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Sunday, 23 December 2012

2. Emperors Of Wyoming : Emperors Of Wyoming

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s No 1 in our shopping list.

He has produced some of rock’s greatest albums; he has drummed up a storm on iconic hits.

He produced Nirvana’s gamechanging Nevermind, Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, Sonic Youth’s Dirty and Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown.

And he is, of course, the drummer on Garbage hallmark hits such as Stupid Girl, Only Happy When It Rains, Special and #1 Crush.

Now Butch Vig has gone country. Not in any yee-hah yodel sense, you understand, but in a gritty roots rock and roll sort of way.

He has teamed up with old pals Pete and Frank Anderson from Call Me Bwana and Fire Town’s Phil Davis in new band Emperors Of Wyoming.

Together, they’ve made one of the best albums of the year, a set which will appeal to anyone who ever owned a Tom Petty or Steve Earle CD.

Add Neil Young and Jack White to that list, perhaps. Yes, it’s that good.

“We wanted to mix up bluegrass, country and acoustic folk using cutting edge technology and ancient instruments,” says Vig. “Then we added rock guitar, bass and drums.

“People I’ve played it to are kind of surprised. When I say we’ve got a ‘country’ record they’re not quite sure what to expect.

“There are two schools of Nashville. There’s the old school - pedal steel guitar and twangy vocals.

“Then there’s the new school, which is more pop and can sometimes crossover to commercial radio.

“Take Taylor Swift for example. “To me she’s not country at all. She’s a pop artist, pure and simple.”

The Emperors’ eponymous debut album is anything but pop, offering credible crunch and indie appeal.

Petty-style rocker Avalanche Girl is bright rock and roll, Never Got Over You a throwback to the days when Steve Earle was “new country”.

Cornfield Palace is more direct, but in a jangly lyrical way, while Brand New Heart Of Stone is hewn from Creedence choogle. Both I’m Your Man (no, not the Wham hit) and Sweep Away smack of Exile-era Stones.

A double-header finalĂ© rocks up 19th century Wisconsin river ballad The Pinery Boy, followed by a brooding, stormy cover version of John Martyn’s Bless The Weather.

The emperor’s new clothes never looked finer.

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