A Whole Lot Country

And quite a bit rock and roll add up to No Depression music

North Carolina's Whiskeytown, another alt-rock buzz band, released Faithless Street and several seven-inch singles before being snapped up late last year by the Geffen-distributed Outpost label. Seattle's the Picketts, meanwhile, have quietly released two records on Rounder, and have a tendency to countrify material such as the Who's "Baba O'Reilly" and the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" in their live sets. And rounding out the lineup are Albuquerque's unsigned Hazeldine, three girls and a boy drummer with nothing but a couple of basement demos and a lonely seven-inch single to their credit.

The Picketts, according to Blackstock, are the tour's scene veterans, while the Old 97s and Whiskeytown are alt-country buzz bands championed by the magazine since its earliest issues, and Hazeldine is "a band that most people probably will not have heard of yet, but that I really believe they will be hearing of soon." But whether they belong together is a matter of some controversy in the circles for which alternative country has become the musical religion du jour. Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, for one, has not hesitated lately in voicing his concern that the No Depression tag might be more a limitation than a blessing, most recently in a lengthy interview/profile in Rolling Stone, the point of which seemed largely to be that it's only rock and roll.

Still, there's no denying that both No Depression (the magazine) and the bands that have found eager champions amongst its writers and readers have had an impact far beyond the publication's meager 9,000 circulation, and beyond any individual No Depression (the musical tag) band's record sales as well.

But whether the No Depression scene can maintain its influence over the long haul is another question entirely. Alt-country has already given way to electronic music as the media's post-rock-replacement of the week. But anyone more interested in the next good thing than in the next big one has a good chance, with this tour, to see whether "new country" was just one more flash in the A&R brainstorming pan or -- less spectacular but far more gratifying -- a new name for a musical impulse that's always been there -- and always will be there, just as long as there are country folks, or even just folks who wish they were.

The No Depression Tour featuring the Old 97s, Whiskeytown, the Picketts and Hazeldine begins at 9 p.m. Monday, March 17, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $5. For info, call 869-

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