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 third page covering the letter "S"




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Sixteen Horsepower "Sixteen Horsepower" (EP) (A&M, 1995)


Sixteen Horsepower "Sackcloth & Ashes" (A&M, 1996)


Sixteen Horsepower "Low Estate" (A&M, 1997)
Although their incorporation of "country" motifs (a plunky banjo on a few tunes, some twangy slide, a sludgey rockabilly-Goth vibe) is relatively more skillful than many altie types, this is ultimately too much of a lofty, I'll-prove-to-you-it's-art rock record for me to get into it... The songs strain for profundity, and are uniformly impenetrable. Too much of a Nick Cave jones, too, and too-warbly vocals. Doesn't do that much for me.


Sixteen Horsepower "Secret South" (Razor & Tie, 2000)


Sixteen Horsepower "Hoarse" (Checkered Past, 2001)


Sixteen Horsepower "Folklore" (Jetset, 2002)


Sixteen Horsepower "Olden" (Jetset, 2003)
(Produced by 16 Horsepower)


Sixteen Horsepower "Live" (DVD) (Alternative Tentacles, 2006)


Sixteen Horsepower "Live: March, 2001" (Alternative Tentacles, 2008)


Skeeter Pete & The Sullivan Mountain Boys "Skeeter Pete & The Sullivan Mountain Boys" (CD-R) (Bert Records, 2000)
The minute I started listening to this album, I formed an unreasonably strong affection for this sloppy Bay Area bluegrass outfit... In their (deliberately?) clumsy enthusiasm, these fellas demonstrate a complete and raggedy-ass devotion to the old-time spirit of the music, reminiscent of early-'70s stringband revivalists who knew they weren't gonna measure up to old-timers like Bill Monroe, but figured they'd still give it a try anyway. Instead of perfecting their banjo rolls while at jamming for decades at bluegrass festivals, Pete and his crew just plunged headfirst into the deep end of the pool, with a bellyflop here and a cannonball there, covering some classics (including three by Monroe) and writing some brilliant original material as well. Their no-excuses-offered planketty-planketty DIY approach differs sharply from many of the "insurgent country" types out there who all too often replace sincerity with rough edges and gosh-heck hick stereotypes. In contrast, these guys actually have the ability to connect emotionally with their listeners, and work within -- rather than batter against -- the tradition they're clomping around in. The original songs by banjo player Andy Sullivan are real standouts, particularly the mournful but modern lovers-spat song, "Let's Be Good To Each Other", and the genuinely eerie old-style murder ballad, "Don't The Light Nearly Blind You?" (which wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Dead's Cumberland Blues album...) I dunno if this will work for everybody, but I sure thought it was fun.


Elena Skye & The Demolition String Band "One Dog Town" (North Hollow Records, 1999)
(Produced by Greg Garing, Boo Reiners & John Siket)

Scrappy Americana-twang from this Hoboken-based band, who were once a bluegrass act, but have clearly leapt into a wider-ranging, indiebilly twang. Skye's voice doesn't floor me, and the production in general is a bit rough and DIY, but their hearts are definitely in the right place. The album's one gem is "It Still Hurts," a novelty number that fits well into the old honky-tonk tradition; I also enjoyed "Biggest Piece Of Nothin'," and got good feedback for both songs from my listeners, back in the day.


Elena Skye & The Demolition String Band "Like A Prayer" (EP) (North Hollow Records, 1999)
(See also: Demolition String Band.)


The Skylighters "The Skylighters" (Red Beet, 2006)
Three members of the alt-country Americana band Last Train Home team up with bluegrasser Jimmy Gaudreau and pedal steel/dobro whiz Mike Auldridge, delivering a sweet, mellow set that recalls cross-genre albums from folks such as John Starling and Carl Jackson. Includes covers of classics by Jim & Jesse and The Louvin Brothers.


Sleepin' Rattlers "Punktry & Western Music" (DIY 'Til We Die, 2012)


Slick Fifty Seven "The Ghost Of Bonnie Parker" (Laughing Outlaw, 2002)
Zippy cowpunk with a snotty, Camper Van-ish feel. Didn't ring my bells, but it was okay. The label is Australian, but I think the band is from Texas.


Josh Sloane "Josh Sloane & Coaltown" (Rural Rhythm, 2011)
(Produced by Josh Sloane)

A rugged, mid-tempo mix of bluegrass and gruff country ballads... Kentuckian Josh Sloane has a heavy, honky-tonkish voice and the picking isn't full of the usual drag-racing bluegrass breakdowns... Instead, Sloane keeps a mellow, mournful vibe throughout, with a country-tinged sound that might appeal to fans of Jamey Johnson. Other than fiddler Gerald Evans, I didn't recognize any of the musicians backing him up... No complaints from me, though: I'm always happy to see new talent come up, and while this disc isn't packed with blistering solos, it's certainly solid and worth a spin. If you're on the lookout for new bluegrass talent, you might wanna check this guy out.


