Friday, July 30, 2010

Random Music Post, Or, A Celebration of the American West

I've been listening to a lot of Neko Case lately. Normally I'm not a huge fan of country music, but Neko really captures a particular slice of the American West that I find particularly haunting. It's that image of eerie desolation; a blowing tumbleweed, a lonely train whistle in the distance, an old mining town and dark, rolling clouds on the horizon. There's something very special about the American West that I've really come to appreciate in recent years; it was something I always took for granted growing up in the heart of the Gold Rush country in California.

As an avid traveler and a devotee of so many other cultures, it's easy to sometimes overlook the unique culture that exists right here. It's also easy to dismiss American culture in general, given our unpopularity in the rest of the world. During the Bush years I would never introduce myself as an American when I traveled; I always said, "I'm from San Francisco." But being American isn't a shameful thing, and despite our relative newness on the world stage, we still have a fascinating and storied history that is worth exploring.

Country music in many ways celebrates the uniqueness of the American experience, right down to its unglamorous and even seedy side. And Neko Case is one of those artists who brings to life the rough and uncivilized Western past that still has traces in our culture today. 

Neko's music reminds me that I'm proud of our rugged, pioneering ancestors, who left behind civilized cities like Boston or New York and headed West to make their fortune, or sometimes to die trying. Some were entrepreneurs, some were fleeing a dubious past and came in search of a fresh start and anonymity, and some just loved adventure and risk-taking. Some succeeded spectacularly and others failed miserably, but the legacy they left behind is one of spirited determination and fierce individuality. And from an "I can accomplish anything" kind of confidence to a "This is me, like it or not" attitude, I see many elements of that legacy in my own beloved city today.

If you get a chance to see Neko Case live, don't miss it. Her live performance is wonderful, and she's quite a character to boot; she looks like a sweet, fragile little thing behind her big acoustic guitar, but the girl swears like a trucker and is funny as hell. She's my kind of country music, and my kind of American.

Today's outfit (sorry, I really should've worn cowboy boots to accompany this post, shouldn't I?):
Capelet: F21
Shirt: J. Crew, thrifted
Skirt: Anthropologie
Boots: Bronx


LPC said...

I like this.

Have you ever listened to early Hank Williams? Country used to be pretty cool, back when.

Katie from Interrobangs Anonymou said...

If you like Neko, I assume you may have also listened to her work with The New Pornographers. If not, I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Susan B said...

Yeah, Hank Williams, Bob Wills (WAA-hah) and Patsy Kline...I wasn't familiar with Neko Case but I really like what you've posted so will definitely look up some more of her music. There's a bit of bluegrass in there too, which I really like.

Cynthia said...

I saw Neko Case once on the Virginian tour, in a tiny club in Charleston IL where we were close enough to touch her (not that we did, we weren't creepy). It was pretty amazing. That's my indie rock street cred story for the evening. Well, that and the time Rhett Miller (of the Old 97s) sweated on me. If you like Neko you might like the Old 97s.

Lovin' the teal skirt, too.

Sheila said...

I love the old country like Hank William Sr. Great stuff. There is some pretty country classics out there: Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams.

I will check out Neko, thanks! I know she's played here lots of times.

BTW, great outfit!

Shannon said...

Immediately after reading your post, I moved on to etsy's blog in my reader and spotted one of your pieces right at the tippy-top of a post: Keep it Wierd - Playa Time. Congrats!

Unknown said...

That capelet is way too cute. Great look :)

Kat said...

I love the gray/teal combination.

I'm not much of a country music fan generally--I could listen to Alison Krauss's voice all day, though.

C said...

Ah, I've been listening to nonstop Neko all week! I love your comments about country music. Spending most of my life in the Rocky Mountains, the Wild West, gave me an acute appreciation for the role of country/western music.

Michelle said...

I like this color combination, and the capelet especially! I kind of can't believe you could wear something like that outside, holy bejeezus it was hot in Austin today. Send some of that cool weather our way, will ya?

Also, I'm sure someone's going to think I'm a party pooper, but I do think Americans (myself included) need to be careful about glamorizing the past. The American West wasn't just about boostrapping and mining, it was very often (as so much of American history is) about treating the original inhabitants of America in a violent and brutal fashion.

Emily Kennedy said...

Mm-hm. Ms. Case is wonderful.

SarahN said...

Ah, I adore Neko. I've been listening to Middle Cyclone for two months straight. Her voice seems as big as the frontier, doesn't it?

tinyjunco said...

we saw Neko Case a year or so ago in SF - fantastic show with great graphics a friend of hers put together. we're going to see Joanna Newsom on Monday, speaking of growing up in the Gold Country....Ms. Newsom definitely represents the quirkier part of the wild west (apparently she's influenced by Lola Montez, among others.

our family hails from various parts of the Gold Country - dairy farmers, shopkeepers, less respectable professions, and those who were there before the missions came. it's an incredible part of the country to explore for the history as well as the incredible landscape.

anyone interested in the indigenous folks should check out Chaw Se (Indian Grinding Rock) State Park outside of Volcano, CA. Beautiful artifacts, sweat lodge, they have a Big Time every fall, and looks like they are instituting native land management practices.

i'll stop now. Great Post!

Emma at Daily Clothes Fix said...

I love the grey and teal together and that is my favourite skirt. Great look.

Healthy and Homemade said...

great combos going on here. that little sweater cape thing is too cute, I always wanted one and never went for it.

Chelsea said...

I am a self-proclaimed country fan, but I'm so disappointed in mainstream country music these days (my favorite era was early 90s... Garth Brooks, the Judds, Brooks & Dunn, Trisha Yearwood, Tanya Tucker... to name a few).

I've heard of Neko Case, but never listened. Now I am completely enamored! Thanks, Audi :)

Oh, and the different shades of teal with varying shades of gray/black is insanely beautiful. Love the whole outfit!