Label Profile: Bruce Adams’ Flingco Sound System

 

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When Bruce Adams and his partner Joel Leoschke formed Kranky Records in 1993, the label released a slew of influential albums from artists such as Labradford, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and Charlambides that helped define the sound of the decade. Eventually, Bruce left Kranky in 2006 and had seemingly given up the music business for good. Until four years later, when he suddenly decided to get right back into the fray with his new label Flingco Sound System. What prompted his return? Let’s ask Mr. Adams and perhaps he can explain.

Kranky was one of the most amazing success stories of the 1990s. In my mind, you ended up playing 4AD to Matador’s SST. When did you first realize that the label was going to make such a splash in the Amerindie scene?

I can’t speak for my former partner at kranky, obviously. But I will say that we set up the label in diametric opposition to what we thought was a tight-assed indie rock scene. Many many people were chasing the brass ring of “alternative rock” in 1993 when the label started. It seemed obvious that bands like Labradford and Jessamine were bringing something different. I never concerned myself with whether the label would make a splash, I did hope that the bands and recordings would.

What was the first thought in your mind after you left Kranky?

That it was time to take a break from talking to people about music for a living. Prior to working at kranky for 12 years I had worked at Touch & Go. I was really tired of promoting records.

From what I gather, you started Flingco not too long after you left Kranky. Why did you get back into the biz?

Wrnlrd.

Why Wrnlrd? What about his work was so intriguing that it brought you back in?

What interested and interests me in Wrnlrd was the completely encapsulated aesthetic and total independence. Wrnlrd was self-releasing these CDs that referenced obscure science fictional, numerology and played on them with real skill. I felt like it was more than the standard Norwegian BM by-the-numbers. In short, Wrnlrd had (and has) the capacity to expand the boundaries. And if I was going to start a label I wanted to begin with something completely unlike what kranky had done.

As a fan of black metal, particularly the “one-man band” varieties like Wrnlrd and Striborg, I totally understand its chaotic sledgehammer appeal. But how has hipsterus Americanus received Flingco’s black metal offerings?

I’ve got records in my basement. When there are no more records in my basement I’ll be in a better position to comment on how any FSS release has been accepted. Having said that, there are some people who have very been very supportive of what Wrnlrd is doing. And people seem to be discovering Wrnlrd all the time.

I noticed that Cristal, who has releases on Flingco, includes a member of Labradford. How did they become part of your roster?

I’ve known Bobby Donne from his time in Breadwinner, before he joined Labradford (before there even was a Labradford). When I was at kranky, Cristal came up from Richmond to play a show and was impressed with what I heard. After I started FSS, Mark Nelson told me that Cristal had a recording. I called Bobby and away we went.

Where do you think the Flingco aesthetic will go next? Are you planning to add more United States black metal to your roster? If so, why? Or are you looking at other areas?

There are labels that look to document certain scenes or genres. That is not what I am interested in doing. FSS exists to help people I think are making interesting music to get their music heard. So I don’t look at the roster and think “I need more USBM,” I talk with people who I think are making good music that I believe settles into the spectrum of music FSS is working on.

I definitely want to maintain a balance of sounds and a roster size and release schedule that I can manage with the time and resources that are available to me. When I started the label I was conscious of the need to differentiate FSS from kranky. But, to be honest, I stopped “looking” for certain types of music for the label after the first couple of years. I am fortunate enough to know some nice people who in turn know a lot of other people, and get stuff passed along to me all the time.

The musicians on the label, in the ultimate sense, are deciding the contours of the label’s aesthetic with the music they are making. I’m content with the aesthetic and musical parameters of the label and financial reality has a way of limiting my ambitions for me.

Finally, do you have any upcoming releases from Flingco in the next month or three?

Case in point. This month FSS is releasing an album by Ringing Bell, a metal duo featuring Mat Sweet of Boduf Songs. Mat and I have been talking about his forays into black/doom metal and in September we agreed to put out the Ringing Bell album “And dimmed undelivered, and receive eternities” as an embroidered patch with a download code and digital album.

