Why Do Punk Rockers Think They Can Play Country Music?
In a recent commercial-country star’s genre-defining song, the act of singing about Jesus, tractors and little towns is portrayed as an unfashionable act that runs counter to the current of societal norms. Rebellion is drinking a cold one, getting a little loud, although it’s never mentioned what the country folk are getting loud about. Country music seems to be an increasingly neutered genre, where nothing at all is said, where a hit song that welcomes a world where a black man could become president was seen as a bridge too far by some. Contrast that discomfort with the bravery of an artist like Merle Haggard producing a song like “Irma Jackson” in the late 1960s. That The Hag is name-checked by so many current country stars as an influence is ironic, given that the bravery exhibited in this one song is greater than the combined bravery of every artist currently on the country chart.
Into this tepid landscape, Doug Carrion releases his latest EP, West Coast, under the moniker Doug C and The Blacklisted. Even though its songs are not likely to be topping the country charts anytime soon, Doug is adamant that this is country music. “It may fit in with some other types of music, like Americana maybe, but I’m not ready to give up on the idea that country music can be relevant,” says Doug. “And country music is what I play. My fans are Dwight Yoakam and George Strait fans. They are fans of Hank Williams and fans of Black Flag, they go to the dancehalls to see shows. I know these people. They are more capable of complex thought than the country music industry thinks they are.”
Doug was raised in Hermosa Beach, California, he bypassed college at UCLA and went out on the road with various projects that seemed like-minded as band mates. Doug went on to play in 3 of the most popular underground bands of that time, the Descendents, Dag Nasty and Circle Jerks having released several albums since 1985 and having played in front of thousands of fans during that time. Doug has certainly had his challenges along the way and after losing many friends to drugs and alcohol, he finally put his fast paced road life and drinking behind him in 2005. The next 7 years he spent most of his time writing songs for film and television, garnering musical placements in a variety of places from Jet Blue to MTV.
Then in 2012 came a big question. "What to do next?" Insert Doug C and the Blacklisted, a journey of exploring traditional country music, his California roots, 3 chords and the truth.
Many of the characters that populate West Coast are struggling and reacting to relationships of life, love, and the comedy and heartbreak in-between. The EP’s lead track, “Kiss Kiss Bang,” tells the story of a night out, a chance meeting and falling in love, a road trip to a Las Vegas drive-thru chapel, only to wake up alone in an empty bed. Despite his predicament (“I've had a couple bad ideas and sugar this could be one, but when the preacher signed that paper work, you just hit and run”), but also ruminating on the limited options that put him in this situation to begin with (“you grabbed my hand, asked if we could dance, and shots rang out for sure”) he still believes in love.
Less resigned to his fate is the protagonist of “ Big Bone Girl,” who is finally at the end of a relationship. Agreeing that at one point we were in love, but now in our relationship. ("You're as mean as a snake and I think this time we're through.")
West Coast has moments that are not quite as fraught with light tension. Doug has an outright trucker love song on this EP. “I've written love songs before,” he says, adding that having found a stable love allowed him to channel these sentiments more readily than before. “Thinkin' And Drivin' Again” is a love song of a different sort, written for the truck driver, who spends an eternity logging miles while thinking about how to get home to be with his partner, when she says she's all alone and misses him.
Doug also shows his immense imagination, songcraft and reverence for country music in “Things Are Still The Same.” He takes a phone call from an old friend and turns it into a West Coast Swing classic country song. “I wanted to write a song to thank those people who supported me as an artist and allow me to do what I do, and let them know not too much has changed.” The song is sung from a personal point of the view where Doug seems to except his fate as artist that makes music, the good and the bad. (" I never sold a million records, I never bought a gold cadillac.")
But at heart, the West Coast EP is about embracing the truths that country music used to tell, but that it can seemingly no longer stomach telling. " I always loved country artists for their ability to make me laugh and cry from track to track. From Buck to Dwight, even the Hanks up to Joe Nichols have that make me laugh or cry trait." Says Doug.
It used to be that a country artist would sing about the farmer that lost his land or love. Now they glorify that party at the lake. For those of you who love country music, but hate what it's become, Doug C and The Blacklisted will sing you back home. [+]