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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… the Sounds of the New West compilation May 28, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Writing about Pillows and Prayers a week or two back I mentioned other compilations that had a significant effect upon my musical taste. Without question the one that was most important in the latter part of the 1990s was Uncut magazine’s Sounds of the New West. This was a selection of the uncomfortably termed alternative country, that intriguing blend of country and whatever one was having oneself. And, of course, it was freeish, in that it was ‘free’ with the magazine.

All this at a time – 1998 – when the internet was gathering speed but perhaps still wasn’t quite there – certainly nowhere near as pervasive as it is today. Sure, there was sometimes the alt. appended to the country, but I’d suspect for most people this was the first time they’d have heard a fair few of the newer groups.

And quite a selection it was too. Old names and new – Flying Burrito Brothers typifying the former, Calexico the latter. Some who would only linger in alt.country long enough to make a name for themselves and then head for pastures old and new (I’m thinking in particular of Josh Rouse there).

Yet for me it was very influential. I don’t have albums by every group on the CD, but I do have from most and I managed to see a fair few live subsequently.

If techno, IDM and other forms of electronica had pushed me well away from guitar sounds, and Britpop had reinforced that dynamic by being so bloody awful in the main (though somehow I still have a place in my heart for Embrace, clunky as they might be) this sort of lassoed (you see what I did there?) me back in a bit of the way to more traditional forms.

Part of it was the expansiveness of the sounds. Lambchop, Rouse, Willard Grant Conspiracy, The Handsome Family, Pernice Brothers, Emmy Lou Harris, Hazeldine and many more, all had a sort of spaciousness to their sounds that was oddly reminiscent of post-punk. This was layered music that echo and reverberated. Part of it was a sense of nostalgia and the sheer emotive pull of the music. Sure… sounds a bit… but it’s a great song.

It wasn’t perfect. A small, too small, representation of women and women fronted groups. One could query as to whether the umbrella designation of alt.country was appropriate. And perhaps more hard-edged groups in the area would have been useful. So, in a way it was just a start, as it were.

But there was a freshness, even accepting a retrospective aspect, that simply was absent from – well, say Britpop and so on. There’s a lot of discussion of cultural appropriation – this, surely, was doing it right, pulling in many different influences and reinterpreting and re-presenting them in new and compelling ways.

Hazeldine

Flying Burrito Brothers

Kate Campbell

Lambchop

Willard Grant Conspiracy

Emmylou Harris

Handsome Family

Comments»

1. lamentreat - May 29, 2016

Yes, my introduction to that music too. A peach of a compilation. Freakwater’s “Lorraine” is another very strong track.

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WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2016

Yeah that’s a great one too. And I like the Walkabouts as well. I don’t think there’s a bad track on the album.

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2. Joe - May 30, 2016

I had a similar intro to country from a free NME cassette. Sounds similar to this one in that there wasn’t a dud track on it. Guitar Town by Steve Earle. And loads of other really cool stuff. Of coure I lost the cassette but the sounds are still in my head.

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WorldbyStorm - May 30, 2016

It’s funny how it stays with one. I know exactly what you mean. The songs are there. Listening to it again after a fair bit of time I found it as refreshing as it was originally.

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