Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Punk's Guilty Pleasure
What is punk rock's not-so-guilty pleasure? Country music. Yup. Consider The Dils, pictured above...who together with another bonafide punk, Alejandro Escovedo (The Nuns) formed Rank and File, a true progenitor of the country-punk genre.
The other night, I went to see Chip Kinman's new/current band, Pacific Coast Highway, which owes more to Rank and File, and Cowboy Nation (another Kinman Brothers band)than to the Dils. It was jam-packed with punk rockers from back in the day enjoying the present day's twang as much as they all enjoyed the decades-ago's thrash. The crowd included Target Video's Jackie Sharp, a long-time Kinman colleague, and music writer extraordinaire (a man with good taste and a conscience) who, as host of Indie 103's Watusi Rodeo, also hosted the evening's event, Chris Morris.
It was pretty obvious that the country thing had always fit hand in hand with the punk thing.
X were no strangers to roots rock and boasted Billy Zoom, with his rockabilly hair that was organic, rather than an affectation.... Billy is about ten years older than his punk rock compadres and played with the likes of Gene Vincent as well as with sons of roots music, and punk rock favorite sons, The Blasters.
This photo of Dave Alvin with punk rock "It Girls" such as Pleasant, Belinda Carlisle, and Connie Clarksville was taken backstage at a Fabulous Thunderbirds show. The Blasters opened that bill.
Yes - back in the 70s and 80s, punk rock musicians were not so snobby that they didn't recognize the spirit of this music that marketers call "Roots." Whatever you call it - roots, rockabilly, alt.country, Americana, No Depression... its got its roots in the music that made Nashville famous.
Jason and the Nasvhille Scorchers were true cowpunk purveyors. Scorchers guitarist, Warner Hodges, above on the right, threw down the twang AND the fury.
Detroit musicians, John Nash (above) and Troy Gregory are the core of the genre-defying Witches and populate the world-touring Electric Six and Dirtbombs.
BUT they also play live and make records with Matthew Smith (below) in a country band called the Volebeats, who were featured in the Steve Martin movie, Shop Girl.
Then there's Greg Cartwright, a pivotal player in making punk rock real in the 90s with The Oblivians. Greg recently produced a folky/country rock record by Good Night Loving (see 12/16's post - My Top Records - "Cemetery Trails"). In addition to that, he currently fronts The Reigning Sound. Their first album, "Break Up Break Down" was a deeply emotional narrative song cycle that embraced garage, pop and soul music with warm country arms. And if you are a fan of the Reigning Sound's masterpiece, "Too Much Guitar," you might be interested in giving a spin to "Home for Orphans," which features some countrified versions of those rock n roll songs you love so much.
And let's not forget another Oblivian --- Jack, whose amazing 2005 album, "Don't Throw Your Love Away" featured a cover of Warren Zevon's "Bullet For Ramona" done in true murder ballad style, complete with barroom piano and a tears-in-my-beer growl worthy of not only Zevon, but of Tom Waits.
And did I ever tell you that when I saw Dolly Parton at the Roxy in Los Angeles when she was on tour in support of her chart-busting "Here You Come Again" that punk icon Iggy Pop was in the audience?
That doesn't even begin to deal with the fact that the likes of X's John Doe and the Plimsouls' Peter Case have spent more time playing their singer/songwriter/folky/country/one man band thing than they did playing the punk rock... not that there's anything wrong with that...after all, I consider Woody Guthrie to be about as punk as it gets. I know Billy Bragg will back me on that.