On his Freak Zone a few weeks ago, Stuart Maconie asked for recommendations of “alternative country records”. This got me thinking: what country records fall within the parameters of the Freak Zone? Then, by some YouTube algorithmical kismet, via a recommendation in an Alan Jacobs’ newsletter, I heard Abigail Washburn & Wu Fei. I’d found my first recommendation.
Gretchen Peters – Five Minutes
To challenge my proposition last week that some of the best (contemporary) country songs are ones that threaten to tip into parody of the genre, I’ve chosen for this week’s song ‘Five Minutes’.
Charlie Parr – Cheap Wine
Every time I listen to a live recording of Charlie Parr it sounds like the most fun you can have at a gig with just one man and a selection of guitars on stage. At its best Parr’s music – the fast stompers or the slower songs – deeply involve the listener with the characters that populate them: like the liquor store owner narrator of ‘Cheap Wine’, his customers: the old ladies who “ain’t no better than all these bums”, and the kid, in the wrong place, who “wasn’t so bright, drunk all the time”.
Charlie Parr – Walk Around My Bedside
modern, buoy us up
though I am faithless.
Denise Riley, ‘When we cry to Thee’
Sometimes the saddest songs are the simplest. Sometimes these songs are country songs. ‘If I Could Only Fly’ would be unbearably sad if it wasn’t for that line “You know sometimes I write happy songs”. You can almost hear Foley give a wry smile as he sings it.