"We played in New York last summer, and we actually had a guy come up to us after we played. He was like, 'Are you guys for real?'" says Shane Joiner, guitarist for Americana band National Grain. Yes, it's true: National Grain plays real country music. Not pop masquerading as alt-country or adult contemporary pretending to be Nashville country, but honest-to-goodness, tears-in-your-beer country music.
Comprised of Joiner, guitarist David Cone, singer/guitarist Jeff Moore, bassist Ben McAllister, and drummer Brad Daugherty, National Grain is influenced by legends like Johnny Cash and Lefty Frizzell. But at the same time, the band doesn't want to be a revival act, so it infuses its classical numbers with energy and spirit, a hallmark of its restless, genre-spanning musical tastes and record collections.
Ironically, says Joiner, he didn't want to have anything to do with country music when he was growing up, even though "it was in the air and I heard it all the time." "I equated it with a redneck, hillbilly culture," he says. "But as I got older -- and this is true for a lot of the guys in the band, too -- I realized there's a lot of beauty to that music. Beyond all the stereotypes, when you listen to Hank Williams and those guys, there's incredible beauty and heartbreak. That's something you don't hear a lot these days."
National Grain's self-titled debut swings and burns, from the blurry disorientation of "City Lights" to the brokenhearted "Whiskey, Wine, and Beer," with poetic, true-life confessions that belie the music's frequently uptempo beat. So is it true that, as one of the song titles suggests, "Pretty Women Won't Give Me the Time of Day"? "Well, it does seem that way sometimes," Joiner says, laughing.
"If you listen to a lot of the old country music," he continues, "a lot of that stuff is pretty danceable, and some of the music itself is kind of upbeat, where people can be dancing on the dancefloor, but at the same time, the lyrics can be absolutely devastating."
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