Various Artists

Remote Wing: Knw-Yr-Own Compilation 2001

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Knw-Yr-Own was, as of the release of this anthology in 2001, one of the truly grassroots American indie rock labels. Being so close to the grassroots, naturally, means that almost no one's ever heard of these artists unless they happen to be in the locality where the musicians are based. So it's unlikely that even most voracious indie rock collectors will know many or any of the artists on board here, although those with ears close to the ground may have heard Nate Ashley and Karl Blau. It's well above the norm for such tiny-label comps, though, both in the variety of sounds and the respectable level of music. Frequently the vibe is homespun, fetching folk-rock, like Mirah's "The Sun," which sounds a little like early Liz Phair with less snide bite. It's not just coffeehouse-type low-key folkiness, though. Little Wings' "Back of the Truck" has a quirky bluegrass/old-time flavor that should endear it to No Depression fans. Microphones' "Instrumental" is, ahem, an instrumental mixing thundercloud piano chords with what sounds like an autoharp. D+'s "Up and Died" has the feel of an old Alan Lomax recording of a field holler. Bill Cook's "Pull Me Apart" is back porch country-style harmonizing, with, as many cuts boast, minimal accompaniment. York Roberts' "Smile Song" has similarly fine close harmonies. Other, more lighthearted cuts have more of the sense of Jonathan Richman's unplugged efforts, though not as contrived. The overall effect is of an open-mike night, or syndicated noncommercial radio folk broadcast, with far greater variety and guileless lack of artifice than you usually encounter at such events, though there are some more fully produced pop/rock efforts too.