I saw an ad for a band recently who said the style of music they played was alternative country. I am not so sure what that is. Is it maybe some music with bleak, Gothic, or dark lyrics that they call country? Is it possibly songs with instruments that you would not normally associate with country or maybe beats that are not the normal for country? While exploring alternative country music I only got more confused. You see, I do understand what Alternative music is. I do understand what Country is. But when I try to apply Alternative to Country, I have a hard time categorizing the music. In the exploring the artists in this category, it seems that almost every style of music imaginable is represented in Alternative Country.
I was hanging out with some musically inclined friends at a barbecue last Friday evening and thought; this would be a good time to see if anyone else is as confused about recognizing what music, in the country vein, is considered Alternative. I also wanted to know their opinions on how other veins of music, like rock, pop and blues, might fit into the Alternative country scene. They told me that alternative country started out with combining country music with punk. At the beginning it was called “cowpunk”. Cute. While this music does function outside of the traditions and industry of mainstream country music, it seems alternative country music actually does draw a lot of its makeup from traditional American country music… but then adds strong influences of mainly punk… but also Americana, rock, rockabilly and even lately, blues.
One of my friends had an opinion that, since country music has gotten so popular, there are many, many artist who are just trying to cash in on it. Even though they haven’t in the past exactly fit the country style, they try to adjust what they are doing, change their appearance and style that they are promoting, just enough to make it somehow fit into a vague country feeling. They probably think that since it doesn’t exactly fit country, the best bet is to call it alternative country music.
Then there is the idea one of my friends had; that almost anybody from the south who plays music that is not clearly defined in any category, automatically tries to affiliate themselves with country just because they are from the south. Again, it may not quite fit into traditional Country style music, so they call it Alternative.