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alt.country Overview and Introduction

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alt.country Artists:

The origination of alt.country can be almost credited in part to Uncle Tupelo. Uncle Tupelo's members went on to form Sun Volt, The Gourds, and Swag. Other Alt Country bands include BR-549, Steve Earle, and Jason & The Scorchers.

alt.country Instruments of Choice:

alt.country tends to employ pretty much any instrument you could find in a band - as its players run the gamut from Punk Rockers to Country bands that just wanted to go a different direction. Acoustic and electric guitars are standard, as are bass and drums. Generally you'll also hear Bluegrass instruments like fiddle and mandolin, as well as lap steel and/or harmonica.

Starter CDs:

Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne (Sire, 1993). Sun Volt - Straightaways (Warner Brothers, 1997). The Gourds - Dems Good Beeble (Sugarhill, 2000). Jason & The Scorchers - Reckless Country Soul (Mammoth, 1996). Steve Earle - Train A Comin' (Warner Brothers, 1998).

Background Information About alt.country Music:

In 1985, a garage rock band got together in Belleville, Illinois, and named themselves the Primitives. The Primitives was made up of Jay Farrar (guitar, vocals), Wade Farrar (vocals, harmonica), Mike Heidorn (drums), and Jeff Tweedy (bass, vocals), and focused mainly on playing covers of 1960s rock songs. A year or so later, the band changed its name to Uncle Tupelo. Wade Farrar left the band, resulting in his brother Jay and bandmate Jeff Tweedy taking over the vocal duties and songwriting. They started playing more originals that showed the diversity of their influences, which included everyone from Gram Parsons to Black Flag, and from Buck Owens to Husker Du. By 1990, they had been featured in Rolling Stone and voted best unsigned band in 1989.

In 1994, Uncle Tupelo Split and its members formed new bands – Wilco and Sun Volt – that have become alt.country’s most influential bands. Members of Uncle Tupelo have also played with other alt.country bands like the Gourds and Swag.

Nobody’s really sure where the alt.country (or outlaw country) name developed, but it’s more along the lines of something that’s evolved largely based on the influence of the members of Uncle Tupelo and its satellite bands, not to mention the innovation of folks like Jason & The Scorchers and Steve Earle.

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