Ill Lit

When I was an Army brat teenager, I finally found the radio, thanks to my younger sister. Back before then, I’d been content to listen to my dad’s Beatles & Beach Boys collection, but then my sister turned on AFN (Armed Forces Network) and we were all, “Woah! Music!.” My sister listened to … whatever it was … I can’t remember (sorry J). But me? I turned the dial straight to country music.

When I was thirteen, my favorite band was Alabama. What did I find in those country tunes that was so comforting? Did I like that it sounded like Hank Williams, who was also in my dad’s collection? Was I attracted to those themes of loss and longing? Did I want to go down in the river three times, like Hank, but only come up twice? I have no idea — probably, I wasn’t thinking that hard. And then in ninth grade I won a copy of “Out of Time” in a contest and that was it. Wham! I was smack into rock & roll (although, you’ll note, “Texarkana” and “Country Feedback” put me on solid ground).

Since then I’ve gone pretty far away from those down-home boys in Alabama, and very seldom do I listen to straight-up country music. But I am absolutely susceptible to country and rock’s bastard child, alt-country. The first time I heard Ryan Adams, I knew I was home. In fact, I think alt-country is probably my favorite genre. The Old 97s, Whiskeytown, Haley Bonar, Tarkio, The Roy Owens Jr. — they all make me a happy happy girl. Of course, what is alt-country, you ask? It’s just a tag to help people classify the crush of music that surrounds them. Country and rock are enormous influences on each other, but it’s not too often that you get a great blend of both. When the blend is just right, you call it alt-country.

All this is to say — Ill Lit. They’re out of LA, of all places, but I guess that’s ok, because this is still the West, right? They have an “Old 97s Lite” sound — lacking Rhett Miller’s frenetic pace, but with the same kind of solid writing. And interestingly, they mix the country sound with some great electronica sampling. I wouldn’t call it fall-over-and-die music, like when you hear Heartbreaker, but it’s good, and it’s getting better, and that’s all I can ask for. They have a new album (self-released on their Myspace) called “Tom Cruise.” I hope the man himself doesn’t sue.

Ill Lit: Site | Myspace

[These tracks have been removed. You can contact me if you’d like a copy.]

Ill Lit – Freeway
Ill Lit – Diner Girls
Ill Lit – Los Angeles



  1. juliette’s avatar

    four words: damn yankees – high enough.


    i do remember, though, ‘down home, where they know you by name and treat you like family, down home, a man’s good word and a handshake’re all you need, folks know when they’re falling on hard times, they can fall back on those of us raised up down home’. i think that’s alabama. good stuff anyway.

  2. James’s avatar

    You need to listen to:

    The Sadies
    Handsome Ned
    Neko Case/Carolyn Mark/Corn Sisters
    Oh Susanna
    Be Good Tanyas
    Jim Cuddy/Blue Rodeo

    Do you like bluegrass too?

  3. zara’s avatar

    J — DAMN YANKEES, THAT’S RIGHT!! You loved those hair metal boys. Can you take me hiiieeeeee enough …. too funneh. We both have our own dark secrets.

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s an Alabama song. As soon as I saw those lyrics, I started singing along, even though I haven’t thought of that song or heard it in probably fifteen years. Weird.

  4. zara’s avatar

    James — I do like bluegrass, but not as much as country. I find too much banjo irritating … just kidding. I’m trying to think of who I know that qualifies as bluegrass. Allison Krauss?

    I did look up & love the Be Good Tanyas, because last time you recommended a list to me, you told me about them. And I love Neko, of course. The rest of them will have to be research. :)

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