Bria’s Country Playlist Reclaims The Genre’s Outlaw Roots
Country music is one of the world’s biggest genres, but also one of its most misunderstood. Often aligned to more reactionary forces in North American society, most of its defining figures wee bona fide fuck-ups – addicts, doomed romantics, and lawless rebels who lived fast and left a remarkable songwriting legacy. It’s this legacy that Toronto artist Bria taps into – across a pair of EPs (the amusingly titled ‘Cuntry Covers’ series) she’s set about subverting country’s conservative aspects, building an alternative lineage in the process.
The second EP – ‘Cuntry Covers Vol. 2’ – is out now on Sub Pop, boasting work from such icons as Paul Cole, Loretta Lynn, and Mary Margaret O’Hara. It’s fantastic listening – after all, these are stellar songwriters, and Bria doesn’t hold back on her own interpretations.
Known for her role in post-punk outfit FRIGS, she’s also a key part of Orville Peck’s band. In fact, fellow Peck band mate Duncan Hay Jennings assists Bria on her own country – or should be cuntry? – dalliances.
With their second EP out now, Bria and Duncan sat down with Clash to discuss some of the country tracks that truly inspire them.
Karen Dalton – ‘Are You Leaving For The Country’
My queen of folk and country, Karen’s voice and guitar style hits me harder than most things. There is a perfect balance of tension and release in this song, a dark bridge followed by such a beautifully satisfying chorus.
I love her singing on this track, it’s strong with such ease.
Clint Black – ‘Loving Blind’
I love a lot of 90s and early 2000s country music and for me this song exemplifies the sound of that time.
I’m obsessed with how the chorus moves in this song, so anthemic and sad. Clint’s lyrics on this track are so desperate, makes me wanna just sit alone at a bar and sulk.
Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan – ‘Girl From The North Country’
‘Nashville Skyline’ was one of the first records I ever bought when I was fourteen.
I didn’t know who Dylan or Cash was at the time but I thought it was maybe the saddest thing I had ever heard. I remember making my mom listen to it with me, because I thought it was so amazing. She was harder to impress.
Kebo Cyrus – ‘You Know’
A deep cut from the lesser known Cyrus brother. It’s got a deliriously loose, drifting groove and a heart-wrenching, almost detached vocal performance. Real fine stuff.
As a bonus, we’re treated to a chorus drenched guitar solo that lasts just shy of a minute smack dab in the middle of the tune.
Great Speckled Bird – ‘Flies In The Bottle’
It’s hard to pick a favourite off of the self-titled debut from this group, but this tune might be it for me. Fronted by Canadian legends Ian & Sylvia Tyson, Great Speckled Bird are on my all time list of country acts.
The pair’s weaving harmonies are immaculately illustrated here, accented by an unreal guitar take by founding member Amos Garrett.
Lucinda Williams – ‘Sharp Cutting Wings (Song To A Poet)’
This one kills me every time. An early classic, it’s a mournful ode to a lover off her sophomore record ‘Happy Woman Blues’, released in 1980.
The production is real sparse, just a couple acoustics leaving a wide open space for Williams’ voice. Which is vital, seeing as she’s such an honest writer. Everything’s so direct, with each one of her lines hitting you like a ton of bricks.
Photo Credit: Justin Aranha