Last year flying back to the US from London on one of my visits, I had the misfortune to be seated next to a rather obnoxious woman from Nashville who was bemoaning the lack of country music in England. Seems she wanted to find the latest CD by Tim McGraw—or some other hat act—and came up empty at the small town Boots shop (English drugstore chain) she visited. Well, that spurred me onto one of my soapbox spiels where I basically explained all about how American country music is actually quite popular in the UK and Ireland. Just ask Garth Brooks or Reba McEntire about how much money has filled their hefty coffers from these regions and about all their sell-out tours and mobs of fans. But it’s not just mainstream Nashville country that plays well over there, but also plenty of alternative country, hardcore honky tonk, and roots rock going all the way back to good ole Hank Williams. And more traditionally marginalized artists such as Gram Parsons have also been a strong influence on generations of British musicians.
So it’s really not surprising when a band like Mojave 3, formed from the ashes of the shoegazer band Slowdive, offers up rustic country pop to its British base. Hell, Ronnie Lane quit the Faces so he could tramp around the countryside with his gypsy-like entourage of brilliant rag-tag musicians playing a particularly English brand of country-folk to all comers. Like Lane, Mojave 3 puts an English spin on country, essentially creating country-informed English pop music as opposed to hardcore traditional American country. Mojave 3 has been criticized on occasion for their “too polite” approach to country music, but that argument really misses the point entirely. Excuses for Travellers—and Mojave 3’s previous work—isn’t meant to be heart-wrenching, cry-in-your-beer type of stuff. It’s pastoral, complicated pop with an innate sense of melancholy that draws more from the Nick Drake school of songwriting than the Merle Haggard school of classic American country.