Kickin' Up Dust
Beyond Record Store Day: Digging Up Some Choice Used Americana Vinyl

There are plenty of good reasons to visit an actual record store besides that one hyped day in April.

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Do iPhones Dream of Boxcars? Joe Ely and Sci-Fi Country

In 1983, road-weary Texan Joe Ely hovers over gadgets and wires, entering a brave new world of technology. Is he creating science-fiction country music?

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The Rainmakers Find Heaven and Hell in the Heartland

Since the early '80s, The Rainmakers have been among the best bands to emerge from the Heartland Rock boom of that decade. They may be the best that's still at it.

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Is the Sadness Gone from Country Music?

Has country music lost its capacity for brutal, unshakeable loneliness? Or are we just experiencing some calm before the next, inevitable heartache?

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When the Man in Black Went to Bat for Native America

A recasting of Johnny Cash's most controversial album, Bitter Tears, raises questions about the inclusiveness of American music.

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David Dondero: A Poet of Vehicles

Living out of step fits right in with Dondero's songs of tough and kindhearted outcasts, eccentrics and survivors who live out of sight, but in plain sight.

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Our Jason Isbell, Ourselves

Jason Isbell delivered one of the strongest records in 2013, and in doing so, he helped redefine the parameters of Americana.

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On Country Music Outsiders… and Fakers

Let's compare Eric Church's macho, white-power Outsiders to some newly reissued country outsiders from the '70s, the out-gay-country group Lavender Country.

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The Beautification of Country Stars

You can call 2013 the year that country-music album covers looked like advertisements torn from fashion and lifestyle magazines.

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Getting Gone: David Cantwell’s Take on the Iconic Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard's restlessness breaks him out of one prison and sends him towards another.

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John Fogerty Is Still Square, But He’s Kinda Cool, Too

John Fogerty has teamed with a group of contemporary artists to deliver a celebration of his songs and of American music with Wrote a Song for Everyone. It couldn't be a more welcome celebration.

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Country Music Ain’t Black & White: ‘Hidden in the Mix’

These explorations of the African-American presence in country music are welcome at a time when country music is treated, by insiders and outsiders, as a purely white genre, and exceptions to that are treated as aberrations, gimmicks or novelty songs.

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Wrote a Song for Everyone: Slim Dunlap’s Art/Roots Marriage

Former Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap's roots run deeper than punk rock, but he's got an arty flare you might not expect from a man who loves Hank Williams and Chuck Berry.

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Same Old Song: Tributes to Kris Kristofferson

There are at least four various artists tribute albums to Kris Kristofferson, all released in the last 11 years. Why him? Is it about the songwriter or the songs? The musicians or the listeners? The present or the past? The albums themselves might provide the answers.

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Always It’s You: Why the Everly Brothers Still Matter

Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie “Prince” Billy pay tribute to the Everlys with What the Brothers Sang, and the Chapin Sisters with A Date With the Everly Brothers, in their new tribute albums.

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Jonathan Goes Country, Country Goes Jonathan

Revisiting Jonathan Richman’s brief “country moment” offers another window, through the eyes of an outsider into the genre.

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Is Hero Worship All There Is to Country Music?

All of the albums that critics/fans who fancy themselves “pure” country defenders have praised as the best of 2012 carry a heavy aura of the past about them. But how much can country music progress if it’s spending all of its time looking back?

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Is Taylor Swift Still Country? Do We Care?

It’s hard to determine anyone in the genre who has built up more of an aura of hype and expectation around each new release than Taylor Swift. Each album takes a different step outwards.

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In the Heart of Country Music in the Heart of the Country

How the Midwest remade country music in its own image -- and without even trying.

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Bruce Springsteen, Country Music Idol?

Country singers of all stripes have covered or referenced Bruce Springsteen in their songs, yet the reasons they do so, and what they see in his songs, is not as easy to read as you might expect.

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What Nashville Might Learn from the Carolina Chocolate Drops

The Carolina Chocolate Drops show us why it's important that country music gets in touch with its real base: rural America and the many gifts that rural America offers.

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Confronting the Enemy: Rascal Flatts

I vigorously defend lots of country music that sends others running. Yet there is one band that drives me absolutely batty. I need to confront and dissect this visceral feeling that their music is the worst, ever. It's time to face my enemy: Rascal Flatts.

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Black Country Communion: Darius Rucker and Lionel Richie

Despite country's southern roots, there remains a dearth of black artists. Darius Rucker dipped his toes in those muddy waters in the past, but alas, Lionel Richie's new country album doesn't wade in much deeper.

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Psycho Country: Your Favorite Singer is Out to Kill Me

The perfect smile of your favorite country star might be hiding something sinister. Country songs can get kinda crazy.

