Austin City Limits

10 Songs That Helped Make Nick 13's Country Debut

Tiger Army's Nick 13 delivered his self-titled solo debut this year, and the lead singer of one of the past decade's biggest psychobilly bands has made one of the most enjoyable traditional country records of 2011 not called Photographs.

Yes, this 10-song set from the man you first met on those genre-bending Tiger Army albums, belting like a rockabilly Danzig, is a more-than-worthy country statement. Nick 13 strikes a surprising pose as a country crooner, but the record proves the heavily tattooed artist is no novice when it comes to the genre.

Nick 13's smart and sharp flattop screams George Jones, but his dark, hip-swiveling quiver of a voice screams Chris Isaak and Dwight Yoakam. He didn't skimp on the guests either, with Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins laying down fiddle on the collection of cuts, and steel guitar legend Lloyd Green chipping in his own magic. He also remakes two Tiger Army songs, "In The Orchard" and "Cupid's Victim" from Tiger Army II: Power of Moonlite.

It's been making waves on the the mainstream country charts too, debuting at No. 22 back in June, not too bad in an industry dominated by the likes of the Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum. If the pop charts can see entries from aural throwbacks like Mumford & Sons and Adele, it only stands to reason that the country crowd would thirst for something that sounds like it could come from their grandparents' record collection.

Some would say that Nick 13 is helping convert rockabilly folk to cowboy boots and pearl snaps, but we all know that the two styles of twang already go hand in hand. Some steadfast Tiger Army fans are put off by the volumes and tempos on the solo album, but the accolades are drowning them out. We asked him to list the 10 country cuts that helped him create his album, and he came through in fine form.

He could have gone for 13, but why push your luck?

"Big Iron," Marty Robbins

Nick: It might sound strange to refer to Marty Robbins' Western songs as "modern," but a late-'50s album like Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs did have a modern sound and feel when compared with Western music from the '30s or '40s, not to mention the fact that it influenced almost all Western songs that followed in some way. My own songs on the new record that use Western elements are no exception - "Carry My Body Down," for example.

"Kaw-Liga," Hank Williams Sr.

Nick: This song was a reference for the "Indian" feel in my song "All Alone." Of course, I didn't actually listen to it again before throwing the idea out there during the arrangement process, but sometimes the feeling a reference is meant to evoke is more important than the real-life resemblance. I could have said "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Lost Highway" or any number of others - the stage was set for my writing "All Alone" by many years of being moved by the lonesome feeling in Hank Williams' best singles.

"Alabama," The Louvin Brothers

Nick: While I didn't have this song in mind specifically when I wrote "101," it represents the kind of song I was thinking of. Country music odes to states like Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky are many, I wanted to do the same for my home state of California. There's more to "101" than that lyrically; it's also a story about my life, but "Alabama" would've been one of the first state-based songs I came across in my exploration of vintage hillbilly, and the Louvins were some of the first country artists whose work I really fell in love with.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty