scac25 6bilderSlim Cessna’s Auto Club (SCAC) is definitely the most resistant, hardwearing and viable band in the gothic country genre. They have successfully defied all depressing survival rate statistics. SCAC celebrated the band's 25th (!) anniversary over three nights at Denver's Globe Hall on December 29, 30 and 31 2017. 25 years is an extreme life span in the genre. SCAC have somehow marched on. But, not without personnel turnover. Over twenty musicians have passed through the band since 1992. Musicians tend to go in and out of the band depending on their other commitments. This open door policy isn't very common in the genre, where leaving a band often is definite and irrevocable. This is a key factor in keeping the band alive and kicking. Another factor is the solid core. Since a couple of years back Slim Cessna (founder) and Munly Munly (Jay Munly) are the hub and creative force in SCAC. The current lineup, besides Cessna and Munly, consists of Lord Dwight Pentacost, Rebecca Vera, Ian O'Dougherty and Andrew Warner. With time SCAC have acquired a loyal, no to say fanatical, local fan base, the “Cessnuts”. SCAC is widely known for the rowdy live acts and regarded as the undoubtedly best live band in the genre. At live gigs they play the songs of their choice, with the arrangements of the day. After all the years on stage they have some experience to fall back on and dare to improvise. The distance from Stockholm to Denver (as the crow flies) is 7 845 km (4 875 miles). I wasn't in Denver to celebrate, but it must have been great. The bands Pale Sun and Wake The Bat opened the first night, DBUK consists to 80 percent of SCAC members) and Rotten Reputation opened the second night. The Breachers and Loretta Kill opened on New Years Night. 25 years is a long time. It's not over yet, SCAC. Live long and prosper!

  

keepcalmresilienceThis is my fourth country note (since the site was launched in March 2014). In last years note I declared that you have to build resilience in the face of adversity. The gothic country genre is endangered and at risk of extinction. The survival rate is disturbingly low. No money, no recognition, no nothing. The two biggest threats are hiatus and solo projects. Not many returns if they enter this fatal way. Musicians died likes flies in 2017 in all genres. In the above-mentioned country note I was cautiously negative about 2017. When I now summarize the year I can establish that it was a very meager year. In fact, it was a year characterized by crop failure, both in volume and quality. Very few albums were released. "The Spark" by The Builders And The Butchers, "Grim Weepers" by Lonesome Wyatt And The Holy Spooks, "I Am A Stranger Here Below" by The Dad Horse Experience were all pretty ordinary releases. "Waffles, Triangles & Jesus" by Jim White was quite a positive surprise and far better than his previous release "Where It Hits You". If you slightly broaden the genre scope, "These Golden Threads" by Gun Mother should be mentioned. The Reverend Glasseye song "Hispid Hare" nails me to the wall everytime. The only album in 2017 that meet my standards is "What’s Left Now You Are Dead to Me" by T.K. Bollinger. You can read my review here (opens in a new window). His previous album "Shy Ghosts" knocked me off my feet. The latest release isn't as coherent, but come close in comparison. That's all, folks.  

I've had the same three wishes for two years in a row. Evidently, none of them have come true. The first wish was a new gothic country album by Christian Williams. The release of "Marconi" with reworked traditional songs gave some consolidation. You can read my review here (opens in a new window). The second faith-filled wish was a sophomore release from The Victor Mourning. I have to dream on. The third wish was to acquire at least one of the hard-to-find four missing albums (read more here) and to get all albums from the defunct label Devil's Ruin Records. I'm not a presumptuous or greedy man, but I will not be swayed. I wish for the same three things in 2018. What about next year? Antic Clay is going to release a new album called "Broom of Fire". It was originally scheduled this year as a 10 year anniversary of the release of Hilarious Death Blues (HDB), which is a milestone in the dark americana (or if you prefer gothic americana) genre. On his website he proudly declares that fans of HDB will not be disappointed. He has hereby knowingly and willfully built up the expectations. It will be interesting to see if he still got the powers in him. DBUK recently announced the release of a new album in 2018 called "Songs Nine Through Sixteen" (a follow up to their debut album "Songs One Through Eight". That's basically everything that's in the pipeline next year. Again, you have to build resilience in the face of adversity. 

 

 

thinline3I'm fascinated over musicians who one day play metal and the next day begin to play bluegrass. Well, not exactly bluegrass. This particular kind of bluegrass is better known as trashgrass, streetgrass, punkgrass, speedgrass, murdergrass and other prefix-grass. Labels are often used profusely both diligently and resourcefully. At first glance, the shift may seem like a giant leap, but in fact it's a small step. We start with two questions: First of all: why change style in the first place? The main reason seems to be that metalheads tends to get bored with the head banging and therefore seeks a more traditional and true expression. Second: how is the dramatic change in style possible? The bluegrass genre is open and tolerant. Long-haired musicians can easily find refuge within the liberal bluegrass community. This facilitates the transition. Other factors are the intensity and drive in the two genres, but also the improvisation. One or more instruments each takes its turn playing the melody and more or less improvising around it, while the others perform accompaniment. In the good old days, you could hear bass and drum solos in metal music. Nowadays, the guitar seems to reign. There are many bands that more or less fit the bill of transition, for example .357 String Band, Highlonesome, The Goddamn Gallows, Devout Sinners, The Pine Box Boys, Filthy Still, The Calamity Cubes, Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy and Trampled By Turtles. There's a quote in "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby of how the protagonist's music taste evolved "I can tell you how I got from Deep Purple to Howling Wolf in just 25 moves". From metal to prefix-grass is only one small step. "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind".

