COUNTRY Chris Mills 13th Note Cafe, Glasgow, Tue 13 Feb.
While the Nashville purists may be tearing their hair out at the colonisation of country music by mainstream pop, there's no question that the cross-fertilisation between traditional country forms and rock has opened up some pleasing new horizons. Scotland boasts a dependable fan base for touring big names in country mixing and matching like Emmylou Harris or Steve Earle — and at grassroots level we're beginning to cotton on to a growing influx of American singer/songwriter-driven bands loosely associated with the term alt.country.
In fact, labels are one of the headaches musicians in this line have to suffer, and few of them do it with great joy. ’Americana' is the latest voguish term, neatly sidestepping the ‘country’ tag while suggesting an affinity with US popular music traditions, but it cuts little ice with Chicago-based singer- songwriter Chris Mills.
’Labels are fine if that’s what people want to do, but it’s nothing I really take into consideration when I’m writing or anything,’ he says on the line from North Carolina, where he is touring prior to reaching Scotland. ’l'm not sure there really were labels before rock journalism came along.’
Mills is still in his mid-twenties, and sustains his career with temping work, but his third album, Kiss Me Goodbye has attracted consistently good reviews for the deft, often bleak lyrics which are carried by his rootsy retro songs. Glasgow will see him play with a full band and Mills is conscious that European audiences generally pick up on his style more enthusiastically than those at home.
’There’s more respect for all kinds of music,’ he says. ’People are prepared to listen to things they haven't heard and give them a chance.’
Mills’ growing reputation is also sustained by the
Dig the new breed with Chris Mills
current boom in transatlantic singer-songwriters, and he is well aware that he is one of a procession of troubadours — several of the others are his friends - currently heading for these shores.
’The way it is in Scotland or Ireland right now reminds me of the way it was over here a few years ago, when it was really starting to take off,’ he says.
Other slices of Americana to look out for in the next few weeks include an appearance at the 13th Note on 29 Jan by one of the new shining stars of the genre, Neal Casal; at King Tut’s, Glasgow, on 27 Feb, Kim Richey, whose album Glimmer was acclaimed last year for its expertly-crafted country pop; at the 13th Note on 12 Mar, the magnificently grungy Robbie Fulks, and at the same venue on 31 Mar, Jay Farrar, formerly of the hugely influential Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt.
sound engineer so we started recording whenever we could get time.’
The result was first single ’Always Your Way’, Which found favour With Cider-sloshing thirtysomething Steve Lamacq. It also launched My Vitriol on their current trajectory, Which sees them re-releasing the Single and playing a hectic month-long tour. ‘It can be claustrophobic,’ says Wardner, ’but there haven’t been any TV’s out of Windows yet. It’ll be nice to Just get out there and play. We’ve only Just
Venue, Edinburgh, Wed 14 Feb;
King Tut’s, Glasgow Thu 15 Feb.
What With all this chat about the ’NeW
Acoustic Movement’ (remember the
capitals, try to forget the New Wave of
New Wave), it’s easy to forget that
there are a few bands this side of the
channel who can still plug in and rock
out. My Vitriol came to public note last
year with a hat-trick of anxious,
adrenaline-lashed singles. This year
sees them release their debut album, the harshly melodic Fine/ines. It may
veer perilously close to complaint rock,
48 THELIST l—lS Feb 2001
Road warriors My Vitriol
but its punkish frenzy makes this anything but music to wallow to.
As singer and songwriter Sam Wardner recalls, they owed their genesis to grunge's most high-profile casualty. ’When I was fifteen or so, I started to listen to a lot of Nirvana,’ he says. ’I couldn't play guitar at the time, so I did a few crap covers on the piano. Then a mate, who I sat next to in maths, asked me to Jom his band. Loads of peOple had played With him — I think he’d Just been gorng round the maths class until he got to me — and I started playing the guitar. The band got together and a mate of ours was a
started the rehearsals so I’m not sure how it’s gorng to turn out. It’ll obviously be very Spinal Tap.’
The band aim to play a series of
festivals this summer, but it turns out they'd really rather be chilling out. 'We've been domg loads of tours and promotional stuff,’ explains Wardner. ’It’s been tough — every minute of the day is turned into something about the band. Everything that was important gets left behind dehumanising. So a holiday would be nice.’ (James Smart) The a/bum Fine/ines is out on 5 Mar and is preceeded by the single ’A/ways Your Way’ on 7 Feb both on Infectious Records.
and it is
Henry's Jazz Cellar, Edinburgh,
Fri 2 Feb.
Clarinetist and saxophonist Michael Moore and drummer Han Bennink ia man for whom the word inimitable could have been inventedi have been periodic Visitors to Scotland with the wonderful CIuSOne Trio, but this time around they team up With pianist Alex Maguire, a leading light of the London free improvisation scene Moore released a duo album With Maguire, Mt, Olympus, on his Ramboy label last year.
'I started Ramboy after receiVing a few TGJGCIIOH notices from labels I thought should have been interested I called it RambOy because my son Reuben Aaron Moore (RAM) was born about the same time I have no budget for promotion, so distribution is ba5ically passwe, but I feel that there are a lot of people who would really like this music if they were introduced to it, and it’s a pity that it's not more
readily available Then again, maybe you prize more what y0u have to go 7
after — there’s enough information
being thrown at us all the time that I
don’t feel that I need to contribute ' Moore was born in California, but
eventually settled in Holland in the
mid-805, where he has been an
important part of the artistically active
jazz and improwsed music scene in
Amsterdam. He has worked With all of
the leading Dutch artists, including Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra, and has also continued to forge links With American mUSiCians. Moore is also involved With several other groups,
including his own Available Jelly oumtet, but feels that the trio is a i
particularly compatible setting.
'Trios seem to be very easy for me There’s something about how you can make a move and influence the music the forward momentum. I've heard that it is often eaSier for three instruments to play in tune With each other than two — maybe improvrsing is like that. If you have more than, say, five peOple, it gets real difficult to improwse together You need to be together for a long time — like IC P.’ (Kenny Mathiesonl
Arch collaborator Michael Moore