Floorbirds and Gabe Barnett tap the roots of country at Bedlam

Gabe Barnett

Gabe Barnett

So I ask my friends where I can go to see some good local country. "Go hear... no wait that's not country, that's folk. Go see... no wait that's not country, that's bluegrass. You should check out... no wait that's not country, that's Americana. Roots. Naw, that's more rockabilly."

So what's country?

Brad Paisley singing about the internet?

That's Brad Paisley's song about the internet.

Filed under country. Trace Adkins singing about badonkadonks?

That's Trace Adkins' song about badonkadonks.

Filed under country.

The Floorbirds

The Floorbirds

No wonder "country" gets a bad rap.

Country music got its name because, well, it's where it was played. It's where it's from - the country. The earliest country music was the traditional folk and gospel music played by folks in the southeastern states, mountain country. The style of music was initially called "hillbilly" until it was assigned its less disparaging moniker. Given these roots, the music played at the Bedlam night before Thanksgiving seems more 'country' than where the music has evolved to today.

First band up were local folk duo The Floorbirds. Featuring a gal on banjo/ukulele and dude on guitar, they're quiet. Sweet, but not saccharine. And had come highly recommended by friends though with the disclaimer that they were "not country." Sure, not Brad Paisley country, but yes, country. I walked into the Bedlam just in time to hear a song the banjo player said she'd written, and covers ranging from Carter Family to Mississippi John Hurt, and a great cover of "Cocaine Blues" (the "runnin' all around my brain" not "Bad Lee Brown" version). They play an old style of folk country earnestly, with tightly controlled harmonized vocals. Real nice stuff, all recommendations well-deserved.

Following The Floorbirds was solo folk/blues troubadour Gabe Barnett, accompanied by a friend on mandolin. Where The Floorbirds were almost angelic in their delicate presentation, Barnett was intense, his vocals sounding demonic, possessed. He even had a damned crazy look in his eyes that disappeared when he wasn't singing (so I reckon he's not legitimately crazy).

While Paisley's singing about video games and video chats and metrosexual men and toga parties, old country is still out there. It's not on CMT and it's not in the casinos and it's not on Top 40 radio and it's not playing the Grandstand of the Fair. It's at pin-drop quiet shows at the Bedlam. It's in coffee shops. It's busking during outdoor festivals. Were we to call this country, the bad taste Taylor Swift (bless the sweetheart) has left in everyone's mouths might just disappear.