A railroad surrounded by dry brush and leafless trees.

Souther Gothic Rock: The Right Amount of Country

By Caden Ziegler
Web Content Contributor

Though I am a native Texas and come from a family of deep-southern country folks, I don’t have any personal affection for country music. Play some George Strait, yeah I can get down to it, but you won’t find any Garth Brooks on my playlists.

I don’t want to hear a million songs about trucks, Jesus, prison and mama. However, I have recently fallen in love with a subgenre of country; Southern Gothic. Also called “Gothic Americana,” Southern Gothic is a fusion of alternative rock and classic country/folk music. Think punk rock and country fusion with a twist of jazz and bluegrass.

I first got exposed to this kind of music because of a Netflix series called “Wynonna Earp,” which is centered around the demon-killing descendent of Wyatt Earp, a famous American frontiersman. It is absolutely cheesy, but the soundtrack is ridiculously good and will make you want to ride into some dingy country bar on a black motorcycle (at least it makes me want to do that). The opening song is “Tell That Devil” by Jill Andrews, which led me down the rabbit hole of Southern Gothic.

After creating a playlist— aptly named “🏍⛓☠”— with music from “Wynonna Earp,” I started finding a ton of other artists in this genre. I didn’t know how I hadn’t heard of this kind of music before so I did a bit of research on its origin.

A small photo of a man and a woman to the right of the photo. On the left is a list of songs and artists.
Spotify created a playlist for Southern Gothic music. A lot of it isn’t to my taste, but it has a couple of gems in there. Screenshot by Caden Ziegler via Spotify.

Southern Gothic started out as a kind of literary genre, beginning in the 19th century with the works of Mark Twain and Henry Clay Lewis. In the 20th century, it really picked up with the Dark Romanticism movement, which focused on the grotesque and demonic.

The music genre didn’t really start until the late ‘90s and early 2000s, but a lot of the themes relate to those found in the literary genre: death, ghosts, love, betrayal and even the devil. This kind of music definitely isn’t going to inspire thoughts of kittens and rainbows for sure, but it will make you slap on some eyeliner and buy some killer combat boots, and who doesn’t need (another) pair of those?

A lot of the music leans a little too country for me, so I tend to stay on the side that’s closer to roots rock. A few of the artists that frequent my playlist are Gin Wigmore, Zayde Wolf, Fantastic Negrito, Sonia Leigh, The Bones of J.R. Jones and Crowder.

A few songs to get a taste of the parts of this genre that I like are:

“Wild Rose” – Ellem

“New Blood” – Zayde Wolf

“Tell That Devil” – Jill Andrews

“Black Sheep” – Gin Wigmore

As I previously stated, these are all on the alt rock side, and even a little pop. I used to not be into any kind of country, but I’m so happy I stumbled upon this sub-genre. It also happens to have some really cool origins relating to such a tantalizing literary movement. Now I just need to go buy a motorcycle, and I’ll really set the mood.

Featured image by Rodney Ramsey via Creative Commons.

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