Having always been part country band, part rock act, Cracker fully explores its redneck roots on “Countrysides.” The set is due July 28 in the U.K. via Cooking Vinyl, and Oct. 14 through iMusic in the U.S.
The nine-track set features a mix of originals and covers, including a take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Sinaloa Cowboys.” The album was borne out of a tour of honky tonks and trucker bars done last year under the moniker Ironic Mullet.
Midway through the trek, Virgin, the band’s label home since the late 1980s, withdrew promotional support and eventually dropped the act, claiming the project didn’t meet “commercial expectations,” according to singer David Lowery.
Tacked onto the “Countrysides” is a movie by Lowery that’s also dubbed “Ironic Mullet.” It includes live and interview footage of the band at tour stops in rural Virginia and Alaska. There’s also clips of Lowery pitching the idea for the new album at various stages by phone to an unnamed Virgin exec. Near the end, he’s found in an angry phone discussion with the label after being dropped.
The original idea for the disc had the band change its focus from being a rock act with country or Americana roots to instead approach the new songs as a country band with rock roots — while maintaining that same “Cracker attitude,” Lowery says in the film.
Playing covers as Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mothers” and such originals as “Family Tradition,” which discusses Cracker’s place amongst alt-country acts, the band was aiming for “the pot-smoking, drinking, s***-kickin’, getting-in-fights” type of crowds, according to Lowery.
While he says most alt-country albums typically focus on the “cerebral, introspective side of country,” in the same way as those written by the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, “Countrysides” was meant to deal with “the rednecks, the s***kickers, the drunks, the cranks, the weirdos and the clowns — the funny songs, the redneck songs.”
But, as the band toured and got further into the project, Lowery says the album changed.
“It’s not a funny record, it’s not supposed to be. It’s kind of become something else now,” he says during one of his phone conversations with Virgin. “It’s like a record about, it’s just kind of about America.
“We went from being sort of a benevolent nation, a nation that had the sympathy of the world as a result of these terrorist attacks,” he continues. “We were seen as this great beacon of democracy and multiculturalism that had been attacked by this evil power. And, ya know, I just wanted so much for my country not to turn into the yahoo, sort of redneck cowboys again that we seem to every 20 years or so.
“And playing these songs sort of took on more meaning, to me. It was really good that we did this, I feel like, in a way, we took a little snapshot, a little portrait, of what this country is, and it’s not necessarily flattering. Some of it is, and some of it isn’t, but it’s not the picture that most people want to see.”
Here is the “Countrysides” track list:
“Truckload of Art”
“Up Against the Wall Redneck Mothers”
“The Bottle Let Me Down”
“Reasons to Quit”
“Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room”
“Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself”