Urban Hillbilly Quartet
First Appeared at The Music Box, June 2000, Volume 7, #6
Written by John Metzger
For awhile, it was beginning to look like the alt-country movement had come to an end. A scene that once showed promise was now filled with a myriad of bands treading the same old ground with increasing ennui. Further slamming the door on the movement, Wilco completely shifted gears — though with an incredible spark of brilliance — on their recent album Summerteeth. Yet, just before anyone could piece together an obituary for the genre — it’s back, seemingly resurrected once again with the soon to be released second volume of collaborations between Wilco and Billy Bragg.
This probably isn’t terribly surprising, however, if one takes a look back at music over the past few decades. Alt-country truly is as connected to timeless old American folk and blues songs as the country-rock movement of the ’70s was. So in a sense, the style really never goes away — it just slips underground for awhile, mutates a bit, and raises its head from time to time on the pop music scene.
While the Urban Hillbilly Quartet’s recent effort Beautiful Lazy doesn’t add anything new to the genre, it is delivered with the style and substance customary from the best alt-country artists. It harkens back to the Jay Farrar half of Uncle Tupelo’s phenomenal Anodyne, delivering the same honest lyricism on topics of love (Indelible), death (One Day), and loneliness (Wallflower).
Despite calling themselves the Urban Hillbilly Quartet, the group is actually a six-piece band hailing from Minnesota. Therefore, their sound is more disparate than one might imagine, and this allows them to shift from the bombastic Rat Race to songs like the tenderly sparse and gentle Wallflower without skipping a beat. The juxtaposition between the rockers and the more laid-back selections, only serves to enhance what the band does best — deliver dreamily-cloaked, country-rock excursions, which their name suitably describes.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box