Sometimes it's hard to be a C&W fan...

...but mix in a few dance tracks with your country and western and you can hold your head up again. Oliver Bennett samples a happy musical hybrid

Oliver Bennett
Sunday 15 March 1998 00:02

OVER THE past few years, club life has become a bit corporate, with VIP rooms, sponsors and in-it-for-the-dough promoters and DJs. Where is the enthusiasm, the chaos, in this brave new world of blinking technology and oiled abdominals?

The answer is that you have to dig a little. For instance, at a back bar in Brixton, Twisted club heralds a return to the spilt beer and out- by-midnight approach to nightlife that ruled in the Seventies and early Eighties. But it adds its own unique contemporary hybrid in the music it favours: country and western, mixed with dance tracks.

"I've always loved country and I want to show that it isn't a dead music form," says Tim Perry, co-founder of Twisted with Piers Hawkins. "Jazz blues and world music have all crept into dance music, so why not a few country chords?" (A small smattering of techno tracks by Tranquillity Bass, Morcheeba, Dust Junkys, Fatboy Slim and Cornershop already feature bluegrass-type banjo.) Perry and Hawkins have had great fun thinking up names for their genre, among them Pharma Country, Honky Skunk, Trailer Trash, Swamp Hop, Fucked-Up Country and Bubba Beats. "I'm reminded of the Blues Brothers joke, where they say they play both kinds of music - country and western," says Perry, "except that we play country and techno." Patsy Cline, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton spin alongside dance sounds like Fatboy Slim and Orbital, interspersed with live acts like the local acid-country supremos Alabama 3 and guest appearances from the likes of Chip "Wild Thing" Taylor.

There is a maverick contingent, including squat minstrel Hacker and a musician known as Shed Dweller who, explains Perry, is "a guy who lives at the back of his parents' house in a shed". Why, of course. And Twisted even sees a welcome return to musical virtuosity - too often seen as an anachronism - with appearances from experts such as pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, which draw serious country aficionados from far and wide. "We've got some of the best country-ish acts around," says Perry. But he warns that the mullet hairdo and line dance crowd will not find what they are looking for at Twisted - that sort of line is not welcome at a club which is more influenced by the party animal aspects of country, dating back to bad boys Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, than clean-cut Garth Brooks. There is a long-established cry-into-your-pint tendency to country, but even the saddest C&W song has an uplifting aspect, reckons Perry who, as the author of The Rock and Roll Guide to the USA (pounds 12.99, Fodors), is hoping that Twisted makes more than a footnote in the UK's glorious musical history.

The next Twisted is at 8pm on 26 March, at Brady's Saloon, 20 Atlantic Road, Brixton, London SW9

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