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Matt Hillyer of Texas-based Eleven Hundred Springs

Alternative country is a term used to describe a number of country music subgenres that tend to differ from mainstream or pop country music.[citation needed] The term is sometimes known as alt-country[1] and has included country music bands and artists that have incorporated influences ranging from American roots music, bluegrass, rock & roll, rockabilly, acoustic music, americana, honky-tonk, alternative rock, folk rock and punk rock[citation needed].



Long-time Dwight Yoakam collaborator and alt-country guitar pioneer Pete Anderson - Live in Concert

"Alternative country" 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"[citation needed]. By this standard, for example, the Bakersfield sound was alternative in the 1950s, and the Lubbock sound musicians were alternative in the 1960s[citation needed].

In the 1990s, however, "alternative country" came to refer to a diverse group of musicians and singers operating outside the traditions and industry of mainstream country music[citation needed]. In general, these musicians eschewed the high production values and pop outlook of the Nashville-dominated industry. Since the 1990's, mainstream country music produced in Nashville has adopted the production techniques and tools used by mainstream producers in Los Angeles, leading to a generic pop music sound. So as a reversal of that trend, alternative country artists tend to favor the techniques and tools used by country musicians from the 1950s-1970's, which results in a more lo-fi sound, frequently infused with a strong punk and rock & roll aesthetic, avoiding the bland and polished sound of modern pop music production[citation needed]. Lyrics may be bleak, gothic or socially aware[citation needed], but also more heartfelt and less-often follow the cliche'd lyrics used by mainstream country musicians. In other respects, 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[citation needed]. Indeed, many alternative country artists come from punk and rock backgrounds[citation needed]. This already broad labeling has been further confused by alternative country artists disavowing the movement[citation needed], mainstream artists declaring they are part of it[citation needed], and retroactive claims that past or veteran musicians are alternative country.[citation needed] No Depression, the best-known magazine dedicated to the genre declared that it covered "alternative-country music (whatever that is)."

Despite this confusion, it is generally agreed that alternative country resulted from two opposing influences[citation needed]. 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[citation needed]. The second is country rock, the result of fusing country music with an aggressive rock & roll sound. The artist most commonly thought to have originated country rock is Gram Parsons (who referred to his sound as "Cosmic American Music"), although Jason & the Scorchers, Michael Nesmith, and Steve Earle are frequently identified as important innovators[citation needed]. These two styles merged in Uncle Tupelo's 1990 LP No Depression, the namesake of the magazine, which is widely credited as being the first "alt-country" album.[2] The bands Whiskeytown, Bottle Rockets, Blood Oranges, Drive-By Truckers and The Old 97's further developed this tradition.

The Rough Guide to country music summarizes:

Much of the driving force behind this whole movement was, ironically, punk rock, as a generation of rock'n'rollers who'd grown up on bands like Black Flag, the Clash, the Meat Puppets, and the Replacements began branching out musically, looking backward as well as forward. In the process, many discovered country music. After all, punk rock had been about taking music back down to a grassroots level....Similarly, traditional country and old-time folk music was about creative and emotional expression that was simple, honest, and direct. Like punk, its heritage was built on a do-it-yourself spirit, and its history was peopled with singers and pickers who were amazingly expressive musicians....Looking at it this way, the connection between the two worlds wasn't so tenuous after all.[3]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Deming, Mark. "allmusic ((( No Depression [Bonus Tracks > Overview )))"]. Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  3. ^ Wolff, Kurt; Orla Duane (2000). Country Music: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides. pp. 549. ISBN 1858285348, 9781858285344. 


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