Each week in God and Country Music, Nick Rynerson gives country music a chance and examines the world of Americana, folk, alt-country, and popular country music.
Great Americana music isn’t too difficult to find, at least if you are searching for it. Not because there is an abundance of it but because you can tell who gets Americana music (or No Depression) by looking at their influences and the bands they cover. And slowly, one great artist will lead you to another great artist and so on. If you are into No Depression, you know the names: Gram Parsons, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Steve Earle, The Band, and so on. And when some new-to-you group claims to be influenced by these particular groups, they gain a little bit of credibility. And when you listen to them, you find out if they’ve got it.
“It” is the thread the runs throughout all great No Depression music: a lonesome sound, a longing for redemption, and a story to tell. It’s hard to nail down exactly what “it” is and all of the different aspects that make up the essentials of Americana music. There is a really subjective element to it all, but the best way to get a grasp on the heart of No Depression is to look at somebody doing it that truly gets it.
Enter Ronnie Fauss. Fauss is a Texan with all of the right influences who just released his first album, I’m Not the Man You Think I’m Not. Fauss’s album is a significant contribution to the No Depression genre. It has been generally well received, and upon my first few listens I was brought back to my teenage years when I first discovered Uncle Tupelo, Steve Earle, The Drive-By Truckers, and Gram Parsons.
Fauss’s album starts out with a string of signature No Depression, rip-roaring country songs. “The Night before the War” and “I Don’t See You” tell some great stories and have thumping, Uncle Tupelo-esque drum tracks that give it a very listenable edge. Then, as the album goes on, we get a couple of quality ballads and possibly the best version of Gram Parson’s “Sin City” since Jay Farrar’s. Fauss’s voice reminds me of Ben Nichols of Lucero and his sound pleasantly reminds me of his excellent contemporary Hayes Carll.
And while Fauss is an excellent songwriter and has some excellent musicians, that isn’t what makes him great No Depression. It is his connection to the musicians that came before him. Fauss, like a No Depression artist must be, is well acquainted with where he came from musically. In his sound you can hear the past, just like in Gram Parsons recordings you can hear traditional American folk music.
And of course, all musicians have influences but for No Depression, it’s more than the sound. It’s the spirit.