Release Date: Apr 26, 2011
Record label: City Slang
The aptly named Kort is a collaboration between Kurt Wagner and Cortney Tidwell, two Nashville musicians whose credentials lie well outside the Music City mainstream: Wagner fronts the long-running Lambchop; Tidwell has released a couple of electronic art-pop records. Invariable Heartache is their heartfelt, albeit idiosyncratic, tribute to their hometown's venerable tradition of commercially oriented country music. More specifically, it finds the duo, along with a crack ensemble of local players (most of them members of Lambchop and/or Tidwell's band) laying down a set of obscure cover tunes primarily drawn from the '60s and '70s catalog of Chart records, the label run by Tidwell's grandfather, A&R'd by her dad, and for which her late mother recorded.
Chart Records is a bit of obscure Nashville history, notorious to those who dig through the crates at Grimey's but largely unregarded by those outside the city limits. Founded by Gary Walker in 1962 and purchased by local businessman Slim Williamson in 1964, it was the temporary home of established acts like Junior Samples and Red Sovine, but the emphasis was squarely on young talent with crossover potential, including its biggest success story, Lynn Anderson. Most of its roster might not ring a bell these days, mush less a cash register, but Chart was certainly a label of its moment, when country was entertaining the notion of pop.
Seemingly incongruous pairings have illuminated popular music for decades, from a drugged-out [a]David Bowie[/a] duetting with a doddering Bing Crosby on TV to [b]Isobel Campbell[/b] pairing with the Mephistophelian [b]Mark Lanegan[/b]. Like these, the beatific tones of [b]Cortney Tidwell[/b] are the perfect foil to the raspy, whisky-soaked growl of [a]Lambchop[/a]’s [b]Kurt Wagner[/b]. The voices may be diametrically different, but ‘[b]Invariable Heartache[/b]’ is a record steeped in its own Nashvilleness, as are the players.
Kurt Wagner, leader of country-soul act Lambchop, and singer-songwriter Cortney Tidwell are all about Nashville. It’s in their blood, it seems. You can hear its influence in their music and, with Invariable Heartache, a particular corner of its musical history acts as muse for the two talented performers. Tidwell’s grandfather ran Chart Records, a small country label in the city, and all the songs on this record—excluding one—come from the label’s catalog.
With the forenames Kurt and Cortney, it might be for the best that Lambchop's Wagner and fellow Nashvillian Tidwell decided to portmanteau them for this duet. Invariable Heartache's songs are covers almost all sourced from the now-deceased Chart records, a Nashville country label ran by Tidwell's grandfather. The result is charming enough to warrant their plucking from country ditty heaven.
For rock bands and hip hop groups in Nashville, national coverage that contains sentences along the lines of “there’s more to Nashville than just country” are nothing new. Within the city’s twang-less music scenes, there’s a sense that Nashville’s hepcats and urbanites would rather distance themselves from their city’s trademark. Not so for Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner and Nashville songstress Cortney Tidwell.
A record that seeps with clear-eyed hope, regret and wisdom. James Skinner 2010 While Kurt Wagner’s role as bandleader in seminal soul/country/folk collective Lambchop sees him deal in multiple shades of deep-orange warmth, Cortney Tidwell’s solo career is often shaded by a kind of icy detachment; an engaging, beautiful coldness. At first glance they might not seem the most natural fit for an album of country takes from the 60s and 70s, but look a little deeper and Invariable Heartache makes perfect sense.