Edges from the Postcard 2
Forget Dolly the sheep, or the Concorde — this is the finest result of high tech we’ve yet witnessed. That’s because this compilation of alternative country music was born from Postcard 2, an Internet discussion list, made up of musicians, producers, industry folks and fans. Way back someone on the list got the wildhair to throw a party, and the resulting “Twangfest” was the seed from which this highly enjoyable set came from.
The artists on this disc represent the second level of American alternative country music — not a lesser amount of talent, by any means, only of recognition. While the likes of Wilco and Jason and the Scorchers get the headlines, it’s the people on this disc that will keep the movement fresh and growing. Alternative country is as similar to what comes out of Nashville as punk was to mainstream rock radio. That is to say, not much. The bands on here take risks, and draw from all over the musical map. They range from the gospel bluegrass of One Riot, One Ranger to the Flying Burritos-styled Hudson Super Six, or the downright strangeness of the Bakers, who sound like Captain Beefheart playing a barroom weeper. In between you hear echoes of the Opry as well as the Replacements.
Robbie Fulks leads off with “South River,” another reason to call him one of America’s foremost songwriters. Mike Ireland and Holler, whose Learning How to Live is one of the year’s best, chimes in with “Pop A Top,” a little dose of heartbreak in a tale of barstool misery will ring bells with anyone who has spent a few too many hours staring at the mirrors behind the cash register. Texas legend Kimmie Rhodes closes the disc with a song she co-wrote with Waylon Jennings, “Lines.” The song takes your breath away, with just enough tension in Rhodes’s vocal to drag you in, and then you’re hooked.
Hank Williams is one of the godfathers of this sort of music, and all too often a reviewer will attempt to drag his skinny frame out of the soil with something like “It’s like Hank Williams fronting the Clash.” I ain’t gonna say something that stupid. But I will say that if the Sovines were in that long white Cadillac when Williams died, they would have rummaged through his pockets, stolen his pills, and written “Jesus Dionysus,” their cut on this disc. You can’t help but imagine that if Nick Cave gets invited to perform at Dollywood, it’s gonna sound like this. It’s to the credit of the compilers of this effort that such a wide array of good music could be found and showcased.
In a few years people like Robbie Fulks and Mike Ireland, among others from this record, are gonna be pretty popular. So pick up this disc, and say you knew them when. Twangfest, c/o Junior Barnard, 808 West 27th Terrace, Lawrence KS 66046; http://www.twangfest.com