What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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February 11, 2020

Good American music

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There’s minimal loss in repetition: Our country labors under many political distempers and grievous social poisons, but her popular music is not one of them. In fact, American popular music, in my estimation, erects itself like a trophy in opposition to decadence. Our politics, our commerce, our public conversation, our discourse may well be in a state of deep and dark decadence, but at least we can still enjoy a well-composed tune.

The volume of well-composed tunes, of simply high-quality songs that fill you with warmth, speaks to a creative popular force, standing at defiance of cynical profit, bitter political division, and social media monomania, which we Americans might well take heart in.

I speak not disinterestly when I start with the fine Denver-based country-blues band Coal Town Reunion. The lead singer, John-Paul Maxfield, grew up with me and my brothers, across 17th Avenue Parkway in east Denver. In other words, we’re old friends. A successful businessman in the recycling industry by his own right, John-Paul finally took the step from a fantastic guitarist and singer in private settings (he played for my brother’s bachelor party in Evergreen) to a publicly labelled band in 2017, with an EP that included the classic “John Wayne’s Grave,” along with several other excellent tunes. Then last year these guys released another album featuring my favs “Alibi” and “Hide and Seek.” I keep waiting and watching for when they’ll come play a show here in ATL. I also get a yuk out of the fact that even Coloradans affect a warm Southern accent when they play country.

Here in this space, mention has already been made of Lord Huron, Nate Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Leon Bridges, Josh Ritter and Justin Townes Earle. And of course Bob Dylan.

Speaking of Dylan: are you interested in a superb album that resonates with Dylan’s late-60s Nashville charm? If so, check out the young Kentuckian Ian Noe. His album Between the Country might claim top honors for 2019 Americana. Start with “Letter to Madeline” and “Barbara’s Song.”

The Kentucky Renaissance continues with Sturgill Simpson and his protégé Tyler Childers. The Bluegrass State churns out some great songs. “Sea Stories,” “Mercury in Retrograde,” “Universal Sound” and “All Your’n” are your openers.

Or what about Saskatchewan country? Yes, you read that right: it turns out that way up in the desolate Canadian plains they produce excellent country showmen. Okay, he’s not American but our alliance with Canada presents itself as one of the most successful alliances in history, so -- Colter Wall, North American talent. Check him out: “Thirteen Silver Dollars” and “Sleeping on the Blacktop.”

While folks in New Hampshire haul themselves to the polls to pick a clown to stand against the other clown, let’s take comfort in the richness of our nation’s musical performers.