The first release for 2013 will be from Stave, a project by Jonathan Krohn. Jonathan has been a member of the Chicago band Male. Stave is his grayscale techno-not-techno project. Jon is working a mix of dark ambient, electronics and beats in an intriguing way. The Stave album has yet to be titled and will be out in an edition of 200 LPs and as a digital album.

And that’s all that is in the production pipeline right now. Various people are working on various things. The Hand-Held Recordings label of Hiroshima Japan will be issuing “Homegoing” by Cristal on CD in early spring, too.

Zine Time-Machine: The Pelt Boys Get Heckled Circa 1996

In the 1990s, I worked on and off with my zine RTFM. In the third and last issue, I did extensive interviews with Dan Oxenberg of the Supreme Dicks as well as the three original members of Pelt (Mike Gangloff, Pat Best, and Jack Rose, who died in 2009).

To commemorate the reboot of Metawyrd, I am re-releasing the Pelt interview under a Creative Commons license. The document is available at:

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/4843931/Pelt_Interview_RTFM_1996.pdf

And to give you a taste of the interview, here is a sample from the document where Mike, Pat, and Jack discuss a less-than-friendly reception at an upstate New York university….

What have Pelt detractors said to you?

Mike: You SUCK!

[Could] anyone try to flesh out that skeleton?

Mike: No one’s really gotten up in our face about it. People have said that, uh….

Pat and Jack: Colgate!

Mike: Seriously, the most in-our-face that anybody’s ever gotten was at that Colgate college show in Hamilton, New York that “Absolution/Almighty” [on Brown Cyclopaedia] was recorded at.

I was gonna actually ask you about that. I really liked the first part and I was sad that the second part got heckled apart. What happened there?

Mike: Well, they did cut us off. The ending of that was kinda cool, because the last 30 seconds or whatever I put down my guitar and let it just feedback on the amp, and I went to one side of the stage with a handheld recorder and taped together a cassette tape loop off of what Pat was doing on one side of the stage, and set that in a little boombox we had set up.

Then I went over to the other side of the stage and taped what was coming off the other side, and [then] set that in another boom box, and then we all just did a nice little choreographed “cut the amps off’ gesture and left the boombox playing the loops of what had been happening on each side. <laugh> The crowd was even less appreciative of that then they had been of the songs themselves!

Jack: The big thing was like ·’Man, they didn’t even bring a drummer!!!”

Pat: The gentlemen who set up the show, Peter D*****, is that it?

Mike: Yeah, let’s smear his name. Peter D*****, he’s probably a big CEO now. That’s a very expensive little prep school up there, is what it seems like.

Pat: He’s the main voice heckling us throughout the whole thing!

Really?

Pat: The guy who booked is the one telling us to “stop” and saying “thank God” when we did! When we first did the tape, you could hear even more heckling going on. It’s probably inaudible on the vinyl but on the CD….

The CD seems like the last part is somewhat broken up by the chatter. That’s one thing that disrupted my concentration.

Mike: We could tell as we were playing that it was going over really badly. We could tell that there was hatred radiating back from the stage. In fact, there was so much hatred that later on that night, we were unable to find a place to stay.

Jack: Nor were any people willing to put us up!

Mike: They refused to pay us despite our contract that had caused us to drive from Richmond up into the frozen wastes of New York to do this thing, wouldn’t give us a place to stay, wouldn’t let us sleep on the floor of their student union….

Yow!!!

Mike: They finally sent us out of there and told us that we could stay at the little “alumni hotel,” and when we got there we found it was $80 a night for a room….

Yow!

Mike: So we just bailed and left, got stopped by the cops out of the way out of town and talked our way out of that, and ended up at my sister’s house, which was 2 ½ hours away (she was listening in Ithaca at the time) at about 3 in the morning. Luckily, she was very understanding about that and let us sleep on her floor!

Were you the type of band that said “well, we got a reaction and that was good” or not?

Jack: Well, it’s a good story and let’s leave it at that.

Welcome to the Metawyrd Reboot

Hi there and welcome to the new Metawyrd!

For the record, my webzine is about fringe music and science fiction/fantasy. I started this zine in the spring of 2012 but somehow it got lost in the demands of the everyday by July. Now Metawyrd is back and it will be better than ever.

