Beyond Nashville

Beyond Nashville

The Twisted Heart of Country Music

Manteca World

Quite an ambitious project, to say the least, this double album tries to write and record history at the same time, summarizing and outlining 70 years of alternative country music, as well as pointing out the present and future of this eclectic, diverse musical playground. The first CD, sub-titled “Sing Me Back Home,” kicks off with Jimmie Rodgers and ends up with The Flatlanders — and takes in such a disparate crowd as the glorious Carter Family, the fantastic Bill Monroe, the god-like Hank Williams, ultimate vocalist George Jones, acid cowboys The Byrds,’s modern-day godfather Gram Parsons — and, it seems, everything else. Nothing repeats what comes before it or even prepares you for what follows, yet it all seems so perfectly… right? There is a clear thread running through it all, yet every single contribution is unique and important.

The second CD concentrates on releases from the last two years, with the odd track dating back to the early ’90s — and it shows the New West as being as vivid and mesmerizing as ever. The tracks all seem to communicate with the foundation laid on the first disc, but still points to the present, and to a way into the future. Ryan Adams, Emmylou Harris, Giant Sand, Willard Grant Conspiracy, Lucinda Williams, Smog, Jim White, Oh Susannah — this is amazing stuff, happening today. This is country music doing what country music should do ñ tell the tale of the contemporary listener, and putting that tale into the context of our common history. Contrary to the bland sound of mainstream Nashville, this is important, demanding music ñ music that confronts reality and takes the listener in, telling tales of your life and providing tales to be lived.

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