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Preview Tue Feb 05 2013
The bio on Angela James' website reports that she first started learning country music songs off the radio sometime in the '80s, "when country wasn't cool."
That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is proof that it's been a very, very long time since country music was ever "cool". Whatever happened exactly that made country music so uncool--or whether or not it even was cool to begin with--is up for debate, but something definitely happened. Nowadays, it seems like its mostly the "alternative" country music that's holding on the strongest to its own roots.
Angela James' country music is one such example of that. But she incorprates a unique twist of her own that might even be considered "cool"--especially if you're from Chicago and you like your country music fused with the seemingly impossible combination of experimental jazz.
James released her debut EP "Down and Out" last November backed by a band of "musicians from Chicago's jazz, experimental, and country scenes." As such, it features those typically bright steel guitars and the mournful lyrics of classic honky-tonk country, but it's also backed with lush arrangements of gently brushed drums and a surprising electricity. The title track even begins with nothing more than a slow build of atmospheric drone.
Before moving to Chicago, James focused on folk and rock music in other bands, and even some samba and tropicalia during a brief stint in Brazil. But country music seems to have always been in the background. The outside influences definitely seep through on her EP, and the result is a uniquely Chicago kind of country music--one literally built from bits and pieces of Chicago's many music scenes.