First of all, to celebrate the reboot I am posting a 1994 interview with the original lineup of Pelt (Mike Gangloff, Pat Best, and Jack Rose), complete with a tantalizing snippet for the blog. 

In the near future, I will be posting an interview with Bruce Adams, formerly with Kranky, about his new label Flingo Sound System, and I have other material in the queue which will be revealed in due time. 

So let the festivities commence!

Metawyrd Archives: Stunt Reviews – Doing the “Needle Drop” on Forced Exposure’s Beta Site

As you know, all music bloggers are called to feed The Hungry Heads with new critical views about the latest albums. However, this blogger has to stick to a budget and not a single label has bothered to put him on their review lists yet. So what to do?

A recent New Arrivals email from leading fringe music retailer Forced Exposure gave me a keen idea. Unlike other sites, Forced Exposure posts brief sound clips from all the tracks from most new releases. And as someone who has spent time in college radio, I know that music directors often use the “needle-drop” technique, which involves listening to brief snippets of each track on an album, to screen lots of recordings quickly. So why not go to Forced Exposure’s beta site, locate an album, and review it based on listening to the album’s snippets? This way I can get a low-cost chance to review cutting-edge content! Seemed reasonable to me.

So below are reviews of relatively new releases carried by Forced Exposure, and these comments are based on the sound clips that they carry on their site. If a snippet review interests you, please go and visit FE to hear for yourself. Each review has a link to the appropriate page on the FE beta site.

This was a fun experiment but as you might guess, “stunt reviews” lose their fun after the first go-round. I can’t see why doing it again will boost the fun quotient.

NOTICE: These albums were selected from the front page of FE or the most recent New Releases email from the site. By their very nature, these “snippet reviews” are incomplete by definition because I could not listen to the entire recording. By their very nature, they can not give you all the information you need to make a decision to purchase. I did not request permission to review from Forced Exposure because the site is available to the public and they did not impose any conditions on listening to the site’s audio clips. You have been notified.

Els Masturbadors Mongolics – self-titled (Munster Records) This 1977 Barcelona punk band sounds like a freaky-ass cousin of Pussy Galore and the Standells. Wow! SUPER BUY (LOW STOCK LEVEL)

Panabrite – The Baroque Atrium (Preservation) If there is any recent underground revival that gets my hackles up, it is probably New Cosmic Whooshers like Emeralds and Oneohtrix Point Never. They seem like pale copies of would-be synth masters like late-model Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and Jean-Michel Jarre.

Then I had the honor of hearing the FE snippets from Panabrite, a solo project from one Norm Chambers, and he puts the top Whooshers to total shame. From what I hear, Chambers has that magic touch can turn electronic arpeggios into psychedelic mantras and transmogrify generic “synth pads” into praise for the infinite wonders of the universe. I am mightily impressed. GREAT BUY.

Erkin Koray – Mechul: Singles & Rarities (Sublime Frequencies) – Out of the few Turkish rock/psych reissues I’ve heard, this one has the potential to be the best one in my collection. BUY

Paul Ngozi – The Ghetto (QDK Media) – Yet another entry in the steady drip-drip-drip of ’70s African rock/psych reissues. From the releases that I have in my collection, I think these recordings get a bit over-praised due to their unique origins. Yet “The Ghetto” snippets have plenty of fine-sounding African rock in the sub-Zeppelin/Mountain/garage stylee, and I think it will suit most genre fans. In my mind, it gets a BUY (FOR THOSE WHO LIKE THIS SORT OF THING).

Smack – self-titled (Shadoks) This recording could serve as Exhibit No. 1 in the case against ’60s private press rediscoveries. If the FE snippets are any evidence, Smack sounds like a bunch of somewhat competent rockers who got together to play a bunch of reasonably decent covers from Hendrix and a few other notables. Sadly, these folks are just capable enough to be unexciting and definitely worth not your time. Thank goodness you let us hear these people play, FE, because they are completely and totally lame. SKIP TO THE INFINITE POWER.

