Thursday, May 03, 2007

Guitars, Cadillacs Etc. Etc

Or "Wha' Happened to Alt-Country?"

I heard this song playing at a 6th grade "cultural dance" last night as I walked by the high school gym and thought, either there's a really cool teacher assembling the music, or Dwight Yoakam's brilliant, genre-bending debut had resonated with a lot more folks than I thought in the last 20 years. The effect of watching 100 sixth graders line dancing to Dwight Yoakam was almost hallucinatory as I flashbacked to the first time I heard Guitars, Cadillacs – it really seemed that for 10 years all my favorite music was coming from what could loosely be described as “alt country” artists. So being the compulsive list maker that I am, I have compiled a completely biased list of the top 25 alt-country albums 1985-1995 (limit one per artist, please).

So, I ask… what happened to alt-country? I can’t think of too many alt-country classics (save Old 97’s, Slobberbone, Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown, that McClatchy kid) that have surfaced in the last 12 years? Am I missing a bunch of great records? Did I miss a bunch from 1985 to 1995 too?

If you’re too shy to answer on this public forum, send a note to

ALT COUNTRY 1985 TO 1995 (listed chronologically and with choice cut from each record)

1. Jason & The Scorchers - Lost & Found (1985) - “White Lies”

2. Lone Justice - Lone Justice (1985) - “East of Eden”

3. Beat Farmers - Tales of The New West (1985) - “Goldmine”

4. Steve Earle – Guitar Town (1986) - “Someday”

5. Dwight Yoakam - Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. (1986) - “Guitars, Cadillacs”

6. Dave Alvin - Romeo's Escape (1987) - “Fourth of July”

7. Foster & Lloyd - Foster & Lloyd (1987) - “Sure Thing”

8. John Hiatt - Bring The Family (1987) - “Have A Little Faith in Me”

9. Lucinda Williams - Lucinda Williams (1988) - “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad”

10. Rodney Crowell - Diamonds and Dirt (1988) – “She’s Crazy For Leavin”

11. Gear Daddies - Let's Go Scare Al (1988) – “Boys Will Be Boys”

12. The Rave-Ups - The Book of Your Regrets (1988) – “Freedom Bound”

13. Peter Case - Blue Guitar (1989) – “Travellin’ Light”

14. The Silos - The Silos (1990) – “I’m Over You”

15. John Doe - Meet John Doe (1990) – “Take # 52”

16. Alejandro Escovedo – Gravity (1992) – “One More Time”

17. The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall (1992) – “Settled Down Like Rain”

18. Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne (1993) – “We’ve Been Had”

19. Robert Earl Keen - A Bigger Piece of The Sky (1993) – “Corpus Christi Bay”

20. The Bottle Rockets - The Bottle Rockets (1993) – “Kerosene”

21. Iris DeMent - My Life (1993) – “No Time to Cry”

22. The Mavericks - What A Crying Shame (1994) – “There Goes My Heart”

23. Bob Woodruff - Dreams and Saturday Nights (1994) – “Hard Liquor, Cold Women, Warm Beer”

24. Son Volt – Trace (1995) – “Windfall”

25. Wilco – A.M. (1995) “Box Full of Letters”

And before I forget… Guitars, Cadillacs is one incredible record. I just spent the better part of a day spinning last year’s mondo-expanded reissue. You need it.


Todd said...

I find it hard to draw a solid line between many of my alt-country favorites and my singer-songwriter favorites and some of the mainstream "rock" from the times. I don't think that you can put Iris DeMent on there w/o some of the earlier Mary-Chapin Carpenter or Victoria Williams or Shawn Colvin stuff (Shotgun Down the Avalanche anyone?) The Rave-ups can't be on there w/o a serious nod to The Reivers (Secretariat). Since you mentioned the Gear Daddies, who can resist the narcotic of that first GA Satellites album? And any mention of current-gen alt-C would be incomplete w/o a nod to Will Johnson and Centro-matic.

I think that the bottom line is that there is way too much good stuff out there for one person to follow, so we need to keep the info and mix-CDs flowing so that everyone gets a chance to be as cool as Trip.

And now for this week's pimp-job: New album from a favorite of mine--Two Cow Garage, wittily entitled "III". Check it out. They're streaming it on their site Sweet.

Satch said...

May I humbly submit, for your approval [and listening enjoyment]

The Del Lords
Frontier Days: 1984

The BoDeans;
Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams: 1986

Trip McClatchy said...

Dude - Frontier Days came out in 1984, rendering it tough to include in a 1985-1995 overview.
But a great record no doubt.

Bodeans were overlooked and just on the edge of the loose definition of alt country. Go Johnny Go!

The Boy said...

What about the Rilo Kiley's of the world? Is that alt-country?

Trip McClatchy said...

Dunno if Rilo Kiley is alt-country, maybe in the loosest sense... but they one of the best bands currently going.

And I do know that a band whose first album came out in 2001 does not belong an any overview covering the years 1985 to 1995.

The Boy said...

Yes, yes...I was going after the "what's surfaced in the last 12 years?" part...

Michael Atchison said...

Wow, I think this is the longest thread of comments in our history, yet it still doesn't prove that readership has entered double digits.

I really need to get the StatCounter code fixed.

rbrant said...

those canadian favorites of mine, Blue Rodeo, "Outskirts" record (check out, Heart Like Mine" or "Joker's Wild"); or take your pick of others in their catalogue; under-the-radar-screen contenders also could include Scott Miller's V-Roys; finally, the Volebeats, "Mosquito Spiral" ("Radio Flyer")..........