Slobberbone "Crow Pot Pie" (Select-O-Hits, 1996)


Slobberbone "Barrel Chested" (New West, 1997)


Slobberbone "Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today" (New West, 2000)


Slobberbone "Slippage" (New West, 2002)
Shame on me for not liking this band just because of their stupid, ugly-sounding name... But, well, what can you do? It's a dumb name. Smart band, though -- this isn't the rowdy, sloppy twangcore you might expect... not exactly. Rather, what we have here is slick, melodic power-pop masquerading as cowpunk, as the band foregoes the acoustic-ish country touches that speckled prevous albums, in favor of a more full-frontal electric rock guitar style. The gravel-voiced vocals pay back-handed homage to numerous croony growlers of the neo-Tom Waits school, and while the roughness of the guitars is more exaggerated and louder than need be, I'd have to say this is a pretty skillful mix. A rock music comparison might be to the pop-punk balladeers in the Smoking Popes -- faux ugly vocals distracting us from musical craftsmanship that might otherwise be deemed too "perfect" for the genre... This isn't entirely my cup of tea; I think they're overdoing it a bit, and personally I don't find the record that pleasant to listen to. But if you want something that's rugged but not brainless, this is a pretty good record.


Jeff Smithart "Redneck Proud" (Private Stock Records, 2011)


Chris Smither "I'm A Stranger Too!" (Tomato, 1970)


Chris Smither "Don't It Drag On" (Tomato, 1971)


Chris Smither "It Ain't Easy" (Gene's Records, 1984)


Chris Smither "Another Way To Find You" (Hightone, 1991)


Chris Smither "Happier Blue" (Flying Fish, 1993)


Chris Smither "Up On The Lowdown" (Hightone, 1995)


Chris Smither "Small Revelations" (Hightone, 1997)


Chris Smither "Drive You Home Again" (Hightone, 1999)


Chris Smither "Live As I'll Ever Be" (Signature Sounds, 2000)


Chris Smither "Train Home" (Hightone, 2003)
(Produced by David Goodrich)

Roots-blues troubadour Chris Smither has been around so long that his '70s singer-songwriter status has shifted into that of an elder statesman of the alt.country scene. This is a remarkable album -- melliflous, calm and compelling, a very mature work. Some of his albums of the 1990s and early '00s have had their forced moments; here Smither seems entirely at ease, and seems to have nothing to prove. It's a very rich, rewarding album, well worth checking out.


Chris Smither "Honeysuckle Dog" (Okra Dog, 2005) (recorded in 1973)


Chris Smither "Leave The Light On" (Signature Sounds, 2006)


Chris Smither "One More Night With Chris Smither" (DVD) (Signature Sounds, 2008)


The Smokejumpers "Flat Tear It Up!" (Walking, 1998)
Old-school cowpunk, with a rowdy, raunchy sense of humor... The pace is a bit relentless, and some of the finer points of the songwriting get lost in the rush to the finish line... Then again, maybe being subtle isn't the point here... Veteran punker and plunker "King Teen" is a pretty strong novelty-song writer, and this disc includes some of his best material, such as "My Baby Thinks She's Betty Page" and "I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You No More" ('cause he wants to jump her bones...) On some songs, he overplays his hand (like "I Love You But You're A Lying Sack Of S**t"), but on balance there's some pretty fun stuff here. Lyrically, the breakneck pace detracts from the songs, while musically it lends cred to the whole punker vibe... Think of old Misfits records being covered by Eddie Cochran, and you'll get a sense of what's in store for you here...


The Smoking Flowers "Sweet As Port" (2008)


The Smoking Flowers "2 Guns" (Bandaloop, 2013)
(Produced by Adam Landry)

Scrappy alt-country from Nashville... The husband-wife duo of Scott and Kim Collins are veterans of the Nashville rock scene but here they take on some twang, in a latter-day Emmylou-Gram style, getting less rock and more country as the album progresses. Maybe Victoria Williams and Mark Olson are a better comparison: these songs are dense and odd, not easy to get a handle on at first, but they grow on you with sneaky, unexpectedly potent melodic hooks. Interesting stuff that's worth checking out.


Todd Snider "Songs For The Daily Planet" (Geffen, 1994)


Todd Snider "Step Right Up" (Geffen, 1996)


Todd Snider "Viva Satellite" (Geffen, 1998)


Todd Snider "Happy To Be Here" (Oh Boy, 2000)


Todd Snider "New Connection" (Oh Boy, 2002)
(produced by R. S. Field)

A very nice, very tuneful set with a strong country touch, reminiscent of the country-and-folk mix perfected by Oh Boy label head John Prine. Amid his own melodic singalong songs, Snider covers one of John Prine's compositions, "Crooked Piece Of Time," with Prine singing harmony, with Kim Richey singing on several other songs. The backing band includes Will Kimbrough on guitars, there's also some nice mandolin, a little organ, some unobtrusive drums... all in all, a good mix around a strong set of material. Snider's political side is mostly on hold in favor of more introspective lyrics and slice-of-life novelty songs, such as his own stonerific "Beer Run" and "Vinyl Records," where he cheerfully namechecks as many groovy roots and pop musicians as possible in the confines of a perfect little 2:30 pop tune. "Statistician's Blues," in which he brilliantly BS's his way through verse after verse ("Sixty-four percent of all the world's statistics are made up right there on the spot/eighty-two-point-four percent of people believe them whether they're accurate statistics or not...") has a slight political edge to it, but it sure is a funny song.