Gary War – Jared’s Lot (Spectrum Spools) On this release, it sounds like Gary War wants to be Giorgio Moroder but not badly enough. Or perhaps he wants it WAY too much. SKIP.

Gigymen – self-titled (Guerssen) – This private label recording from an unknown ’60s UK folk-rock act would be a perfect candidate for the FE jukebox. Only a fool would trust a record company blurb for a “’60s discovery” reissue, so listening to the tracks could actually sell me on this one. Unfortunately, FE did not provide any snippets for the Gigymen so I’m calling this one a SKIP.

Zsolr Sores – Ahad’s Master’s Garden III (2007-2009): The Harmonian Blues (Fourth Dimension) In recent years, the blurb writing on FE’s site has turned terribly rancid. Personally, I believe that the site’s all-time legendary blurbers Jimmy Johnson and Byron Coley have retired and, in their place, a new blurb writer has attempted to fill their mighty shoes. Sad to say, the new recruit can’t write his/her way out of a critical paper bag. In a vain attempt to either bluff the FE audience or beat them into submission, this writer drowns readers with tidal waves of adjectives massaged into barely readable “critic-ese.”

The blurb for “Ahab’s Master” features this blurb writer in full horrible bloom. To illustrate:

From cuts that combine tranced-out rhythms the likes of which have rarely been witnessed since the Taj Mahal Travellers with tidal waves of Lee Ranaldo-esque guitar to others where minimal piano melodies are allowed to twist and shimmer like phantoms in the moonlight or where murky moodiness is angled into more threatening shapes, The Harmonian Blues feels like an album whose rich abundance of ideas is both all-encompassing and measured enough to retain some of that all-important mystery.

That is just ONE sentence. Please please, St. Lester, I hope I never ever write like this. EVER.

Anyways, I wanted to see if this recording was as “fucking incredible” as the writer promised but unfortunately this release is not loaded into the player yet. I must call this one a HOLD.

Metawyrd Archives: Miscellanea – Bertoia, Basinski, Justice League Dark, Elliott Sharp and Jack Womack, VU vs. GD!

As a fan of David Langford’s monthly SF/F newsletter Ansible, I thought it would be fun to follow his format and publish a few news snippets that may interest Metawyrd readers.

Bertoia meets PBS – While I was watching Antiques Roadshow one night, I was surprised to see a sculpture from Bertoia appear. We music geeks best know Bertoia for the weird and wonderful metal sound sculptures that he made in the 60s. The Roadshow piece was bought at an estate sale for $10 but was thought to be worth $10000 at auction.

Timothy Hunter and DC’s New 52 – Comic writer Jeff Lemire, who recently took over the DC New 52 comic Justice League Dark, has indicated in a Newsarama interview that he will be introducing Timothy Hunter–who made his DC debut in Neil Gaiman‘s “Books of Magic” series–to the publisher’s New 52 reboot. Evidently, Lemire asked Gaiman for permission to use the character and Gaiman granted it as long as he “did something fresh and new” (Lemire’s words) with Hunter. Since I got into mainstream DC Comics after reading Books of Magic and its dandy Roger Zelazny introduction, this is very good news indeed.

Basinski and NPR – It turns out that avant-electronic composer William Basinski made an appearance on an October 2011 episode of NPR’s Soundng>Radiolab. He talked a bit about the origin of the Disintegration Loop compositions, in which he played and replayed selected bits of an old tape recording until the all of the magnetic material falls off and only ghosts of the recordings are left. Wire writer Anne-Hilde Neset was mentioned at the end of the show, so perhaps she connected the twain together.

Elliott Sharp and Jack Womack’s opera – Sharp, a veteran avant-garde composer/guitarist and SF/F fan, recently informed me that he and noted SF author/librettist Jack Womack have written an opera named “Binibon.”

“Binabon” is about the tragic tale of John Henry Abbott, a convicted murder who was paroled after he became a writing prodigy under Norman Mailer’s tutelage. However, a month after his release, he become embroiled in yet another killing at a Lower East Side cafe called the Binabon. “This work is the result of over 20 years of memory and reflection,” writes Sharp in the liner notes (posted ), so it sounds worthy of further investigation.

