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Wednesday, July 28, 1999

Durned Good, Then

Posted By on Wed, Jul 28, 1999 at 12:00 AM

You say you like alternative country, huh? Supposing that’s the case, let’s make sure that y’all are down with Souled American. Emerging in the late ’80s, Souled American anticipated the alt-country phenomenon by at least five years and put out three classic albums in the space of 18 months. Those records, Fe, Flubber and Around The Horn, contain some of the most downtrodden warbling this side of Dock Boggs and seem to have made a great impression on contemporary faux-Appalachians such as Will Oldham of Palace and Richard Buckner. Fading into obscurity just as quickly as the band recorded those first three discs, Souled American has persevered and somehow continues to create rickety, savant-garde, countrified music.

Now, thanks to Tumult Records, those early albums have been reissued along with SA’s fourth album, Sonny, a distended song cycle featuring traditionals and other old songs written by the likes of the Louvin Brothers, Merle Travis and George Jones. With sparse instrumentation (basically guitars, bass and some drums) providing a wholly inbred ambience, singers Chris Grigoroff and Joe Adducci warble through the dark recesses of backwoods Americana. Songs like "Mar’boro Man," "Marlyphine Hank" and "Cupa Cowfee" illuminate Flubber as the band’s finest moment, but all four of these recordings (released as a pair of double CDs) are filled with similarly demented broodings. Enjoying pockets of support in Chicago and San Francisco, the Illinois-based group refuses to go down quietly. With a new album in the works and 1998’s Frozen available on the Checkered Past label, all of you recently converted country bumpkins can immerse yourselves in the off-kilter cult of Souled American.

It ain’t roots rock and it shore ain’t countrypolitan. Hell, it ain’t even No Depression. This stuff is genuine moonshine music for the millennium. Let’s just call it durn good, shall we?


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