One of Bloodshot Records' most interesting new artists will miss Austin this year.
Wednesday in Austin, Bloodshot Records will start its South by Southwest at The Continental Club, where new signing Luke Winslow-King will perform along with The Waco Brothers, The Deadstring Brothers and more. One of Bloodshot's most interesting new projects will be AWOL, however. Roger Knox and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts' Stranger in My Land presents a version of country that is familiar in most ways but alien in the details, but Knox won't be in Texas or the United States during SXSW. Knox is an Australian Aborigine, and in his own songs and those by his peers and predecessors that he cut on the album, he uses the country music that American GIs brought to the Pacific Theater during World War II to talk about prejudice, alienation, and call for civil rights.
The songs vary in the levels of touch. Some have an easy, unadorned grace, while others are so suffused with the details of Aboriginal culture that they sound exotic to be charitable, programmatically local to be less so. Knox's plainspoken humility gives each track an innate, compelling humanity. The song choices capitalizes on that persona, which makes "Scobie's Dream" and "Stranger in My Country" into rowdy barroom sing-alongs, and gives shaming gravity to "Wayward Dreams," which anatomizes the ways whites tried to deny Aborigines their way of life because it didn't fit "into their wayward, scheming dreams."
Knox is supported Mekon Jon Langford, The Sadies, Kelly Hogan, Bonnie Prince Billy, Sally Timms, Andre Williams, Charlie Louvin, and Dave Alvin, but all make tasteful additions. More powerfully, their collected voices suggest that the very homespun wisdom in Knox's songs represent the will and belief of many. It's a shame he can't be in Austin this year to play Stranger in My Land live.