Warlocks vs Warlocks inna 1969 stylee – You probably know that the Grateful Dead and the Velvet Underground were around at the same time. Perhaps you also know that both of them originally wanted to be named the Warlocks. However, what you may not know is that they actually played a two-day Chicago residency in April 1969.

According to sources close to both bands, one band overplayed the first set and in revenge, the other reciprocated. Of course, who was the villain changes depending on which band you ask!

Metawyrd Archives: Interview with James Blackshaw on His CD “Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death”

As a fan of fringe music and science fiction/fantasy, sometimes I feel like an outsider in both worlds. Thus, when I saw British fingerstyle acoustic guitarist James Blackshaw’s latest album “Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death” (Important), I was astounded and amazed.

Blackshaw is my favorite out of all the post-Fahey guitarists and all Faithful SF/F Fans will immediately link the album title to the amazing James Tiptree Jr./Alice Sheldon short story. A closer look at the album revealed pure Metawyrd gold: Blackshaw names all of the tracks on the album after Tiptree stories. So it looked like I had found a kindred spirit! I got in touch with him and he was nice enough to agree to an email interview as below:

Judging from some of your recent interviews, you obviously read science fiction. How and when were you initiated into the genre?

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when and how I became fascinated with science fiction, fantasy and horror. I was pretty obsessed with ‘Doctor Who’ as a child (maybe 9-10 years old) and I used to watch it religiously. I saved up all my pocket money and amassed quite a collection of VHS tapes of older episodes. There was also a British kid’s TV show called ‘Knightmare’, it was a game show using early green screen technology and computer generated graphics and I think that series prompted my interest in swords and sorcery.

My parents were quite liberal in terms of what they let me watch, so I also saw films like ‘Alien’ and ‘The Evil Dead’ when I was still in my teens. I was an avid reader from a very early age too and I think seeing these kinds of TV shows and films and playing video games led me to explore genre fiction. I read Tolkien, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock and Lovecraft as well as some more recent authors – Clive Barker was a big favourite of mine. I’m 30 now and I
still love genre fiction and film – and playing games – so I guess some things really don’t change that much.

When did you first discover James Tiptree Jr./Alice Sheldon and how did you end up recording an album centered around her short stories?

I only became familiar with Tiptree Jr.’s work fairly recently – a couple of years ago perhaps – although I’d certainly heard the name mentioned before, likely in connection with authors with whom she shared a correspondence with like Dick, Harlan Ellison and Ursula K. Le Guin. I started buying a bunch of books which had won a Hugo and/or Nebula award, including an anthology by Tiptree Jr.

When I finally started reading, I felt a deep emotional connection to many of the stories, which I find quite rare even in good genre fiction – something which may seem quite unusual to say as I think Tiptree Jr.’s prose is idiosyncratic and the themes therein very dark. But I think this frequently bleak and pessimistic yet playful take on the human experience is very much part of the human experience itself – or at least it’s something I can relate to a great deal. And then there’s the story of Alice B. Sheldon’s life, which is incredibly intriguing in its own right.

As I was writing music for my new album in the late autumn of last year, I had no idea – as per usual – as to what the pieces should be titled. The pieces weren’t written about or directly inspired by Tiptree Jr.’s stories in a narrative sense, but there was some kind of abstract emotional relation between the music I was writing and the stories and I felt that it would be a nice tribute to an author who I think is still largely and sadly overlooked.

Aside from Ms. Sheldon’s works, could you name two of your favorite science fiction/fantasy books and two of your favorite shorter works?

For novels, I’m going to go with Stanislaw Lem’s ‘Solaris’ and Orson Scott Card’s ‘Ender’s Game’. Short stories/novellas: George R. R. Martin’s ‘Sandkings’ and Harlan Ellison’s ‘I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream’. But that’s really just off the top of my head right now and likely to change at any given moment!

Speaking of George R. R. Martin, do you have any impressions of Game of Thrones (either the books or the series)? Have you read any other works by him besides “Sandkings”?

I absolutely love the TV series and really can’t wait to see the third season. It’s just brilliantly made and the story and characters are constantly well thought out, engaging and entertaining, so much so that I think it’s opened a lot of people’s eyes to what fantasy could and should be like, even people who wouldn’t normally consider themselves fans of the genre, perhaps in a similar way that the recent ‘Battlestar Galactica’ series did. I must confess I haven’t gotten around to reading the books yet, I really should.

I read ‘Sandkings’ in the eponymous anthology of the same name a few years back, but apart from the other stories in that book, I’ve not read any of George R. R. Martin’s other works. I’d like to check out ‘Armageddon Rag’ based on your recommendation, it sounds pretty fun, although I sometimes struggle with musical references in fiction. Seriously, it’s weird, but I’ve read a couple of books where the author is referring to a particular band or scene and it can really put me off, for some reason.

Are there any other science fiction and fantasy authors that you consider overlooked outside of Tiptree? Would you recommend any starter books/stories for them?

I mean, I feel there’s a ton of other authors I like who I haven’t mentioned already, like Roger Zelazny and Gene Wolfe for example, but I’d hardly call them overlooked or underrated. So perhaps to veer off-topic a bit, I’d like to recommend a couple of comic book series to anybody who is into genre fiction or just good story writing in general and maybe isn’t too familiar or never really considered the medium: ‘Fables’ by Bill Willingham and ‘Y: The Last Man’ by Brian K. Vaughan. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Have you any new musical projects in mind right now? Any musical possibilities that you are considering?

Right now, there should be a new album I made with David Tibet of Current 93, under the moniker Myrninerest, coming out any day now. The album’s called ‘Jhonn, Uttered Babylon’ and it’s David’s tribute to Jhonn Balance. I wrote, performed and recorded all the music on the album, so I was much more involved than I’ve been on any previous work I’ve done with David. I also improvised with Lubomyr Melnyk, who is a stunning pianist and composer and I’m hoping the recordings of these sessions will be released sometime in the next few months.

Apart from that, I’d like to start work on a new solo album soon, maybe after the summer as my motivation and creativity always seems to be at it’s lowest around this time of year. I have no idea what it will sound like, I’m really tempted to throw the rulebook out of the window, so to speak and try something quite different, but we’ll see what happens!

Thanks for your time, Mr. Blackshaw!

You’re more than welcome, it’s been fun talking about something I love other than music for once!

James Blackshaw on tumblr: http://jamesblackshaw.tumblr.com/

Link to “Love Is The Plan” on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Is-The-Plan-Death/dp/B0071JPJHC/ref=ntt_mus_dp_dpt_1

Link to “Love Is The Plan” On Important Records:http://importantrecords.com/imprec/imprec355

Metawyrd Archives: Can’t Miss Folk and Country

While the Can’t Miss Blooz post was a breeze to write, building a list of Can’t Miss Folk and Country was much harder. So much variety to sum up in so few releases! Well, here’s a few good’uns for your perusal.

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune (Elektra) If you are searching for an archetypical “leftie folk singer of the ’60s,” Phil Ochs has to be your man. While Dylan and Baez and Seeger made their own contributions, Ochs really honestly and truly believed in a better world through socialism–slashing songs like “Love Me I’m A Liberal” pretty much define the era. Even better, he had all of the talent to back up his radical views. His passion and fire can move even today. Try the reverse schadenfreude of “There But For Fortune,” the classic anti-war song “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” the gorgeous setting of Alfred Noyes’ poem “The Highwayman,” his eloquent ode to endurance “When I’m Gone,” or the scorching anti-racist sentiments of “Here’s To The State of Mississippi.” A truly amazing collection which features songs from Ochs’ many albums, and it’s made even more poignant by Ochs’ suicide in 1976.

Anne Briggs: Anne Briggs (Water) Many people think of acoustic guitars and work songs when it comes to folk music. That whole attitude comes from the Old American Communists and their quest for true “voices of the people” which would unite the proletariat. But there is an earlier definition of folk music thanks to 19th century European song collectors such as Francis John Child. My favorite takes on Child ballads usually involve solo unaccompanied singing and fortunately, the ’60s UK folk revival had more than a few great female singers who performed in that genre.

