Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Being a critic with a fondness for music that falls into the big-umbrella category known as "alternative country" ("Whatever that is," No Depression magazine used to ask) one of the most irritating, over-used rockcrit cliches that drives me nuts is the term "the alt-country ghetto."

It had been a couple of years since I'd stumbled across this in print. Then yesterday I got the press bio on The Old 97s new live CD, written by 97s singer Rhett Miller himself.

"I'd only recently been exiled to the ghetto of alt-country (for some stupid reason, I'd thought that what we were doing was classic American rock and roll."

I swear to God, the only musicians quicker to shun a label are New Age musicians.

I did a Google search this morning for "alt-country ghetto" and got 116 hits. Here's some examples:

" ... Fulks' subsequent attempts to break out of the alt-country ghetto in his career ..."
Baltimore City Paper 2001

"While this may sound like typical rhetoric from upstarts trying to avoid being cast into the alt-country ghetto ..."
All Music Guide review of Tennessee by Lucero, 2002

"... and the music was eclectic enough to break him out of the alt-country ghetto ..."
All Music Guide review of Rock N Roll by Ryan Adams 2003

" ... gave Tweedy the musical muscle to make the leap from the alt-country ghetto to a richer pop universe ..."
The Portland Phoenix 2004

"Laura Veirs might be the bridge between the alt-country ghetto and the Sheryl Crow-revering mainstream."
Attributed to Mojo magazine in a 2005 press release for Laura Viers

"... (Tift Merrit) trades in bedtime tunes for stay-out-all-night rockers, busting out of the alt. country ghetto with a self-described "rock-soul throw down."
Austin Live Wire 2005

Others to rise from the Alt-Country Ghetto include Fred Eaglesmith, Dave Alvin, The Jayhawks, Jim Lauderdale, The Geraldine Fibbers and The Willard Grant Conspiracy.

In fact, I bet if you looked hard enough you could find that anyone I've ever played on The Santa Fe Opry, nay, anyone ever associated with alternative country has broken out of the Alt. Country Ghetto.

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