Alternative country

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Alternative Country
Stylistic origins Country music
Neotraditional country
Outlaw country
Country rock
Alternative rock
Punk rock
Cultural origins Late 20th century
Typical instruments Guitar · Piano · Harmonica · Bass Guitar · Drums · Vocals · Banjo · Mandolin Lap steel guitar
Mainstream popularity Low to Medium in the United States during the 1990's and 2000's
Subgenres
Cowpunk

Alternative country (sometimes called alt-country,[1] or Americana[2]) is a type of country music. It has singers or bands that sound very different from mainstream or pop country music. "Alternative country" has been used to describe country music bands and artists that have influences such as roots rock, bluegrass, rockabilly, Americana, honky-tonk, alternative rock, folk rock, or punk.

History[change | change source]

In the 1990s the term alternative country (which is like the term alternative rock, which was becoming popular at the same time), began to be used to talk about different groups of musicians and singers who did not follow the same traditions of regular country music, and who had a different sound.[2] Many of them did not follow the high production values (such as spending a lot of money in the recording studio) of the big country music industry at the time, which was mostly based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Lyrics in alternative country might be depressing or about social issues, and often from the heart. They do not follow the clichés sometimes used by mainstream country musicians as often. In other ways, the sounds of alternative country artists do not always have much in common. They can include traditional American folk tunes, bluegrass, and other types of sounds. It can be music that does not sound like mainstream rock or country.[3] This has become even more confusing with "alternative country artists" saying that they do not want to be called alternative country, with more mainstream artists saying they are alternative country, and with people saying that older musicians or musicians from the past are alternative country. No Depression, the most popular magazine about alternative country, said that it covered "alternative-country music (whatever that is)".[4]

Blue Mountain on stage in 2008

Even though not everybody agrees on what makes music "alternative country", most people agree that alternative country came from traditional American country music.

In the 1980s, in southern California, some musicians tried to make some music that had parts of country and parts of punk. This was called the "cowpunk scene". It had bands like Jason and the Scorchers.[5] These styles came together in Uncle Tupelo's popular album No Depression, which came out in 1990. Many people think it was the first alternative country album. A magazine called No Depression later came out that was written about alternative country. The magazine was named after Uncle Tupelo's album.[2][6] The band made three more important albums and joined a big record label. The band broke up in 1994. Musicians in the band and people around the band later started three other important alternative country bands: Wilco, Son Volt and Bottle Rockets.[2] Bottle Rockets signed, along with acts like Freakwater, The Old 97's and Robbie Fulks, to the Chicago-based indie record label, Bloodshot. They played a type of alternative country called insurgent country.[5][7] The bands Blue Mountain, Whiskeytown, Blood Oranges and Drive-By Truckers kept going in this direction before most began to move more in the direction of rock music in the 2000s.[8]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. "The story of No Depression", No Depression, retrieved 19 May 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 C. Smith, 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), ISBN 0195373715, pp. 204-9.
  3. C. K. Wolfe and J. E. Akenson, Country Music Annual 2001 (University Press of Kentucky, 2001), ISBN 0813109906, pp. 78-80.
  4. A. A. Fox, "'Alternative to what?'": O Brother, September 11 and the politics of country music", in C. K. Wolfe and J. E. Akenson, Country Music Goes to War (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2005), ISBN 0813123089, p. 164.
  5. 5.0 5.1 W. C. Malone, Country Music, U.S.A. (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2nd edn., 2002), ISBN 0292752628, p. 451.
  6. M. Deming, "No Depression Bonus Tracks", Allmusic, retrieved 26 January 2009.
  7. K. Wolff and O. Duane, eds, Country Music: the Rough Guide (London: Rough Guides, 2000), ISBN 1858285348, p. 550.
  8. K. Wolff and O. Duane, eds, Country Music: the Rough Guide (London: Rough Guides, 2000), ISBN 1858285348, pp. 549-92.

Sources[change | change source]

  • Alden, Grant; & Blackstock, Peter (1998). "No Depression: An Introduction to Alternative Country Music. Whatever That Is". Dowling Pr. ISBN 1-891847-00-7.
  • Goodman, David (1999). "Modern Twang: An Alternative Country Music Guide and Directory". Dowling Pr. ISBN 1-891847-03-1.
  • Wolff, Kurt and Duane, Orla (2000). Country Music: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides. pp. 557–8. ISBN 1858285348, 9781858285344
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Other websites[change | change source]