country music

Philip Ferguson plf13 at it.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Mar 17 23:35:57 MST 2003


Years back, I would never have imagined becoming a country music fan,
although some good friends of mine liked certain parts of country music.

About a decade ago, however, I just got totally bored with rock and
increasingly interested in world music and then country, or what is
called 'y-allternative' or alt.country or left-field country.

The artists clustered around the alt.country scene are a very
interesting group of people.  You've got your old liberal types like
Emmylou Harris, who have been synthesising rock and country and folk all
their lives.  Then you've got a newer breed, although not much younger
than Emmylou, often consisting of people who have worked with her - like
the Millers (Buddy and Julie) - and also people like Lucinda Williams.

Emmylou Harris' 'Wrecking Ball' album is absolutely brilliant, and the
follow-up live album 'Spyboy' is great as well.  Buddy Miller's guitar
playing on tracks like, especially, 'Deeper Well' on the live version,
leaves most straight rock guitarists for dead.

Buddy's solo albums tend to be pretty patchy, especially the songs not
written by or in conjunction with his wife Julie.  Buddy has a great
voice and is a great guitarist, but not so hot as a songwriter.  That's
where Julie shines, in particular.  Her 'Blue Pony' album is beautiful
and the follow-up 'Broken Things' is excellent as well.  Hell, I don't
even mind the fact that she's a devout Christian of a fairly
bible-focused type.  A song like 'All My Tears' is still fantastic.

Then, of course, there's Lucinda.  What can you say - this woman writes
great songs and has a great voice that just grabs you and wrenches you
to your gut.  She chronicles very ordinary lives and things that go
wrong in them, but in an amazingly powerful and evocative way.  'Car
Wheels on a Gravel Road' and 'Essence' are just classic.  'Sweet Old
World', which preceded 'Car Wheels' is pretty darn good too, especially
songs like 'Pineola' (about a guy who shoots himself), 'Little Angel,
Little Brother' (about an alcoholic brother) and 'Sidewalks of the City'
(about homeless poor).

In the past few years I've also bought CDs by people like Kate Campbell
and even Stacey Dean Campbell (who's relatively mainstream by comparison).

Generally, I've found that a swathe of country artists have much more
interesting things to say than most rock stars.  And the country variety
seem to lack the pomposity of rock stars like Sting, Bono, Bob Geldof
and so on, who I find repulsive personally.  The country types are
people you can imagine sitting down and having a beer with.

Although I probably wouldn't buy any of his records, coz they're just a
bit too hokey for me, I also have a soft spot for old Garth Brooks, who
has come out with a few progressive things from time to time.

On the other hand, there's still a lot of awful dross about - Shania
Twain's success being an example of how vacuous country can be as well.
Who on earth buys stuff by people like her and that scrawny
French-Canadian woman with the big nose and the bucket-loads of record
sales, I shudder to think.

Couldn't someone arrange to keep both of them in Canada instead of
inflicting them on the world?

Philip Ferguson

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