I’m gonna start this one by asking: Why do so many rock-o-philes hate the term “alt-country”? I mean, bands like Whiskeytown, Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, and the Drams sure ain’t country. To define them in the same way as Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks (those are the only country performers I can come up with right now) would misrepresent them to potential buyers. Before I shell out my dough for a band, I want to know as closely as possible what they sound like. If you classify everyone within the rock genre as “rock”– as some purists would have it – you’re suggesting that Britney Spears is no different than Black Flag. All of this has led me to adopt the following policy:
At Water All Around, we openly embrace and freely engage in rock ‘n’ roll profiling. All bands are unjustly pigeonholed and compartmentalized by their sound. We feel it’s the only way to keep the rock world safe from fuzzy, nebulous musical-genre generalities that can lead to misspent cash and highly regrettable and/or embarrassing record acquisitions.
Now that that’s behind us, let’s adhere to the policy and discuss one of the great unsung “alt-country” bands: the Old 97s. To me, their 1997 disc Too Far to Care is one of the most underappreciated albums of the 90s. Just give a listen to songs like “Timebomb,” “Barrier Reef,” and “House That Used to Be” (which you can do below) to see how good these guys can be, musically and lyrically.
Lately, the 97s have moved much closer to “alt-pop” (see how helpful rock ‘n’ roll profiling can be). So if you like Too Far to Care, I’d try Hitchhike to Rome (1994) next, then maybe Fight Songs (1999). Or if you’re partial to live discs, they released the 30-song “Alive and Wired” last year, and it’s an outstanding overview of their entire canon.
[MP3] Old 97s – “Timebomb” EXPIRED
[MP3] Old 97s – “Barrier Reef” EXPIRED
[MP3] Old 97s – “House That Used to Be” EXPIRED
BONUS! BONUS! BONUS!
[MP3] Old 97s – “The Bug Song” (Demo) EXPIRED
[MP3] Old 97s – “Singular Girl” (from the Satellite Rides bonus disc) EXPIRED
Buy Too Far to Care