The Red River Two

Story of a Heart

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Vienna being a smushed strudel of cultures, the discovery of precious creative flora with roots running halfway around the planet is simply business as usual. Alt-country being extremely popular in most of Europe once the '90s were over, the chances of the Red River Two getting crowned by a stein of beer in a neighborhood bar for playing American country & western are slim to zip, with Slim having left town. It is an era when two young fellows whose first language was most likely German can get on-stage in Vienna and sing in English about radio stations in Texas and of course love and pain, universal subjects of fascination. An amusing influence of the so-called "alternative culture" rampant in big European cities such as Vienna is the members of this duo coming out like the Residents in their credits, referring to themselves anonymously as Red River One and Red River Two. Fine, out in the real American West the traveler is more likely to find a freeway exit with a name such as this than an authentic country & western band. One of the best things about the approach of these younger country & western interpreters comes from their punk rock influence. A dedication on the back cover of this short CD sums it up: "Long Live Joe Strummer and Townes Van Zandt." As usual labels are misleading: this is not alternative country but actually traditional country, the natural rather than smooth vocals as well as the minimal instrumentation potentially something of a salvation to listeners who got upset when Nashville producers began making the music sound too slick -- providing any of them are still alive and would trust an item recorded in "that Europe." Stripped down to such a basic sound -- one guy only singing, the other guy also singing but playing guitar and harmonica -- these performances transcend the entire notion of songs or rather intensely personalize them, sentimentality becoming something like a breeze in the air. The duo performs with steady concentration, Red River Two's guitar bringing to mind a butter churner whose job is accomplished as if only breathing.