Tony Clayton-Lea catches up with Kort be­fore they find their roots in Kilkenny,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

KURT AND Courtney? Courtney and Kurt? We’ve been here be­fore, brothers and sis­ters, but this pair­ing isn’t what you might think. Loud gui­tars, iconic rock stars, brassy wives and any­thing smelling re­motely of teen spirit are left be­hind when it comes to Kort: Nashville’s Kurt Wagner and Cort­ney Tid­well.

Wagner you might know – he’s the head hon­cho in Lam­b­chop, one of alt.coun­try’s most alt.coun­try groups. As for Tid­well, she’s one of Nashville’s low-key, quirky delights, a singer on the fringes of com­mer­cial suc­cess and ac­cep­tance, but one whose heart re­mains rooted in legacy and her­itage.

The pair had known each other for some time, but only re­cently, and tem­po­rar­ily, got to­gether to make In­vari­able Heartache, a col­lec­tion of songs that were sourced from the 1950s/1960s coun­try-and-west­ern la­bel Chart, which was run by Tid­well’s grand­fa­ther. The re­sult­ing al­bum is full of old­school coun­try charm given a du­ti­ful mod­ernist spin, but more cru­cially it al­lows “old” Nashville to be heard through fresh ears.

“I think the idea of Nashville,” says Tid­well, “or what peo­ple per­ceive to be the Nashville sound, has changed over the years. Al­though there are still purists out there like Gil­lian Welch, Em­my­lou Har­ris and Loretta Lynn, real coun­try mu­sic is some­what pushed aside in Nashville. I think it’s been a very cool thing to bring these songs and the spirit of them back.”

“It’s what I’ve been about since I started mak­ing records here in Nashville – to in­fuse my ideas with the place I come from,” adds Wagner. “I try to find a way to re­fer to el­e­ments, sounds and no­tions that make Nashville what it is and, in­deed, who I am. In­vari­able Heartache is just a more di­rect re­sult. The more di­rect in­flu­ence of Nashville can be felt in the choice of ma­te­rial, none of which I wrote. So the roles are in­verted, and the things I do with, for ex­am­ple, Lam­b­chop are more in the back­ground.”

Coun­try song­writ­ing at its best is emo­tion­ally acute, highly ob­ser­vant and grace­ful – are these the qual­i­ties you wanted to get across?

“We just wanted to be re­spect­ful of the ma­te­rial and try to be our­selves at the same

“Coun­try mu­sic is about feel­ing. And what truly makes a coun­try song isn’t just sto­ries for real peo­ple – it’s about heartache”

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