So, about six months into its existence, the XXX country music movement or genre or promotional machine, whatever it is, has released its first compilation. Called Southern Independent, Volume 1, it’s a good collection of songs, though I don’t think it works as an album. I wrote about this whole XXX thing in March and, at the time, it really excited me. My excitement for the music itself hasn’t waned, but I’m starting to wonder if XXX, as a promotional machine or movement or genre can maintain the kind of identity cohesiveness essential to successful branding.
I don’t know, maybe this album would have worked better as two separate compilations. Maybe put the more mellow, roots-sounding songs on one album and then the more rock-n-roll type songs on the next. Put together, one after another, these songs just don’t seem to make sense together. The first two tracks on the album provide a great example of the kind of thing I’m talking about. The first cut, Robert Earl Reed’s “Road to Hattiesburg,” is a bluesy sort of tune, but also plenty country, that sounds as if it’s being sung by an old man in a big floppy at by the side of a dirt road somewhere. It’s real mellow and you sort of go to this beautiful dark kind of place that eases you into that kind of post epiphany lull that you get after you’ve had a powerful mental experience. But the next track, Shooter Jennings’ “Southern Family Anthem” plays and, not only does it destroy the mood, the clanging drums and guitar are so loud that they nearly blew my butt hairs off. Reed’s song is great and Shooter’s is at least good, but there’s really no good reason to pair them together like that.
Taken individually, though, most of the songs on the album are good to great. Rachel Brooke is here, with a song off her last solo album. I know I’ve been writing about her music a lot, but, seriously, has it worked? Have you listened to her stuff yet? Her song on here, “City of Shame,” is great, as close to a spiritual experience as you can get with music. Besides her song, I think the best tracks on this album are “I Used to be a Cop,” by the Drive-By Truckers and Robert Earl Reed’s “Road to Hattiesburg.” Bob Wayne’s “Road Bound” is a fun song. “Guilty until Proven Innocent” by Last False Hope is kind of weird. The group sounds like a punk band using bluegrass instruments (plus drums). I’m not sure how I feel about this track. Good fiddling, for sure. I know that Last False Hope is doing something innovative here, but I’m not sure if I’d want to listen to an entire album of this stuff. Okay, never mind. I think I would.
Did I mention that this album is free? It’s a great way to find new artists if you’re into more traditional country or Southern rock. And, I guess, so what if it doesn’t work as a complete album? You can listen to the tracks, discover something cool, and then buy the full album. And yes, I do pay for my music. Most of it, anyway. But especially from folks who play their hearts out for little monetary reward. Those Poor Bastards said that, “wealth is death,” and indeed they’re right. Still, it’s nice to have some warm grits in your belly every now and then.