This page is part of an opinionated overview of "alt.country" music, with record reviews by me, Joe Sixpack... Naturally, it's a work in progress, and quite incomplete, so your comments and suggestions are welcome.
This is the second page covering the letter "D"
Dead Man Winter "Bright Lights" (Banjodad/Thirty Tigers, 2011)
(Produced by Lucy Simonett & Jack Davenport)
Twang-laced power-pop and indiepop from Minnesota with a very low-key vibe... I'd place this more in the "rock" landscape, but the swampy guitars and squeaky fiddle licks are nice. If you enjoyed Thad Cockrell's solo stuff, you might like this as well. Sweet stuff.
The Dead Reckoners "A Night Of Reckoning" (Dead Reckoning, 1996)
Label owners Kieran Kane and Kevin Welch lead this ensemble, which also features fiddler Tammy Rogers, on a mostly cluttered, rock-meets-acoustic outing. The louder numbers I can live without, but smooth Mavericks-y tunes like Crying For Nothing" and the harmony-laden "Rocky Road" are pretty nice. Rogers is one of the band's main assets; she seldom succumbs to the dorky rock leanings that obscure many of these songs. Didn't wow me overall, but it has some nice moments.
Dead Rock West "Bright Morning Star" (Red River, 2011)
(Produced by Peter Case)
A fascinating blend of deep gospel and weirdo jam-band rock, with a modern California crew covering several old gospel standards -- the eerie, soulful stuff that makes goosebumps rise on your arms -- songs like "This May Be The Last Time," "God Don't Never Change" and "God Moves On The Water" with lyrics that confront the crushing qualities of life and present an eternal latticework above that contrasts a bright, holy heaven with the dust and sorrow on Earth. Singer Cindy Wasserman, along with her partner Frank Lee Drennen, taps into this bleak, old-school vibe and reappropriates it into an indie-rock context without seeming trite or coy. The first couple of tracks were a little too crunchy and abrasive for me, but the rest of the record added texture and ambience, including reverb-y guitars reminiscent of the oldest Staples Singers albums, and Wasserman in particular connects with the lyrics to bring out the spooky side of the music. Lots of high-powered guests on here as well, including D.J. Bonebreak, Exene Cervenka and John Doe (of X), producer Peter Case on guitar, and folk-freakster Mark Olson, whose old albums with Victoria Williams share a lot in common with this disc. It might be a very particular subset of listeners who will really be attuned to this one, but if you're into it, this is pretty cool.
Kevin Deal "Honky Tonks 'N' Churches" (Blind Nello Records, 2003)
Kevin Deal "Kiss On The Breeze" (Blind Nello Records, 2001)
Kevin Deal "The Lawless" (Blind Nello Records, 2003)
Amiable alt.country from down Texas way... This is Deal's fourth album, with production assist by the esteemed Lloyd Maines, who also adds plenty of his trademark great pedal steel licks. The stylistic debts to Joe Ely and Steve Earle are pretty obvious, but if you like either of those two, Deal stacks up pretty favorably. My only complaint about this particular album is the whole desperado/outlaw theme, which I feel pretty "been there, done that" about. Too many dudes are into it, and it almost always rings hollow. But overall, this is a pretty nice album. His tune "You Ain't Nobody," about how hard it is to crack into the music industry is definitely an album highlight... Funny because it's true!
Kevin Deal "Raw Deal: The Real Deal Band -- Live" (Blind Nello Records, 2005)
Kevin Deal "Roll" (Blind Nello Records, 2006)
Kevin Deal "There Goes The Neighborhood" (Blindfellow Records, 2013)
(Produced by Lloyd Maines)
Looks like Kevin Deal's done got religion... This is a quirky but thoughtful and sincere alt-country gospel album, filled with all-original material (and one rugged, unruly cover of "Amazing Grace") as this indie-twang veteran joins company with folks such as Steve Earle and Eliza Gilkyson among the ranks of indie-Americana folkies who, in their middle age, have chosen to take a closer look at their mortality and their place in the presence of the eternal... whatever that may be. In the often-irreverent, rowdy world of twangcore, religious themes are usually played for laughs, as part of the whole white-trash stereotype thing that still plagues the genre (along with locusts, frogs and songs about stripper girlfriends...) It's much to Deal's credit that he takes it seriously, and is bold enough to put himself out there and express his inner spiritual yearnings, despite the likelihood that not many fans will want to hear about it... Nonetheless, he summons himself to stand humbly before his maker, and to ponder the meaning of existence and the small (and large) roles that humans play in the universe. Deal is more overtly Jesus-y and biblical than other Americana old-timers exploring these themes, but he comes at it from a modern, non-traditional perspective. One of the best songs on the album is "Just Another Poet," which starts with him remembering how once when he was a kid, he wrote a fan letter to Neil Young, and even though he never got a reply he "never stopped believing," succinctly connecting his faith with his art, serenely examining the romantic self-mytholizations of rock'n'roll dreamers. It's a mature look back at life -- and ahead as well -- and not the sort of stuff we often hear on records these days. This album won't be for everyone, but is does have meaning and real spiritual heft, and will probably resonate with listeners who have come to a similar point in their lives. Recommended, if you're in the mood.
