KORT: OUTSIDERS LOOKING IN Kurt Wagner & Courtney Tidwell

This time around, the
alt-country mavens decide to work within Nashville traditions.

 

BY STEVE KLINGE

 

Kurt Wagner and Cortney Tidwell have deep roots, both
biographical and musical, in Nashville, but until now they’ve kept an ironic
distance from “country music.” Wagner has led Lambchop down paths tangential to
classic country, but he’s been more likely to subvert clichés than embrace
traditions. Tidwell, who was born into a family deeply ingrained in Nashville’s
music industry, turned toward dark and stirring folk rock on 2006’s Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up. But
with KORT, they become partners in the tradition of Conway & Loretta or
George & Tammy, sharing and taking turns in the spotlight on Invariable Heartache.

 

“To me, it’s just an extension of both what I do and what
Cortney does, and who Cortney is and who I am,” says Wagner, from a Nashville
studio where the two were working on a new single. “Despite joining forces
together to do something else, we were able to actually look at country music
more directly, which both of us had not done individually.”

 

“Country was appealing to me again, after so many years of
distancing myself from it,” adds Tidwell. “It was really fun to make, and to get
back into the country thing again, realizing that good country exists.”

 

Invariable Heartache is a collection of covers mainly from the catalog of Chart Records, the
Nashville label run by Tidwell’s grandfather (and Grand Ole Opry member) Slim
Williamson, A&R’ed by her father Cliff Williamson, and home of her mother,
singer Connie Eaton. The originals were recorded between 1963 and 1975. Cortney
grew up with them, playing the 45s on her record player as a kid. Wagner knew
none of them before the two started exploring the hard drive full of the
out-of-print Chart archives. The pair, along with their KORT cohorts (including
many Lambchop regulars), play the songs as classic country weepers, with a few
joyful oddballs thrown in. Perhaps what’s most odd about the album, though, is
that “it is pretty straightforward stuff,” says Wagner.

 

“There’s nothing tricky or ironic about it or clever per se.
It’s really done with the purest of intent. I’ve kinda noticed that happening
in other types of current music that I listen to, and I’ve been reading about
it a little bit. People aren’t afraid to be a little more straightforward and a
little more direct about the stuff they make and the kind of sounds they respond
to.”

Leave a Reply