Ms. Briggs was one of those singers and her first album is a beautifully sweet collection of mostly unaccompanied vocal music (which was reissued in recent years by Water Records). Though Americans like Jean Ritchie and Roscoe Holcomb sing Child ballads and other related tunes without accompaniment, usually the Yanks sing in a highly inflected Appalachian style and that can be hard on newbie ears. So I chose Ms. Briggs and her wonderful takes on auld tunes like “The Snow It Melts The Soonest,” “The Cuckoo,” and “Young Tambling.” The tracks with accompaniment (“Blackwood Side” among others) are also quite fine.

Byrds: Sweethearts of the Rodeo (Columbia) – Summing up country in even two or three releases is just plain impossible, especially since the classic trebly AM sound of classic country (a la Hank Williams Sr.) can really piss off many listeners. So instead, I went with the ’60s jangle-rock pioneers the Byrds and their classic country-rock album “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.”

Most of the tunes on “Sweethearts” have that classic honky-tonk sound without that trebly overkill. Maybe Byrds producer Gary Usher had something to do with the change in sound. There is also a fair amount of sonic variety besides, including the old-timey take on Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd,” the high Appalachian pickin-and-fiddle of “I Am A Pilgrim,” and the straight up Byrdsian country-rock of “One Hundred Years From Now.” If you want to try country, it’s a pretty good place to start.

Joe Henry: Short Man’s Room (Mammoth/Atlantic): Now this isn’t exactly a country album. But then again, getting people into country is a delicate matter. If you listen to today’s country radio, you get the impression that country is Def Leppard meets the Eagles with a fiddle on top. Now that’s not right, is it? However, as I said above, classic country is hard to swallow if your ears are grounded in the 21st century.

So we need to find a genre that isn’t modern country, isn’t classic country either, yet presents the elements of country in an an accessible way. Well, I found my answer in “alt-country,” a curious subgenre born in the ’90s that attempts to revive classic country sounds in a wide range of contexts. Though alt-country drowned in the infinite sea of the Internet (a few of the genre’s sounds leaked into modern country while most of the bands just floated off into nowhere), some of the genre recordings were just plain great and I will always believe that Joe Henry’s album “Short Man’s Room” is pretty much the best alt-country I have ever heard.

On “Short Man’s Room,” singer-songwriter Joe Henry is backed by the Jayhawks, who were and still are one of the best bands to emerge from the subgenre; however, the Jahyawks never really had the songwriting chops to break out of the alt-country corral. On this album, Henry matches the Jawhawk’s amazing musicianship with the brilliant songs that they never wrote and he inspires the band to really shine. The songs on this album capture moments in time as good or better than anyone, including Dylan. Some of the best songs on this album include “Last Man Out” (closing a small town bar), “King’s Highway” (an outlaw getting ready to pounce), and “Friend to You” (man realizes he won’t get the girl, not ever).

As for the the sounds on this album, the Jayhawks turn in near-perfect performances. There’s plenty of fiddle, quite a bit of pedal steel, but all of it is very tasteful and carefully combined into a beautiful and effective whole. Even pedal steel haters like my dad would find it hard to dislike this album. It’s wondrous to behold. “Short Man’s Room” is on my, ahem, short list of lost gems and crucial reissues from 2050. Please, do give it a listen.

For The Faithful (Folk): “Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia” CD (Smithsonian Folkways), “Songs Of The Old Regular Baptists: Lined-Out Hymnody From Southeastern Kentucky” (Smithsonian Folkways), Jean Ritchie: “Ballads From Her Appalachian Family Tradition” CD (Smithsonian Folkways), Grateful Dead: “Reckoning” CD (Arista), Young Tradition: “Young Tradition/So Cheerfully Round” (Castle)

For The Faithful (Country): “The Bristol Sessions: Historic Recordings from Bristol, Tennessee” 2CD (Country Music Foundation); “The Best of Webb Pierce: 20th Century Masters” (MCA Nashville); Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt: “Trio” CD (Warner Bros./WEA); Cowboy Junkies: “The Trinity Session” (RCA); “GP/Grievous Angels” by Gram Parsons (Reprise/WEA).