to her performance of "Steve Earle," a tune about her hometown stalker.

Go to episode 348

Mike Heidorn of Uncle Tupelo

You can trace alternative country's roots to the 1960's when rock musicians such as Gram Parsons, The Byrds and the Flatlanders began dabbling with and reinvigorating country music. It was part of a wider investigation of American roots music in rock, a move toward more“authentic”styles. These rockers looked to country greats like Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard for inspiration — Bob Dylan famously collaborated with Cash on "Girl From the North Country." In the '70s and early '80s, a new generation of punk rockers started digging into traditional country for inspiration, including X, The Mekons, Rank & File, Jason and the Scorchers and the Long Ryders. Then third wave of alt country hit in the late '80s and early '90s, led by The Jayhawks out of Minneapolis and Uncle Tupelo, the trio of Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, out of Belleville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. Uncle Tupelo's debut album,“No Depression,”took its name from a Carter Family song, "No Depression in Heaven," and it's one of many the key albums in defining the alt-country movement of this era. We have this band to thank for groups like Farrar's Son Volt, Tweedy's Wilco, Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, the Drive-By-Truckers and the Old 97's …and not to mention No Depression Magazine. Legacy Recordings recently reissued No Depression, complete with some never before released demo tracks from 1987 to 1989. And to talk about it, Jim and Greg are joined by Uncle Tupelo's founding drummer Mike Heidorn.

Go to episode 442

Neko Case

This week's guest is singer/songwriter Neko Case. It's hard to categorize Neko's music. Some call her "alt-country." Others throw the word "soul" in there. But whatever you call it, fans and critics alike are happy to hear it. In addition to making her own music, Neko records and performs with Canadian pop band The New Pornographers. After wrapping up her current tour, Neko will go out on tour with the New Pornographers in support of their new album.

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is Neko's most successful album to date. It's also one for which she did much more of the songwriting. Neko credits that songwriting with learning to play the tenor guitar. Greg compares Neko's guitar playing to that of Steve Howe, but she likes to think of herself as more of a Paul Butterfield.

Neko calls Fox Confessor Brings the Flood her most“smart-ass”album. The way in which the songwriter tells stories on the record is in large part inspired by Eastern European folktales. Neko grew up listening to this style of storytelling from her Ukrainian grandparents and appreciated how open-ended and non-judgmental the tales were.

Two of the songs Neko performs for the show have unique inspirations. The first, "That Teenage Feeling," was written after her guitarist, Paul Rigby, exclaimed that he didn't feel the need to get married for the sake of getting married. Rather, he desired that simpler, no-strings feeling that love gives you when you are a teenager. The second song, "Margaret vs. Pauline," is based on a book by Beat novelist and poet Richard Brautigan called In Watermelon Sugar. Jim's relieved to hear the song has a far less ominous meaning than he thought. You can also hear a bonus performance of "Sometimes When I Get To Thinking" by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Go to episode 71
reviews
Fox Confessor Brings the FloodFox Confessor Brings the Flood available on iTunes

Neko Case Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Next up Jim and Greg review the latest release from Chicago native Neko Case. Many people know Neko thorugh her work with The New Pornographers, but on her solo albums, she shows her alt-country side and really gets to shine. On Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko is joined by longtime collaborators like Jon Rauhouse and Kelly Hogan, as well new musicians like Howe Gelb. For Greg, this is Neko's best album. As always he is impressed by Neko's exceptional voice, and he also notes the powerful songwriting. Jim agrees, though he wishes Neko would let more of her upbeat, Tammy Wynette side show through. Nevertheless, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood gets a Buy It rating from both critics.

JimGreg
Go to episode 14
Taking the Long WayTaking the Long Way available on iTunes

Dixie Chicks Taking the Long Way

Three years after telling a London audience, ""We're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas," Natalie Maines and her fellow Dixie Chicks are making headlines again with a new album. And, with singles like "Not Ready to Make Nice," the statement they want to make is clear. Some of their critics might have desired an apology, but on Taking the Long Way, they receive no such thing. Because of this, the band is again being rejected by certain country radio programmers. The real issue, however, is whether or not audiences will embrace the album, which is not a straight-up country record. Produced by Rick Rubin, and written with help from Sheryl Crow and members of Semisonic and The Jayhawks, it has more of a California-rock feel. Jim appreciates that they moved away from the Top 40 Country, but wishes they had taken it even farther, towards a more authentic, alt-country roots sound like Jenny Lewis or Neko Case. He gives it a Burn It. Greg is most taken with Natalie Maines‘ vocals, but also can’t recommend that people buy the album. However, he does think that anyone interested in music should hear it and gives Taking the Long Way another Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 26
Honey MoonHoney Moon available on iTunes

The Handsome Family Honey Moon

The Handsome Family has a new album out this week called Honey Moon. Like the title, many of the songs on the album relate nature to love. Love songs are a dime a dozen, but both Jim and Greg are hugely impressed with what the husband and wife duo of Brett and Rennie Sparks do with the topic. Brett has mastered their home studio, bringing their alt-country sound to a more pop one. And, according to our hosts, Rennie is one of the greatest songwriters working in rock today. Both Jim and Greg give Honey Moon a Buy It, and Jim also encourages listeners to go back to the duo's 1998 masterpiece Through the Trees.

