“You can take a lad out of Seattle but you can’t take a fish out of the country.”
As I read posts in the various PNW music groups I belong to, I get the creeping feeling that Seattle = grunge in the minds of many. End of story. But the truth is that Seattle music is a hot mix of many styles. One can find a thriving surf rock community, unlimited punk bands, and enough dream pop to fill your nightmares. But today we look towards the past and see just what the heck is up in the country music scene.
One of the earlier NW practitioners of both kinds of music, country & western, Bonnie Guitar is somewhat forgotten these days. Her biggest hit, Dark Moon, was released in 1957, which is a while back. But here in 2021 Dark Moon will soon be hitting the airwaves in the soundtrack of Loki! The song is a haunting pop/country crossover and is sure to please a new generation of listeners. If you like old-fashioned country music, give Bonnie a listen.
Christy McWilson is a country performer who is ubiquitous in the Puget Sound area. Over the years she’s been in a variety of local bands including the Dynette Set and The Picketts. Additionally, she has sung with national recording acts, including Dave Alvin and Mudhoney. McWilson’s voice is that of a classic country crooner, strong and expressive, ready to raise a barn or stop a stampede at the flick of a whip. We are fortunate to have this talent in the PNW, so check her out via Hoopla.
And once you’ve fallen in love with Christy McWilson’s music, you can move on to The Picketts. This wonderful band, which included two members of The Young Fresh Fellows, strayed from the standard country music formula by interspersing elements of Americana, rockabilly and pop music into the mix. The result is accessible, charming songs that are sure to inspire repeated listenings.
Looking for contemporary country? Look no further than Seattle’s own Western Centuries. A touch of nasal twang, a dash of pop/rock sensibilities and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat combine to give the PNW country music that can hang with the best of current popular C&W. Get out your snakeskin boots and prepare to boogie. Or at least line dance.
But if it’s the old timey country that floats your wagon wheels, Seattle has that covered too with Ranch Romance. This band of ladies and a fella had no end of chops, harmonies, pickin’ and grinnin’. Why, they could even yodel (except in Georgia where it’s illegal). With bows and fingers a-flying, Ranch Romance provided virtuosic music for a passel of dudes and dudettes.
As we end our rapid tour, obscurity is the watchword. The Western Front, led by Fred Cole of Dead Moon, left us with only six recorded songs. Their brand of alt-country is gritty, desolate, filled with gravelly vocals and lonesome trails. If you appreciate the croonings of Wilco or Lydia Loveless then you should definitely check these fellows out.
Mama mia, that’s a lot of country music! And you thought the Northwest started and ended with Nirvana. Well, get out your musical amplification unit and think again, Buster. And while you’re up, please turn off that lamp in the hallway.