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Americana May Be Country, But Country Is Rarely Americana

Like punk rock and heavy metal, country music has a formula and violating that formula is a kind of betrayal, a heresy for which one may not be forgiven. In Americana, such betrayals and unexpected turns are often welcomed.

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29 Jan 2012 // 10:00 PM

The Mythical Country

Where are these towns and neighborhoods that Montgomery Gentry sing about? The Mythical Country; the country that exists in the collective imagination of Nashville songwriters and singers, and that of the audience.

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Queer Country: Chely Wright’s Coming Out

The upcoming documentary, Wish Me Away, centered on country singer Chely Wright chronicles the pains of coming out in Nashville and raises questions about why more country musicians haven’t come out.

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When Indie Musicians “Go Country”

A lot of these indie musicians who wouldn’t call themselves "country" sound more country to me than Rascal Flatts or, for that matter, than Fleet Foxes, who are described as “alt-country”.

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Old Country Comfort: How the British Might Save American Music (Again)

The British saved rock 'n' roll, reignited the blues, and may just make country music more American.

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Country Music’s Me-First Jesus

These days, a country singer will bow down to Jesus at least once by the end of his album, even if he spent the rest of it cheatin’, mistreatin’ and fightin’. Jesus is that reliable way to feel good even if you’ve been acting bad.

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Is Country Music Treading Water in 2011?

It's been a dead enough year in country music to make fans wonder what's going on. Is the genre taking a year off, or just jogging in place for a while?

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Martina McBride’s Songs Inspire a New Generation of Country Singers

In one fell, sweet-voiced swoop, Martina McBride gives voice to the struggles of women in contemporary times.

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Fit to Be Tied: Country’s Angry Women

Modern country music is in love with a new trend: women inflicting violence on men, when the men deserve it... and even when they don't.

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What’s Real About Country Music?

The implication of "Real" and "This Is Country Music" is that some forms of entertainment are more real than others, and country music is the most real. Yet what does it mean for a song to be real? What’s real about music, anyway?

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The Past Is Never Past: How Country Music Remembers

Each year brings a slew of rock 'n' roll reissues or tributes, celebrating the anniversary of landmark albums from the past. Country music, however, tends to view its past differently.

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8 Nov 2010 // 10:00 PM

A Mexico State of Mind

Songs about Mexico run rampant through the commercial country landscape, but which Mexico are they singing about?

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Six Packs Ain’t Nothing More Than EPs With a Working-Class Name

EP sounds like an academic term. “Six pack” makes people think of beer, of a tough-guy’s abs, or Six Pack, the 1982 race-car comedy starring Kenny Rogers.

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Sam Bush: Still Rockin’ That Bluegrass Train

In the pantheon of bluegrass pickers, Sam Bush is the default leader. Still, Bush remembers playing onstage with Bill Monroe in the early '70s, and after he showcased his kinetic picking technique on the mandolin, Monroe leaned over and told him to “stick to the fiddle”.

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The World According to Country Radio: It’s Pretty Basic, Baby

Country is a genre with its own sense of time. New songs on country radio aren't necessarily new. The songs aren't interested in capturing a point in time, instead, they're all about depicting the essentials of life.

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The Importance of Being Ernest: Easton Corbin and the Country Boy Hemingway Code

Easton Corbin's debut reads like a 'Farewell to Arms' for the truck-pull set and lays out a hero's code for existentialist country boys everywhere; that is, the practical application of action over thought.

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So, Taylor Swift, How Far Do You Wanna Go?

Taylor Swift’s Fearless tour in Kansas City saw her go so far as to perform a mid-song hug-a-thon with her audience -- rather like a presidential candidate working the crowd -- except, as my brother said, “I went to a John Kerry rally, and he didn’t hug anybody.”

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Pour Some Sugarland on Me: Why Country Music Is the New Classic Rock

Question: Since everyone seems to love the big arena-rock of the '80s, why don't they make records like that anymore? Answer: They do. It's called country music, now.

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28 Feb 2010 // 10:00 PM

The Arrogance of Toby Keith

Arrogance is central to Toby Keith's music. Yet it's an arrogance tied to the notion that human beings are essentially deluded. Everyone thinks they're absolutely right, and everyone is usually wrong.

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Willie Nelson in the Twilight Glow

At 77, Willie's hair is now down to his tailbone, and you can see his trademark red locks fade to gray about midway up his back -- it's like examining the rings of a tree.

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//Mixed media
//Blogs

Fave Five: Alpine

// Sound Affects

"Australian sextet Alpine's newest album is a fantastic expansion of their joyous pop sound, but two members give us five records apiece that helped define their unique musical identities.

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