Well, this seemed to go over well last time, so here goes nothing. Today’s mix is the second real alt-country mix I made, and I assembled it sometime after moving to L.A., though the specific date remains fuzzy; I didn’t learn about Shurman until I saw them open for Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers in November 2004, so it’s safe to assume this list came together sometime in the spring or early summer of 2005. That places its birthday a solid 18 months or so after the creation of Alt 2.0, and it’s always interesting to see the bands that showed up again versus the ones that are “new” to one of these mixes. (Being pretty anal about things like this, I already envisioned making myself an ongoing series of alt-country mixes. I’m okay with this.) Aesthetically, I don’t think is quite as strong as my previous mix; I usually try to cool things off a bit by track 4, whereas this one doesn’t calm down till track 6, making the first third of the album a little top-heavy. But it’s still pretty listenable. Again, I’ve provided iTunes links where I could, but some of these are going to be tougher to come by. Go by your local Amoeba/Waterloo/whatever and root around. That’s when you’ll find the best stuff, anyway.
1. “Petty Song,” Shurman — The track I have is actually from their EP, which went our of print but was put briefly back into production a few weeks after I emailed their site and inquired whether they’d be selling any more. Was I singlehandedly responsible for inspring them to press up more copies? Yes, yes I was.
2. “W. Tx Teardrops,” Old 97′s — When I saw Old 97′s at the El Rey a couple years ago, bassist Murry Hammond, who does lead voclas on this and a few other songs, said before launching into this tune that “This is for anybody who’s seen those tornado warnings in West Texas.” I was the only one to launch a “Woo-hoo!” when he said that, which was mildly embarrassing, but not so much it kept me from singing along with every word.
3. “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” Lucinda Williams — I really like Lucinda Williams, and have spent some decent time with a few of her albums, but I feel (and my buddy Collins agrees) that she’s a fantastic artist whom we’re probably supposed to love when we actually just like her. Don’t get me wrong; Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is a classic, and West is pretty amazing. But sometimes it’s like I like the idea of Lucinda better than Lucinda herself. But this is still a good song.
4. “Miss Williams’ Guitar,” The Jayhawks — Whenever I hear the glittery electric guitar, I always am secretly pleased that I placed this song directly after the one by Lucinda Williams. Because I am like that.
5. “Jackie,” The Pistoleros — This is a fantastic band out of Tempe, Arizona, fronted by brothers Lawrence and Mark Zubia, and their debut album featured some songwriting assistance from Radney Foster and The Jayhawks’ Gary Louris. The Zubias also used to be in a band with Doug Hopkins, who went on to play with Gin Blossoms. I just find that interesting, is all. Their first album, Hang Onto Nothing, is definitely worth seeking out.
6. “Dancing With the Women at the Bar,” Whiskeytown — When I sing along with this song, I wonder what it would be like if my father had actually seen the moon and “heard the sound of the strip” calling out his name, instead of just being a completely likable salesman in central Texas. That would’ve been weird.
7. “Tear-Stained Eye,” Son Volt — Beyond fantastic. A pure, sweet, easy kind of country.
8. “This Flower,” Kasey Chambers — Ditto.
9. “Doubting Thomas,” Nickel Creek — I remember liking Nickel Creek in high school, mainly because they played great music and were about my age, meaning they were either really talented or I hadn’t really applied myself (probably both). I still think they’re a great group, and I like how their sound and subject matter has matured, as in this song, about the conflict between faith and doubt.
10. “Full Moon Over Dallas,” Maggie Brown — I nabbed a free copy of this album from work on impulse, mainly because it looked halfway decent, which it is. But I’m a sucker for songs about Texas, I guess.
11. “Rain King,” Counting Crows — Bam, right in the middle of the album, I drop some stout mid-’90s alt-rock on you. And it totally works. I love hearing songs like this in new contexts like this one, where its mild country inflections are enhanced by the rest of the list. Fountains of Wayne have recorded some great country songs, too. I also will always wish I had the range of Adam Duritz.
12. “No Depression,” Uncle Tupelo — You pretty much can’t beat Uncle Tupelo covering the Carter Family.
13. “Are You Still in Love With Me?,” Tift Merritt — Sad, sad song. When this comes on, I feel like I should pull over and find a quiet bar and drink myself stupid.
14. “Blinding Sheets of Rain,” Old 97′s — A great, low-key two-step.
15. “Gold Watch and Chain,” Nitty Gritty Dirt Band feat. Kris Kristofferson — The iTunes link goes to the tribute album The Unbroken Circle, but I actually got my copy from a compilation called This Is Americana, a fantastic record being sold for the ridiculously stupid price of $2, which means you should all go buy it right now. Right. Now.
16. “My Heart Is Broken,” Ryan Adams & the Cardinals — I loved Jacksonville City Nights with a passion; it was easily the best of the three albums Ryan Adams put out in 2005 (second place was Cold Roses, while the off-putting29 ran a distant third). This is a quick, efficient song that gets in and out in just over two minutes, and I love it.
17. “Virginia, No One Can Warn You,” Tift Merritt — If anyone can put me in touch with Tift Merritt, I’d appreciate it.
18. “Last Hard Bible,” Kasey Chambers — Kasey Chambers has this thin little voice that fires like a cannon, and the tight harmonies on this song are excellent.
19. “At the Bottom of Everything,” Bright Eyes — Sometimes I launch into the monologue at the beginning of this song at the office. It weirds people out, but not as much as when I say it while sitting in an airplane. Anyway, great song, great album, etc.
So, there you go.