 

 

shyghostsSpotify recently launched an attack on free and independent research. A research team from Umeå University in Sweden were minding their own business and conducted research within their project "streaming heritage". They mapped Spotify's algorithms by creating a large number of profiles and then studied the music recommendations for these profiles. Spotify didn't hang around a long time. They contacted the project leader, a professor, and questioned the working methods. Howwever, Spotify would not agree to meet and discuss the matter. Instead, they contacted the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), a public agency under the authority of the Ministry of Education and Research who funded the study. Spotify tried the language of force. Their spineless laywer wrote: "Spotify is particularly concerned about the information that has emerged regarding the research group’s methods in the project. The data indicate that the research team has deliberately taken action that is explicitly in violation of Spotify’s Terms of Use and by means of technical methods sought to conceal these breach of conditions. The research group has expanded, among other things, to artificially increase the number of gigs and manipulate Spotify’s services using script or other automated processes. Spotify assumes that the systematic breach of conditions has not been known to the Swedish Research Council and is convinced that the Swedish Research Council is convinced that the research undertaken with the support of the Swedish Research Council in all respects meets ethical guidelines and is carried out reasonably and in accordance with applicable law." Why the high pitch? Maybe because one of the researchers was insensitive enough to point out the fact that an early version of Spotify was built upon pirated mp3-files. This stain doesn't fit the untruthful storytelling of Spotify. Anyway, media soon picked up the story and Spotify was accused of threating free and independent research. The Spotify lawyer made history when he without any inhibition mixed terms of service, research ethics and national law. Spotify later claimed that the threat was a misunderstanding. And how did the Swedish Research Council react? Basically, they told Spotify to go home and "gratify" themselves.

 

 

shyghostsChristian Williams disappeared from the gothic country radar when he completely (in the true sense of the word) changed his musical direction a couple of years ago. His new music sounds like Karlheinz Stockhausen meets Brian Eno. Therefore, I was very surprised when he released an album with tratitional music a month ago. You can listen and buy the album digitally in the format of your choice at Bandcamp, just click here (opens in a new window). The price is set according to the "name your price"-principle. The title is a nod to Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor and electrical engineer known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission. The background to the album idea and the title are as follows. Christian Williams prepared a set list to a solo show in Lawrence, KS. One of the songs was the traditional song "Rye Whiskey". Christian Williams decided to rearrange the music and came up with a totally different melody and chord progression. One thing led to another and he got interested in putting together a new album. In an e-mail Christian Wiliams explains: "I didn't want to agonize over what the songs should be about, though, so I just decided to collect more words already written. Once I spent some time reading and thinking about the lyrics, I'd start to hear a melody in my head and as soon as I found out that it worked with the meter of the lyrics, I'd made a quick recording of the song with my iPhone." The plan was to treat the recordings as demos and take them into a studio and record them professionally. But as he kept listening to the recordings over and over, the rawness of the songs grew on him. He realized that those recordings were as close as he was ever going to get to the initial point of inspiration. Some of the recordings were literally made in the moment. In the e-mail Christian Wiliams explains the choice of title: "I felt compelled to tip my cap to Marconi and the technological advancement that made it possible for me to come up with a song, record it through my phone, and instantly be able to transmit across the globe." 

 

cw home studioThe album "Marconi" is less than 25 minutes long and contains seven songs. The first song is the above-mentioned song "Rye Whisky". It has been recorded twice by Christian Williams (On "The Long Winter - Vol 1: B-sides and Alternate Takes" and "For My Mind It Was Flying"). This version, however, is more built around the vocals. The second song is "In the Shadow of the Pines". Words by Hattie Lummis (1895) and adapted by The Carter Family. The pace is faster and the melody structure is more addictive than the reference recording with The Carter Family. "Oh, darling, come love me as before / Come back to leave me nevermore / At that spot I'm sad and lonely / And the sun no longer shines / Come and meet me in the shadow of the pines." The third song is "One Little Word". The song is of unknown origin. There's not much bluegrass left in the arrangement, but the song is tastefully adapted. The fourth song is "Train 45". The song is traditional. This version goes somewhat slower than most versions and is more twangy. The fifth song is "Waterbound". The song is new (2004) and is written by Dirk Powell. The original song is great. This version goes slower with more emphasis on the lyrics. The verses also comes in a different order than on the original recording. The sixth song is "Who's Going Down". This is a traditional bluegrass tune of unknown origin. Sometimes referred to as "Who's Going Down to Town". This version goes significant slower than most versions and has more emphasis on the chorus. The seventh and last song is "There's No One Like Mother". Words by Charles A. Davies (1877) and made popular by The Carter Family. Sometimes referred to as "There's No One Like Mother To Me". This version is more driving and melodic than the standard reference recording with The Carter Family. And what's the overall assessment of the album? My starting point is the notion that if you got nothing new to bring to the table, don't start any projects. Lyrics and music are often a indivisible whole. The words for these songs already written and widely known. But they are properly reworked and restored by Christian Williams. The idea for this project was to set his own music to the words. His interpretations are traditional and innovative at the same time. The recordings reminds me of the fact of how different a song can be with just a different arrangement. In my opinion and despite being almost an audiophile, the rawness and simplicity gives the songs an aura of field recordings. Christian Williams really knows what he's doing and has done a bang up job. The recordings also reminds me of how close concepts like "traditional" and "gothic" really are.

 

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Christian Williams is one of the stalwarts of the gothic country genre. Should we get our hopes up or was this only a one-off recording? In the e-mail Christian Wiliams writes: "As far whether or not this is a one-off recording, my guess is that I'll probably do another album like this again. Right now, I'm more focused on painting and some other non-folk music projects, but I really did enjoy the process of working with these words and making new music for them. They represent my contribution to the long tradition in folk music of keeping old songs alive by borrowing, combining, and reworking the words and music so they can become truly timeless." Anyway, Christian Williams gothic prairie country is sorely missed.

  

  

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