Modern Twang: An Alternative Country Music Guide & Directory
If alternative country — whatever it may be — is to reach a fundamental level of public awareness, much of it will depend on the efforts of those who seek to provide it with a respectable place in the cultural spectrum. That includes radio formats such as Americana, which treat roots-music artists as bona fide sources of commercial airplay. Magazines such as this one, if you’ll pardon the self-reference, have a role, too, in simply heightening the visibility of acts who often get buried in the pages of other magazines, if they’re even mentioned at all.
Modern Twang: An Alternative Country Music Guide & Directory is an equally significant piece to the puzzle. One of the drawbacks for upstart alt-country bands has been the lack of a central, collected source of information about them; magazines have a relatively short shelf-life, so if you’re looking to get a quick summation of, say Chicago’s Handsome Family, or Washington, D.C.’s Ruthie & the Wranglers, you’d likely be outta luck, as such acts would fly under the radar of the major reference books on the market.
David Goodman has filled that void admirably with Modern Twang. A 300-page resource on all things alt-country, it collects not only biographical and release information on hundreds of roots artists, but also data on record labels, web pages, live-music venues and other such areas of interest. The bulk of the book, however, is the encyclopedia, which is remarkably thorough in its detail for a one-man, homemade project (this is a comb-bound volume on basic letter-size paper, obviously produced at a nearby copy shop rather than run on a printing press).
Like any such undertaking, Modern Twang is subject to the personal whims of its creator, as well it should be. Goodman’s definition of alt-country is particularly open to the inclusion of Cajun music, for instance. On the down side, the text is scattered a little too liberally with errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation, facts and style consistency — which don’t usually alter the information, but do detract slightly from the respect such a publication deserves.
Any shortcomings, however, are minuscule in comparison to the considerable hole filled by the mere existence of this book. Goodman plans to issue revised versions frequently to keep up-to-date with the ever-changing face of the music; anyone serious about following it would be well-advised to start here and pick up every new edition he may issue in the future.