Angel Dean & Sue Garner "Pot Liquor" (Diesel Only, 2004)
An interesting, modernized reworking of Carter Family-style harmonies and old-fashioned country murder ballads, along with some moody lo-fi instrospection. Sounds a lot like Freakwater, with maybe less of a rough edge, and while the subject matter tends to be bleak, it suits the music well. Later in the album, they get into some uncommercial "pop" stuff with weird harmonies and aesthetic choices that reminded me quite a bit of the Roches. Nice stuff, though it might fit more into the "rock" side of the altie equation.
Ruby Dee & The Snakehandlers "North Of Bakersfield" (Dionysus, 2006)
A nice blast of honkytonk twang and retrobilly from the hip habitats of the Pacific Northwest... Ruby Dee and her Seattle-based rock'n'roll pals kick out the jams and deliver on of the most high-energy albums this side of Neko Case's old albums, or even an old Janis Martin platter or two. The songs all start to sound the same by the end of the album, but the first impressions are pretty strong and last a long time. A strong set of all-original material, too... Bet these folks are a lot of fun live!
Ruby Dee & The Snakehandlers "Miles From Home" (Dionysus, 2008)
(Produced by Conrad Uno & Jorge Harada)
Raspy, raucous, freewheeling and fiesty indiebilly from up in the Pacific Northwest. This gal obviously has a major jones for 'Fifties-era Wanda Jackson (I'm with you there!) as well as a deep background in modern DIY indiephonics... It's a little chaotic for me at times, but on the more straightforward retrobilly tunes, this is a lot of fun. Bet they're fun live!
Deep Fried Squirrel "Southwest Missouri Home" (2012)
These Ozarkers tap into the old-timey vibe of the 1920s, but add a rock music insouciance, producing clattersome, bluegrass-tinged twangcore, roughly in the Split Lip Rayfield/Bad Livers/Gourds range... Nice, rough-edged picking and fiddling, and rather difficult vocals. Personally, I'd like to hear more of the traditional stuff, but maybe that's just me.
Grey DeLisle "The Small Time" (2000)
Grey DeLisle "The Graceful Ghost" (Sugar Hill, 2004)
Wow... talk about a shift of direction! After self-releasing a pair of semi-dismal rockabilly-retro albums, LA-based singer-songwriter Grey DeLisle has apparently found her metier, slowing things down and penning a brace of Carter Family/Dolly Parton-styled acoustic, old-timey ballads, material that fits her somewhat shaky voice much better than the uptempo bluesiness of the 'billy scene. Before this disc came out, she was firmly planted on my "danger sign" list -- now I'm kind of curious to see where she goes from here. Admittedly, this disc is still gimmicky and bandwagonesque in a different kind of way, but it has an atmospheric feel that works for me. Definitely worth checking out... Fans of Be Good Tanyas and Jolie Holland will probably like this as well.
Grey Delisle "Iron Flowers" (Sugar Hill, 2005)
Hmmm. I guess my love-hate relationship to Ms. Delisle is back on again... Her first albums of tepid, wannabee rockabilly retro soured me to her early on, but her last record, the moody, eerily moving Graceful Ghost, was a surprisingly strong album that really made me think twice. Here, she's delved too deep into the wellspring of oversculpted Americana uber-artsiness, with a slow, solemn, Gothically morose batch of tunes, the sort of densely produced, darkly poetic stuff that some folks really dig, but I find pretentious and impenetrable. There are wisps of Cowboy Junkies and various slowcore, indierock mopesters, but only a tune or two where the lyrics rose above the self-consciously artful presentation. I would have to say, in all honesty, I might not be the right person to ask about this album -- if it's the kind of thing you like, this might be a masterpiece.
Kris Delmhorst "Appetite" (Big Bean Music, 1998)
Kris Delmhorst "Five Stories" (Big Bean Music, 2001)
This Boston-area singer-songwriter drifts between folkie-confessional meanderings and more compelling melodic grace, mixing country, pop and folk sensibilities, after the manner of Dar Williams or the Be Good Tanyas. Sometimes I'd find myself drifting away from her, slightly irritated by seeming droniness, and then I'd be riveted by gemlike songs such as "Broken White Line," entranced by the mandolin and the firmly sculpted lyrics. Definitely worth checking out.
Kris Delmhorst "Songs For A Hurricane" (Signature Sounds, 2003)
Perhaps a bit more doleful than her first album, but still bridging the gaps between folk, adult pop and twangy Americana. When she gets behind a strong beat, Delmhorst really grabs my attention -- others may find her slower, more contemplative stuff intriguing as well: fans of Be Good Tanyas, take heed!
Kris Delmhorst "Redbird" (Signature Sounds, 2005)
Kris Delmhorst "Strange Conversation" (Signature Sounds, 2006)
Kris Delmhorst "Shotgun Singer" (Signature Sounds, 2008)
Iris Dement - see artist discography
Brigitte DeMeyer "Another Thousand Miles" (Brigitte DeMeyer Music, 2000)
Brigitte DeMeyer "Nothing Comes Free" (2003)
Brigitte DeMeyer "Something After All" (33rd Street Records, 2006)
Brigitte DeMeyer "Red River Flower" (Brigitte DeMeyer Music, 2007)
(Produced by Brady Blade)
An exquisite Americana offering from this California-based, bluesy roots crooner... Where earlier albums had a rougher edge, this is a languid, mellow set, with a healthy dose of the smoky, sultry vibe made famous by Norah Jones... Indeed, this sounds sort of like the country album many wish Jones would record, filled with deep, soulful pedal steel and unhurried acoustic guitar, and excellent songwriting. Each song is a gem, as the album flows from strength to strength. Several Alt-Americana luminaries pitch in, such as Buddy Miller and Brady Blade (bandmates in Emmylou Harris' Spyboy band) as well as pedal steel legend Al Perkins, contributing some sweet licks to an album that is sure to hold up well over the years. Recommended!
Brigitte DeMeyer "Rose Of Jericho" (Brigitte DeMeyer Music, 2011)
(Produced by Brigitte DeMeyer & Brady Blade)
On her fifth album, Ms. DeMeyer steps back from her earlier twang, and plunges into a funky, soulful gospel vibe, drawing more on the bluesy African-American gospel tradition than on the hillbilly/Southern style. Her immediacy and strong artistic presence still comes through, but the music has a much different feel from earlier records, bringing to mind those old Leon Russell albums, or the soul-tinged country-pop of Shelby Lynne... Some listeners might get turned off, others will be enraptured. Not my cup of tea, but I can hear the skill in her songcraft and the passion in her voice... Definitely worth checking out, particularly if you're into similar recent Americana-spiritual searches from Kasey Chambers, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller or Kate Campbell.
Brigette DeMeyer "Savannah Road" (Brigette DeMeyer Music, 2014)
(Produced by Brigette DeMeyer)
More soulful, sultry vocals mixed with the backwoods twang of steel guitar, mandolin and banjo, with sweet, precise arrangements and evocative, haunting lyrics... Her stylistic likeness to Shelby Lynne remains striking and strong, and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing, although there's also a bit of Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac in there as well, with the crisp, concise picking of multi-instrumentalists Will Kimbrough and Guthrie Trapp... Nice stuff that holds up to repeated spins.
Demolition String Band "Pulling Up Atlantis" (Okra-Tone, 2001)
(Produced by Eric Ambel)
This band from Hoboken, New Jersey blended Neil Young-ish bar-band twang, honky-tonk retro and a bit of bluegrass... There's an amateurish air to their performances, but they certainly sounded like an authentic, local indie band. They gained a little notoriety with a 'grassy cover of Madonna's "Like A Prayer," though a much stronger track is their self-penned heartsong, "Dress Of Roses," and to a llesser extent the Loretta Lynn-ish cheatin' song, "She Went Outta Town." Singer Elana Sky also recorded some stuff under her own name; this isn't the strongest stuff ever, but they had a diverse palatte and an ambitious vision.
Demolition String Band "Where The Wild, Wild Flowers Grow: The Songs Of Ola Belle Reed" (Okra-Tone, 2004)
Demolition String Band "Like A Prayer" (EP) (Breaking Records, 2007)
This 4-song EP includes a bluegrass-twang cover of Madonna's "Like A Prayer" and as well as an original tune, "Dress Of Roses," both of which were on the Atlantis album, as well two versions of "The Star Spangled Banner," one a vocal, and the other an instrumental, bluegrass style.
Demolition String Band "Different Kinds Of Love" (Breaking Records, 2007)
Demolition String Band "Gracious Days" (Varese Sarabande, 2012)
Jesse Denatale "Shangri-La West" (Jackpine Social Club, 2003)
Jesse Denatale "Soul Parade" (Jackpine Social Club, 2006)
Smoky, mystical folk-soul music from Northern California's Jesse Denatale, a guy with John Prine's voice and Van Morrison's rich sense of melody and harmony, as well as Morrison's faith in hypnotic, chantlike repetition, mysteriously anthemic songs that build and swell and remain in a state of exaltation for what seems an eternity. Folks who liked Denatale's previous album, Shangri-La West, will love this one as well; conversely, if you pick this one up and enjoy it, you'll want to thrack the first one out, too. Denatale is backed by a cadre of low-key Northern California twangsters, including bassist Greg Reeves, Tom Heyman, the Loretta Lynch singers and avant-soulster Nino Moschella on drums. They summon up a deep, mellow, evocative groove that brings to mind the classic albums Van Morrison cut during his years in Marin County (Tupelo Honey, and the like...) If that sounds interesting to you, you'll definitely want to pick this one up...
The Derailers - see artist discography
Alt.Country Albums - More Letter "D"
Hick Music Index