Not Exactly KumbayaI've spoken a few times about "dark Americana", or a dark folk/country mix. It's sometimes called Gothic Americana. Here is the whole Wikipedia article on the topic:
Gothic Americana is a style of alternative country that fuses Americana music (neotraditional country, progressive country, outlaw country, country rock, rockabilly, folk rock, bluegrass music, blues, rhythm and blues) with elements of gothic rock, gothabilly, psychobilly, deathcountry. The main representatives of that music are the musicians of Denver music scene: 16 Horsepower, Wovenhand, Lilium, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Jay Munly, as well as other American (Willard Grant Conspiracy, Reverend Red) or even European bands (Helldorado).In an effort to possibly destroy any credibility I have left (considering my Pantera article earlier this week), I'm going to talk about some of my exploration of this genre and related dark folk/country music, even if not properly considered Americana.
Wovenhand: Wovenhand (2002)
Wovenhand (sometimes written as Woven Hand) is the solo band of the father of Gothic Americana, David Eugene Edwards (previously of 16 Horsepower), and it's been my main focal point for exploring this sound. I have most of the band's albums, and I love every one of them. Their self-titled debut features a few tracks that appear in different versions later in their discography, but it's nice to hear each version. The music is dark, catchy, and musically quite diverse, with a menagerie of different instruments and production techniques making each cut unique. My favorite is "Your Russia". It's not as good as some of the band's later work, but is still excellent, deserving a 4 out of 5 star rating.
Espers: The Weed Tree (2005)
If you have any doubt that folk music can be awesome, just check out the Espers cover of Blue Öyster Cult's classic "Flaming Telepaths". While that's the only track on The Weed Tree to feature distorted electric guitar, there is no shortage of awesomeness on here. The record overall has a psychedelic vibe similar vibe to Hexvessel, and also bears resemblance to my favorite album of 2011, SubRosa's No Help for the Mighty Ones--if you take all the heavy out of it. It's mostly filled with cover songs, each with varying degrees of quality ("Rosemary Lane" is good, "Tomorrow" is bad), but it should give you an idea of the group's very soft, low-key, simultaneously light and dark sound. Because the one original tune is excellent, I'll be looking further into their discography. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
Well, you can't win them all, I guess. At first, Stone Breath seemed like a mix of Wovenhand and Espers. But then I got halfway through this compilation, and I was just bored. And then I heard their version of "The House Carpenter" (which was done so well by SubRosa) and I was a little disgusted. There are elements of this that I like, but not enough of it. Perhaps their studio albums or even their EPs standing alone are better, but this is just too much, with too little to hold my interest. I give it 1 out of 5 stars.