Alternative country can refer to several ideas. Most generally, any musician that plays a sound unlike the dominant trends in country music at the time plays "alternative country". By this standard, for example, the Bakersfield sound was alternative in the 1950s, and the Lubbock, Texas musicians were alternative in the 1960s.
In the 1990s however, "alternative country" came to refer to a disparate group of musicians and singers operating outside the traditions and industry of mainstream country music. In general these musicians eschewed the high production values and conservative outlook of the Nashville-dominated industry, to produce music with a low-fi sound, frequently informed with a strong punk and rock & roll aesthetic, bending the traditional rules of country music. Lyrics are often bleak, gothic or socially aware. Otherwise, the musical styles of artists that fall within this genre often have little in common, ranging from traditional American folk tunes and bluegrass, through rockabilly and honky-tonk, to music that is indistinguishable from mainstream rock or country. Indeed many alternative country artists come from punk and rock backgrounds. This already broad labelling has been further confused by alternative country artists disavowing the movement, mainstream artists declaring they are part of it, and the retroactive claiming of past or veteran musicians as alternative country. No Depression (http://www.nodepression.net/), the premier magazine of the genre, declares that it covers "alternative-country music (whatever that is)".
Despite this confusion, it is generally agreed that alternative country resulted from two opposed influences on country music. The first is traditional American folk music and styles, the music of working people, preserved and celebrated by practitioners such as Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. The second is country rock, the result of fusing country music with an aggressive rock & roll sound. The artist most commonly identified as the originator of country rock is Gram Parsons, although Jason and the Scorchers and Steve Earle are frequently identified as important innovators. These two styles merged in Uncle Tupelo's 1990 LP No Depression, the first identifiably modern alternative country record.
Alternative country is popularly referred to, especially in print, as "alt_country" or sometimes "alt.country". The genre is also referred to under a large number of other names, including "americana", "insurgent country", "no depression", "cowpunk", "progressive country", "regressive country", "low-fi country", "roots rock", "twang core", "rural contemporary", "country-punk" and many others.
Alternative country musicians
- Alden, Grant; & Blackstock, Peter (1998). "No Depression: An Introduction to Alternative Country Music. Whatever That Is". Dowling Pr. ISBN 1891847007.
- Goodman, David (1999). "Modern Twang: An Alternative Country Music Guide and Directory". Dowling Pr. ISBN 1891847031.
- Joe Sixpack's alt.country music guide (http://www.slipcue.com/music/country/countrystyles/alt/A_01.html)
- So what is insurgent country anyway? (http://www.gumbopages.com/music/insurgent.html)
- Alt.country defined (http://insurgentcountry.com/alt_country_defined_by_john_brandon.txt)