JimGreg
Go to episode 178
dijs

Jim

“Ghosts of American Astronauts”The Mekons

It's Jim's turn to add a song he can't live without to the Desert Island Jukebox. To honor the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, he chooses "Ghosts of American Astronauts" by The Mekons. Jim was initially daunted by the Chicago punk/alt-country band. They've been going for three decades, so where do you start? So Good It Hurts was the doorway for him, and he discovered how smart, political and also seductive they can be on songs like "Ghosts of American Astronauts."

Go to episode 191
lists

Best of 2006: Listeners' Picks

Jim and Greg sounded off on the best albums of 2006 a few weeks ago, and this week it is the listeners' turn. Sound Opinions H.Q. received many calls and emails telling us what Jim and Greg got wrong, what Jim and Greg got right, and what some other great albums were. During this show we hear from just a few of you.

  • John from West Virginia called in to take Jim to task on his choice of Neil Young's Living With War as one of the best albums of the year. He found it to be just terrible and one of the worst albums of the year. But he didn't disagree with everything, stating that he also really enjoyed Lily Allen.
  • Carl emailed his“Top 40”of the year: a very extensive list with great descriptions of each album. His number 1 album was by The Decemberists, but Greg asks Carl to explain why he chose Night Ripper by Girl Talk as another one of his favorites. He says it's“perfect for the no-attention span generation,”and adds that it“kicks ass.”We couldn't agree more.
  • Matt also wrote in with his five favorite albums. On that list were many alt-country bands like The Drams, the Drive-by-Truckers and Glossary. He and Jim also agree that The Raconteurs had one of the best albums of the year. Matt explains that one of the reasons Broken Boy Soldiers is so successful is that it is so concise: 10 songs all averaging three minutes. The short attention span of a listener is something Matt and Jim both agree is still an important consideration in the post-vinyl era.

Thanks to everyone who gave us his or her "Sound Opinion"!

Go to episode 59

Valentine's Day Live

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Sound Opinions decided to have an intimate celebration — just Jim, Greg…and a couple hundred of their closest friends. They invited listeners to join them in a live taping at the Chicago Cultural Center. They were also joined by alt-country troubadour Robbie Fulks and his wife Donna. Robbie and Donna agreed to act as the Paul Shaffer of the show and perform the hosts‘ favorite love, lust and anti-love songs. They also treated the audience to some of Robbie’s own songs.

There are so many different types of love songs in rock and roll, that Jim and Greg had to divide their picks into 3 different categories:“Love Stinks,”"Endless Love," and“Carnal Love.”These hit all the notes of heartbreak, romance and lust that run through rock music. Jim and Greg picked out some of their favorite love songs and asked Robbie and Donna to perform them. Here are the selections featured on the show:

Love Stinks

  • Jim: Rolling Stones, "Dead Flowers"
  • Greg: Richard and Linda Thompson, "Walking a on Wire"

Endless Love

  • Jim: Mudhoney, "If I Think"
  • Greg: Smokey Robinson, "You Really Got a Hold On Me"

Carnal Love

  • Jim: The Troggs, "I Want You"
  • Greg: Amazing Rhythm Aces, "Third Rate Romance"

The audience also got a chance to get in on the action. Here are some of their favorite love songs:

  • Sebadoh, "Not a Friend"
  • Extreme, "More Than Words"
  • Neutral Milk Hotel, "In The Aero Plane Over The Sea"

Sound Opinions H.Q. also dug up some trivia on two famous rock couples. Biographer Michael Streissguth, who wrote Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece, believes that Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash's“song”would have to be "Meet Me in Heaven." While "Ring of Fire" encapsulated their relationship early on,“Meet Me in Heaven,”is a song the couple loved to perform together later in their life. The lyrics really expressed how Johnny felt about growing old with June.

Also, Charles Cross, who wrote Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain, told us that Kurt and Courtney Love's song was an odd one. "Seasons in the Sun," by Terry Jacks was a favorite of the punk-loving couple. This was the first song Kurt Cobain ever purchased on a 45, and he appreciated its origins. The song was based on a French story by Jacques Brel called "The Dying Man." He wrote it for the Beach Boys, but that band thought it was a little too dark for them to record. Sounds perfect for Kurt and Courtney.

Go to episode 63
rock doctors

Joel

At this point in the show Jim and Greg put on their lab coats and welcome another patient for an appointment with the Rock Doctors. This week's patient is listener Joel from Chicago. Joel describes his symptoms for Drs. DeRogatis and Kot: he's a big music fan, particularly roots rock, but hasn‘t been inspired in recent years. He’s hoping the doctors can prescribe some new music that has a definite sense of blues, bluegrass and roots music, but also has some rocking edge.

Dr. DeRogatis goes first and prescribes Sparklehorse's 2006 album Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain. The group is led by multi-instrumentalist Mark Linkous who has been paralyzed since 1996. Jim explains that Linkous‘ sound changed dramatically after being confined to a wheelchair. There’s a definite influence of alt-country and Southern gothic that Jim thinks Joel will appreciate. Plus, this album features some impressive guests like Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips and Tom Waits.

Dr. Kot recommends the new album from The Kills. The transcontinental duo met via the mail and have made three albums. Greg thinks the latest, Midnight Boom, is the best. He describes the band's sexy, in-your-face attitude and deep appreciation for the blues. Greg just hopes that Joel doesn't have an allergic reaction to their drum machine.

After a week taking his medicine, Joel returns for a follow-up appointment. He explains that the heavy production in the Sparklehorse initially put him off. But despite the fact that the music was a little slow at times, he can see himself returning to it. Joel describes Dr. Kot's pick as some strong medicine, but he really enjoyed The Kills' melodies and guitars. He thinks the album is at its best when the two singers are featured together, and was able to forget about the drum machine for the most part.

Go to episode 128
news

Music News

Jim and Greg take time to pay tribute to Buck Owens. The country pioneer died recently at the age of 76 and was buried this week in his hometown of Bakersfield, CA. While most of the headlines simply refer to Owens as the“star of Hee Haw,”he made significant contributions to rock and country music. According to Greg, he was one of the first musicians to use the Telecaster. You can hear some of that great, gritty fuzz tone in "Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass." He also played with the original alt-country rebel, Merle Haggard. Owens was not the cornpone country singer that Hee Haw made him out to be, and for this reason he was respected by people like The Beatles, Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle.

Go to episode 19

Music News

Pope Francis just completed his first“sold-out tour”of the United States. Now you can own your own souvenir, as the Pope is putting out a pop album called Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward! To Greg, the record has a progressive rock feel, falling somewhere between Yes and Yanni. Jim notes that the Pope wasn't exactly in the studio laying down some“tasty licks,”as producer Don Giulio Neroni arranged the music around Francis‘ famous speeches. If the Pope is trying to speak directly to the population, a pop album isn’t a bad way to do it.

This week, Taylor Swift's album 1989 charted its 48th week on Billboard, and one musician is riding the coattails of that success. Alt country singer Ryan Adams released a track for track cover of 1989 and received more attention than ever. Jim thinks that without Swift's songs, there's no way Adams would be on the Billboard charts. He also references an article highlighting the "mansplaining" idea that people can only realize the strength of Swift's songwriting when a white male performs the tracks. Greg thinks that Adams is doing some solid marketing, as his music hasn‘t been relevant in 15 years. What do you think of Adams’ covers? Let us know!

Go to episode 514

Music News

Legendary hit-maker and label head Clive Davis announced that he'll be stepping down from his post at Sony BMG. He'll remain on as“chief creative officer,”but this is definitely a demotion for the man who broke the careers of Whitney Houston, Aerosmith, Alicia Keys, and most recently, Leona Lewis. With Lewis on the path towards diva-dom, why's Davis being pushed out now? Jim and Greg surmise that the music mogul just became too expensive for Sony? Davis is perhaps the perfect representation of the old way of doing business in the music industry. But with album sales down, music videos gone and music radio on the way out, it may be time for the old guard to change.

Fans of print music journalism will be disheartened by the next news item. According to recent reports, ad revenues for major music magazines like Rolling Stone, Vibe and Blender are significantly down this quarter. Only Spin is experiencing growth, but that's after a dismal couple of years. This comes after the news of smaller titles like Harp and No Depression closing up shop. Jim and Greg speak with No Depression co-editor and co-founder Peter Blackstock about the magazine's decision to cease publication. Blackstock sees this trend as evidence that there's been a devaluation of the written word in our culture. But, he's hopeful that the long-time alt-country title will be able to thrive on the web and in longer magazine/book form.

Go to episode 126