Occasional Country Music Super Groups

Every so often the country/alt country music fan is treated to a pleasant double header:

* the seemingly random pairing of well known musicians, who in turn put out ...
* one hell of a recording.

The granddaddy of these efforts is from 1985 in the form of the Highwaymen. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings doing their Outlaw thing ... (way cool)!

In the last few years though, we have seen a few recordings that may not equal the Highwaymen, but are worth owning nonetheless.

In 2001, we had Randy Meisner (ex-Poco & Eagles), Billy Swan ("I Can Help" fame), and Charley Rich, Jr. (son of Charlie Rich and grandson of Jerry Lee Lewis) put together a wonderful record that could be listened to over and over again. The sound was country, but also acoustic with traces of rockabilly.

2003 gave us The Thorns. The Thorns were indie folk rock musicians Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins, and Peter Droge who recorded an excellent album that sounded very much like Crosby, Stills, & Nash, prior to Neil Young joining them. Imagine glorious harmonies in the vein of CSN&Y and the Eagles and you get a good picture of what the Thorns are about.

This year we are presented with The {Notorious} Cherry Bombs. Who are The {Notorious} Cherry Bombs? ... well notably Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, Tony Brown and a number of other Nashville veteran musicians ... (wow)! As the story goes, 25 or so years ago The Cherry Bombs were Rodney Crowell's back-up band. Over time, the band members went their own ways and did outrageously well for themselves. An ASCAP music show in 2002 served as the occasion for the Cherry Bombs to get back together. Their story makes for a fun read.

So, how's the recording. Damn fine. Similar in sound to Meisner, Swan, & Rich ... in that it has a low-key country feel, but you also can hear the other artists that the Cherry Bombs have influenced and have been influenced by over the years (Johnny Cash, Emmy Lou Harris and Rosanne Cash, for example). Vocals are spot on ... pleasing and precise and the musicianship is outstanding.

Definitely worth hearing and owning, especially if you are a fan of the Americana sound.

Regards, Rich

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Yes, good to see some coverage of smart country music on these pages once in a while.
Years ago I would not have been caught dead listening to that "country crap". Now I love it, as do all of my audiophile buddies. Country music has become less nasal and twangy over the years but I believe the biggest reson for it's success is that Nashville (pronounced "Naishvul" down here in the South) boasts recording engineers and studios at least as good as New York or L.A. It is quickly becoming the recording capitol of the U.S. of A.
Also a new generation of producers and artists; more sophisticated, better musicianship and maturity to the genre. Think of the difference between 1950s rock and Y2K (leaving aside the matter of taste!).
For Alt Country try Adrienne Young. She has a real clean voice and she is a thoughtful songwriter. Also she arranges traditional folksongs for a more modern audience.

However, everyone you have all mentioned pale by comparison to HANK, every last one. Hank is arguable the equal of Robert Johnson and Stephen Foster for Americana songwriters.

If you take the twang, nasalness and the yodeling out, is it country music? You have to pronounce picture as "pitcher" poor as "purr" to be country. If it has drums
it ain't country.

"If'n it aint got no fiddle, it aint country, boy!" Hank Williams, 1951

You think Johnnie Cash is an outlaw. Faron Young a new country singer went to Nashville with his girlfriend, Billie Jean, an absolutely stunning redhead. Hank saw her,
caught up with the pair, when Faron went to the bathroom, Hank followed him in. Pulled out a revolver and pointed it at Faron: said "Boy she aint your girlfriend anymore, she's mine. Get out of here and get back to your momma, boy" Faron left and that was that. Billie Jean was his girlfriend and later his second wife. Mean MF.