Various Artists – Not So Quiet on the Country Western Front
Suburban Home Records (www.suburbanhomerecords.com).
One label’s attempt at breathing a D.I.Y.-bred fire under the belly of country-western music.
Typically, I’m turned off by compilations. Let’s see, what songs are going to be mega-hits? What’s going to catch an ear? What will make a buck? they seem to beg. I envision a circle of big wigs in a cushy office chattering over profit margins and Dom Perignon, falling CD-sales and internet downloading as I reluctantly slip the disc into my eBay-cobbler of a computer and press play. I can only hope for the best, right?
Curious: the track listing on this album can’t be right. They’ve got Rocky Votolato and Lucero, Neko Case and Ghost Buffalo… they even have Tom Waits! Tom freaking Waits! I KNOW these musicians; they’re on different labels; what’s the deal here? I quickly realized it wasn’t some label trying to shove a load down my auditory canal while squeezing a buck out of my already thin wallet; Suburban Home Records is after something different with Not So Quiet on the Country Western Front, and that something is promoting a sound and supporting a tradition they truly believe is worth keeping alive.
The world of underground music used to slide easily within the term “Indie” or even masquerade—at least to the pop-masses—under the “emo” moniker, but technology’s advance and the internet’s juggernaut-like invasion of the furthest reaches of music and culture have brought every genre, sub-genre, and denomination of music within the reach of anyone with computer access and headphones. This is excellent, but it means those of us who look condescendingly upon most music—unless it has a certain guitar tone, a singer who can’t hit a note, or is an undeniable basement-recording, while calling ourselves Indie-music fans need to take underground music, even country and western—seriously.
I researched Suburban Home Records and was astonished at their organized, D.I.Y.-oriented, friendly and passionate support of this particular niche-genre. Suburban Home sent its founder to this year’s C.M.J. Music Marathon to speak on a panel discussion entitled “D.I.Y. or Die.” These guys are doing something positive for solid artists; that’s what Indie-music is all about. Their site, [url=http://www.suburbanhomerecords.com]Suburban Home Records[/url], provides links to bands, updates, reviews, a section about their bands (with tour and album information), a blog section… the works.
On Not So Quiet on the Country Western Front, Tom Waits rattles and groans about being lost and lonely on “Bottom of The World.” It opens with a hodge-podge pack of stringed instruments as Waits veritably chokes out “Well my daddy told me looking back / the best friend you’ll have is a railroad track / so when I was thirteen I said I’m holding my own / and I’m leaving Missouri and I’m never coming home.” William Elliot Whitmore hollers and dances over his banjo on “That Train That Carried Away my Girl.” Rocky Votolato’s clean, wavering voice mourns life’s high-speeds in “White Daisy Passing.” Josh Small croons over an up-close and steel-scratchy acoustic guitar in “Knife in my Belly.” The album simply seethes with life from two back-shelf genres, and served to remind me not only of all the internet and modern recording technologies have opened to us, but that I need to start digging again into some new music.
—Timothy C. Avery