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Kurt Wagner & Cortney Tidwell present KORT

[ 0 ] October 14, 2010 |

Kort Nashville Scene CoverD. Patrick Rodgers brings the story of Kort beautifully to life in the Nashville Scene Family Kort:

For the moment, your average CD buyer in Sweden or Germany would have a better chance of picking up Invariable Heartache, the gorgeous new album from the side project known as KORT, than would a listener in Nashville. Kurt Wagner, who’s one of KORT’s vocalists, lives only a few blocks away from Grimey’s — which is convenient, since that’s the only place in the city that will carry the record — and only in limited quantities. Starting Oct. 18, the record has European distribution through the overseas label City Slang, but as of press time, it has no U.S. distributor — even though the group is playing its only U.S. date Thursday, Oct. 14, at the tiny Charlotte Avenue club Betty’s.

What makes this a crime is that finally, someone has recorded a contemporary Nashville record that acknowledges the personal and professional sides of the city’s musical heritage, and nods to that heritage without being paralyzed by tradition. KORT’s debut features reimaginings of classic country and soul songs performed by Wagner, the longtime singer-frontman for Nashville indie ensemble Lambchop, and solo artist Cortney Tidwell. A remarkably supple band studded with local indie-rock all-stars supplies the backing, which ranges from hushed to quietly jubilant.

But let’s get this straight up front: Invariable Heartache does not deserve to be heard because its local-boy players work good and hard, or because Tidwell and Wagner are hometown heroes. It deserves to be heard because it’s so good, so original and unexpected, that it allows old Nashville to be seen through a new lens. Instead of retro cliché or surface revivalism, there is a deep, palpable yearning in these songs, an earnestness seldom found on records this sonically sophisticated.

Mindful of the past, yet contemporary and challenging enough to be relevant today, KORT’s album is the sound of country’s influence emerging not as Americana or CMT fodder, but as its own new viral strain of working people’s music. For it to go unheard in Nashville would be like the White Stripes sinking without a trace in cradle-of-garage-rock Detroit.

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