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Alternative country

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Alternative country

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Alternative country is a term applied to various subgenres of country music.

The term can refer to several ideas. Most generally, any musician who plays a type of country music different from the prevailing trend can be said to play "alternative country". By this standard, for example, the Bakersfield sound was alternative in the 1950s, and the Lubbock, Texas musicians were alternative in the 1960s.

In the 1990s however, "alternative country" came to refer to a disparate group of musicians and singers operating outside the traditions and industry of mainstream country music. In general these musicians eschewed the high production values and pop outlook of the Nashville-dominated industry, to produce music with a lo-fi sound, frequently informed with a strong punk and rock & roll aesthetic, bending the traditional rules of country music. Lyrics are often bleak, gothic or socially aware. Otherwise, the musical styles of artists that fall within this genre often have little in common, ranging from traditional American folk tunes and bluegrass, through rockabilly and honky-tonk, to music that is indistinguishable from mainstream rock or country. Indeed many alternative country artists come from punk and rock backgrounds. This already broad labelling has been further confused by alternative country artists disavowing the movement, mainstream artists declaring they are part of it, and the retroactive claiming of past or veteran musicians as alternative country. No Depression, the most well known magazine of the genre, declares that it covers "alternative-country music (whatever that is)".

Despite this confusion, it is generally agreed that alternative country resulted from two opposing influences. The first is traditional American country music, the music of working people, preserved and celebrated by practitioners such as Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams and The Carter Family. The second is country rock, the result of fusing country music with an aggressive rock & roll sound. The artist most commonly identified as the originator of country rock is Gram Parsons (who referred to his sound as "Cosmic American Music"), although Jason and the Scorchers, and Steve Earle are frequently identified as important innovators. These two styles merged in Uncle Tupelo's 1990 LP No Depression, the first widely recognized modern alternative country record (though the first Freakwater EP appeared in 1989). The band Whiskeytown continued in this tradition and lead singer Ryan Adams continues to shape the genre to this day in his solo career.

Alternative country is popularly referred to, especially in print, as "alt-country" or sometimes "alt.country". The genre is also referred to under a large number of other names, including "americana", "trashcan americana", "insurgent country", "neotraditional", "no depression", "cowpunk", "progressive country", "regressive country", "lo-fi country", "roots rock", "twang core", "rural contemporary", "country-punk", "y'allternative", "hick rock", "alternative country-rock" and many others.

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See also

References

  • Alden, Grant; & Blackstock, Peter (1998). "No Depression: An Introduction to Alternative Country Music. Whatever That Is". Dowling Pr. ISBN 1891847007.
  • Goodman, David (1999). "Modern Twang: An Alternative Country Music Guide and Directory". Dowling Pr. ISBN 1891847031.

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