Feufollet, barely old enough to order beer at the counter. And August is bringing several more groups of young musicians, collectively representing an exciting trend too new to have a name.
The Avett Brothers (coming Tuesday, August 21), the Forge Mountain Diggers (Wednesday, August 15), and Robinella (Monday, August 13) all sprang from country roots and make music that draws on those roots. Yet none of these bands has much in common with the power ballads of mainstream country today, and all three were shaped fundamentally by music from outside the country tradition — straight-ahead rock for the Avett Brothers, punk for the Forge Mountain Diggers, and pop and jazz for Robinella. Except for the Forge Mountain Diggers, who are rooted firmly in old-time string-band music, these bands and others like them frustrate retailers' genre classifications and show up all over the map. Even the vague "Americana" label doesn't work well — most of the bands so designated have used electric instruments, but these musicians have stripped their sound down to a mostly acoustic base and often use the banjos, fiddles, and mandolins of bluegrass. Call it new southern acoustic music if you have to call it anything at all.
Unlike some of the alternative country performers that have gained popularity in the clubs of Chicago and New York, these musicians embrace the country part of their heritage rather than approaching it with a mugging attitude. Robinella's slender yet torchy voice, a bit mystical, is often compared with that of Billie Holiday, but Dolly Parton has