For those of you who thought that alt-country died with the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, don’t fret! Chad Rex and his band, the Victorstands (whatever that means), are keeping alt-country alive. With a voice that’s part Bob Dylan and part Paul Westerberg (and he’s not even from Minnesota), Rex twangs his way through twelve organ-fueled, guitar strumming, and lap steel bending alt-country tracks that make up Gravity Works Fire Burns, the band’s second album.
Though the instrumentation might elicit visions of chicken-wire covered shitkicker bar stages like no other music could, it is really Rex’s voice that cements this record as a noteworthy alt-country affair. There are hints of smoke and whisky in Rex’s accented delivery, and that gives it that extra touch of authenticity. Maybe that’s why Sting’s `country’ album didn’t go over too well. The `alt’ part of Rex’s alt-country is a kind of singer / songwriter guitar pop, the kind that the aforementioned Paul Westerberg is now known for. Rex even names one of his songs “Song for Paul Westerberg to Sing,” proving that he’s anything but oblivious to the likeness and inspiration.
While songs like “Cities by Hotels” and “Mile Marker Town” follow the Jayhawks or Uncle Tupelo tradition of Midwestern country-rock, tracks like the slow and deliberate “Crashed and Landing” lend an extra touch of heart. “Cigarette Hand” can be mistaken for nothing other than a late Replacements classic like “Talent Show” or “I’ll Be You.” I don’t know if Rex started out as a punk or some other kind of `alternative’ musician, but it seems as though he’d fit right in with that select group of `college radio’ artists who went from their rebellious beginnings to the land of the barroom twang such as Westerberg and David Lowery, and that company is not too shabby in which to be included.
No, Chad Rex isn’t the baby brother or missing offspring of T. Rex. He, along with his Victorstands (I still don’t know what the hell that is), are merely carrying on the traditions of alt-country in a way that would make his predecessors proud. So grab a Dixie, a Lone Star or, hell, even a Schlitz and let the lap steel guide you over the lonely prairies, then let the rock and roll guitars bring you right back to the bar.
Paul Westerberg- 14 Songs
Jayhawks- Sound of Lies