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Issue 1 - Staring in to the abyss

Whisky Magazine Issue 1
January 1999

 

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Staring in to the abyss

In a new series on whisky in rock music,Lew Guthrie III looks at American alternative country rock band Richmond Fontaine

Nashville is the home of country, the place that has done more to sully the genre's reputation than anywhere else. Conservative, reactionary, predominantly white and male, the country scene has long been dismissed by many as the last bastion of redneck cowboy values.

Travel out of Nashville in to middle America and the south, however, and there's a beating heart of great country-tinged music that come from an altogether different place.

Anyone familiar with British music magazine Uncut will know this terrain. It is populated by bands and singers that cast an eye to Woodie and Arlo Guthrie. They play a blue collar music, a white working man's country soul.

It's rough and tumble bar music but it's not racist. In states such as Texas it often adopts Spanish-Mexican guises, and elsewhere the ghosts of native American Indians hover over it.

We're talking about the sort of country music that Springsteen turned to on albums Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad. It's on nodding terms with Neil Young, and it'll pass time with Johnny Cash.

And it tells of a lost America, of the drifters and grifters trying to exist against the most appalling odds. Just as the like of Bukowski painted pictures of folk in the cities, so it is that the likes of Son Volt, Wilco, and Whiskey town are telling the stories of the white trash out in the country, struggling to survive.

Richmond Fontaine are perhaps the most in your face of the new country bands. Their early albums were squalls of punk countr...

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