Loose Recordings was founded around 5 years ago and was originally known as Vinyl Junkie. The decline in sales of vinyl just a few years later precipitated a change of name shortly after they released ‘Loose: New Sounds Of the Old West’ (Volume 1) in 1998. Since then the label have been responsible for releasing some of the best music to have emerged from the increasingly diverse and influential genre that most people now refer to as alternative country.

Prior to the name change Vinyl Junkie released two compilations: ‘Vinyl Junkie Country’ and ‘Jukebox Cowboy’. Whilst these were occasionally diverting and country oriented, they were not particularly alternative. Admittedly many of the artists featured were not mainstream country but had been plying their trade for some years on the fringes of that scene. Generally though the selections on offer failed to stray very far from what was deemed acceptable to the more broad-minded Radio 2 listener and were respectable but not essential releases for those prepared to look just beyond what Nashville had to offer.

This all changed in 1996 with the release of ‘Cowpunks’, which in hindsight is really a precursor to the ‘Loose’ series and ironically compiled by Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker. With only occasional lapses into the more traditional, less adventurous territory explored by the labels previous releases, much of the material on ‘Cowpunks’ was a revelation. It succeeded in providing a first insight for many into what is now known as alternative country.

Following the likes of Jason & the Scorchers, the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo, who had themselves been influenced by Gram Parsons, an increasing number of contemporary bands and singers were both adopting and adapting country music in ever divergent styles.

Many of the bands featured on ‘Cowpunks’, such as Lambchop, and Sparklehorse, have since achieved greater success and although Uncle Tupelo have long since split up, both Wilco and Son Volt, formed from the bands ashes, have established themselves at the forefront of alternative country.

Released in 1998 ‘Loose: New Sounds Of The Old West’ consolidated the labels enthusiasm for the exciting new genre, further highlighting the diverse cross section of new bands, unafraid to admit to their country influences but equally unafraid to bend the rules.

It again provided the first opportunity for many people to hear bands not known at the time but who would subsequently achieve greater success and in many instances featured otherwise unavailable tracks by these artists.

The likes of the Handsome Family, Calexico and John P. Strohm (ex-Lemonheads and Blake Babies) drew attention to the burgeoning scene and the musically and lyrically exciting proponents within it.

Indeed such was the influence of alternative country by this time that acts beyond its country of origin were by now beginning to appear and some of these also found their first break on this album, such as Peter Bruntnell and Dakota Suite, both from the U.K.

In the ensuing two years Loose Recordings have further committed themselves to promoting alternative country. The label have licensed several albums, from which some of the tracks on their compilations appeared, such as the Handsome Family’s ‘Through The Trees’ and recent ‘In The Air’ as well as releasing new albums by U.K. artists such as the excellent debut by Grand Drive ‘Road Music’.

Coming up to date the new release ‘Loose: New Sounds Of The Old West Volume 2’ consolidates the label’s achievements so far and further enhances their reputation during a period of increased activity and hopefully success.

This time featuring 17 previously unreleased tracks, the album is well balanced between artists previously featured on the label with many intriguing new prospects. Maintaining a high level of quality, the album is littered throughout with tracks that give you an appetite for more by the artists featured.

Kicking of the album, ‘Lambchop’ return the tribute, which Elvis Costello paid to Nashville with his ‘Almost Blue album, by covering Costello’s‘Beyond Belief’ in unique fashion. Further highlights include the amusingly entitled ’10 Miles to Go On A 9 Mile Road’ by Jim White, the vaguely REM inflected ‘Nebraska’ by the Cash Brothers (a tribute to the Springsteen album of the same name), and the haunting introspection of ‘Halogen’ by D. Braxton Harris. As if further inducement were needed the album also features impressive exclusive material by the likes of Josh Rouse, Peter Bruntnell and Willard Grant Conspiracy amongst others. The album finally draws to a close with the surreal ambient travelogue of Calexico’s ‘Tripple T’.

Whether you’re already a fan of alternative country or have yet to investigate its myriad interpretations, this album is essential, providing as it does a summary of where the music’s been and a few signposts to where it’s going.

Footnote.
The label have also just released the new Giant Sand album ‘Chore of Enchantment’ and Neko Case & Her Boyfriends ‘Furnace Room Lullaby’ which are both excellent. A U.K. release for the new Chris Mills album is also in the pipeline.













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