I want to talk about a particular music-related collectomania of mine. Well actually it’s such a deep and narrow subgenre of music that it’s hard to even call myself a collector, seein’ as how I can pretty much count these albums on one hand! Okay. I don’t know of a good term for this music so I just refer to it as "ambient country". Which is a horrible term I admit, but it’s the best I could do. This music, it’s kinda like Brian Eno but with guitars. It has to be instrumental, and it must be sparsely arranged. It should evoke rattlesnakes and desert landscapes that drone on and on. It should incorporate touches of slide guitar, steel guitar or maybe both. So anyway here’s my very short list of albums I love that more or less fall into the category I’m describing. If you can think of other albums along the same lines, post a comment!
- Ry Cooder Paris Texas soundtrack (the granddaddy of ‘em all!)
- Loren Mazzacane-Connors In Pittsburgh (Rian Murphy turned me on to this back in ’96 when we were recording my first album)
- A Small Good Thing Slim Westerns (which I discovered back in the glory days of Napster)
- World Standard Country Gazette (same thing)
- Bruce Kaphan Slider (which John W. turned me on to)
- Bill Frisell Ghost Town (an Eric Z. turnon)
The interesting thing about this list (to me) is that every single one of those albums is being marketed towards a different audience; they’re all supposed to be different genres. Cooder’s a soundtrack guy, Frisell’s a jazzbo. A Small Good Thing is supposed to be ambient or something. World Standard is, I dunno, Japanese folktronica? Bruce Kaphan is more along the New-Agey tip and Loren Mazzacane is supposed to be all experimental and shit. But they don’t fool me. They’re all trying to make different versions of the same record, and it happens to be a record I really love, so I’m cool with that! Whoever they are!
Of course I’ve heard a lot of other individual songs by artists that would totally fit, but not necessarily whole albums… Calexico does that shit pretty well, when they do the instrumental thing and forego the drums and mariachi horns. And the old Ennio Morricone spaghetti-western soundtracks and whatnot… now THAT’s a deep vein of material I’m sure! I just don’t know where to begin with all that shit.
I was talking a bit about this with Eric, and also with Henry, the guy from Lanterna? His music is kinda along those same lines — or rather, he has lots of songs that would totally fall into that same category but there’s no whole album that stays in that vein for very long. So Lanterna’s a little too rockin’ to fit that mold all the way, but it does kinda help explain why I’d have a predisposition towards liking their music.
Alright, this concludes my very unacademic thesis on Ambient Country. Questions? Comments? Suggestions?