Todd Snider "Near Truths And Hotel Rooms" (Oh Boy, 2003)


Todd Snider "East Nashville Skyline" (Oh Boy, 2004)
Slipping into a cynicism as deep, profound and sincere as Steve Earle's, comedically-inclined alt-folk troubadour Todd Snider gets a few good ones in, but ultimately may lose a few listeners with the relentlessly depressing nature of this album. Lots of songs about drugs and jails and broken relationships... Where all his anger comes from may be a little mystifying, but you gotta admit he makes pretty good use of it... His rambling anti-censorship song, "Ballad Of The Kingsmen," recounts the presumptive suppression of the Kingsmen's old hit, "Louie Louie" (no one could understand the lyrics, so they must've been wicked...) and laments those who would blame the Columbine school shootings on rock music, rather than ask what the heck is wrong with our kids today... On a similar note, the song "Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males" is an update of the old rednecks-vs.-hippies theme... As ever, Snider has a superb deadpan delivery and a biting wit, but somehow this album seems a bit off... It's just so inherently glum and pessimistic that it never really gets off the ground... Still, it's a sharp, clever and quite personal... possibly the perfect antidote for all the bland, prefab crap out there on the radio dial.


Todd Snider "That Was Me: 1994-1998" (Hip-O/Universal, 2005)
Alt-twang troubadour Todd Snider has put out so many finely crafted acoustic gems in the last few years, it's almost hard to remember the rock edge and attitude he had in his early work. This is a great single-CD overview of his early albums, recorded for MCA-Nashville and its subsidiaries, back in the mid-1990s. Although it came out a little after the fact, his debut single, "Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues" (which was sent out to college stations, as I recall...) is still a hilarious skewering of the music industry's lemming-like faddishness... And the scabrous "Alright Guy," which has become an alt-country standard, also still packs a wallop. This is a nice introduction to a sharp-witted wordsmith who has only gotten wittier and more soulful as time's gone by. Worth a spin!


Todd Snider "The Devil You Know" (2006)


Todd Snider "Peace, Love And Anarchy: Rarities, B-Sides And Demos" (Oh Boy!, 2007)
The lacerating wit of folk-twang smartass Todd Snider is presented in its rawest form in this lively set of demos, outtakes and one-offs... There are several songs about Nashville and its secret society of half-starving songwriters, an ode or two dedicated to the rival Austin scene, and some good, old-fashioned novelty songs such as "Barbie Doll" and "Combover Blues." Some of these songs may be familiar from their finished versions, while some, particularly those with all the dirty words in 'em, never got all that much airplay. (One more reason to pick this one up: half of these songs you will never, ever hear on the radio, due to "objectionable" language...) Pals like Jack Ingram and Peter Holsapple pitch in on a tune or two, but mostly it's Snider's show, and he comes through crystal-clear on the disc's stripped-down acoustic numbers... It's a pretty strong set -- a nice addition to his ouvre; longtime fans will be stoked.


Todd Snider "Live -- Grimey's, Nashville: 10-20-06" (New Door, 2007)


Todd Snider "The Devil You Know" (DVD) (New Door, 2006)


Todd Snider "Peace Queer" (MRI, 2008)
(Produced by Doug Lancio, Eric McConnell & Todd Snider)

At the end of this biting leftie political set, Snider inserts a short spoken message where he explains that he didn't make such an "opinionated" album to try and change anyone's mind, but rather to ease his own. Among the things he tries to work out is the abject failure of the Bush administration and the arrogance of his ideology ("Mission Accomplished") and the persistence of schoolyard bullying ("Is This Thing Working?/Is This Thing On?") Perhaps the album's best moment comes in his slow, off-kilter acoustic cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," which is a brilliant reworking of a classic political roots-rock anthem. More listenable than you might imagine, this record definitely provides food for thought.


Todd Snider "The Excitement Plan" (Yep Roc, 2009)


Todd Snider "That Was Me: 1994-1998" (Hip-O-Universal, 2005)
Alt-twang troubadour Todd Snider has put out so many finely crafted acoustic gems in the last few years, it's almost hard to remember the rock edge and attitude he had in his early work. This is a great single-CD overview of his early albums, recorded for MCA-Nashville and its subsidiaries, back in the mid-1990s. Although it came out a little after the fact, his debut single, "Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues" (which was sent out to college stations, as I recall...) is still a hilarious skewering of the music industry's lemming-like faddishness... And the scabrous "Alright Guy," which has become an alt-country standard, also still packs a wallop. This is a nice introduction to a sharp-witted wordsmith who has only gotten wittier and more soulful as time's gone by. Worth a spin!




Alt.Country Albums - More Letter "S"




Hick Music Index



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