"Gothic Country" (also known as "Dark Country", "Southern Gothic" and "Gothic Americana") is a genre of Country Music characterized by its dark sound and lyrics. It is, in essence, a combination of Alternative Rock, Goth Rock, or Heavy Metal and Country Music.
It shares much in common with the Southern Gothic genre of fiction, and many songs are inspired by works in that genre. Gothic Country songs feature the typical alcohol, religious themes, family, and romance aspects of country meshed with darker topics like poverty, murder, and supernatural forces.
Gothic Country Artists:
- 16 Horsepower
- Beat Circus
- Blues Saraceno
- Brown Bird
- Johnny Cash (Though he played with dark subject matter his entire career, he work in this genre peaked with The American Recordings in the '90s where he reworked a lot of darker rock and metal songs into stripped-down folk ballads)
- Justin Cross
- The Dead South
- Dead Brothers
- The Denver Gentlemen (a short-lived band that was very influential on the entire gothic-country scene)
- The Devil Makes Three
- Karen Elson
- Murder by Death
- Graveyard Train
- The Handsome Family
- The Heavy Horses
- Megan Jean and the KFB
- Me and That Man (a side project of Behemoth frontman Adam Darski with English-born musician John Porter)
- Mean Mary
- Jay Munly
- Lindi Ortega
- The Pine Box Boys
- The Pine Hill Haints
- Quaker City Night Hawks
- The Rooster's Crow
- The Silent Comedy
- Slim Cessna's Auto Club
- Nico Vega
- Those Poor Bastards
- Tom Waits skirts the edges of this genre, though much of his music is closer to Gothic Folk than Country. The Black Rider and Bone Machine specifically tackle the kinds of rural themes endemic to the genre.
- Woven Hand
- Voltaire released one gothic country album, Hate Lives in a Small Town.
Other Notable Gothic Country Songs:
The following is a list of notable songs that fit into the aesthetic despite the artists not exactly being Gothic Country.
- The Blue Öyster Cult are more famed for being a hard rock band with a Gothic tinge. But their first album Blue Öyster Cult (1972) has the standout track "Then Came The Last Days Of May" which can best be described as stealth country music played by heavy rockers. The theme is one not usually covered by C&W: three buddies set out, with a guide they mistakenly think they can trust, to cross the Mexican border via a desolate desert so as to buy drugs. in the desert, their guide murders all three to steal the drugs money. The song is from the point of view of the last man to die, in the manner of a lonely cowboy on the frontier.
- "Bury Me In Southern Ground" by Rebel Son. The song is sung from the point of view of someone who had a hard life "on a reconstructed southern land" and is now old and on his death bed.
Dixie land is where I wanna make my final stand
I don't care if I'm in a box or not when they lay me down
Just bury me in Southern Ground.
- "Country Death Song" by Violent Femmes is about a farmer in the midst of a drought with little food. The song tells from his perspective about how in desperation he wakes his youngest daughter one night and takes her to a cave where he pushes her down a well. It ends with him telling the listener about how he's "going to the barn to hang [himself] in shame".
- Normally-indie duo Charming Disaster dipped their toes into Gothic Country with "Ghost Story," a twangy banjo duet about a widow being haunted by the ghost of her ex-lover, who killed (and was killed by) her husband in a Duel to the Death.
- Delta Rae's "Bottom of the River," a Gospel-infused work song ostensibly about a mother drowning her infant son.
- "Where the Devil Don't Go" is one of Elle King's more country songs, and its fast-paced lyrics are decidedly macabre.
Drown my woes in a lake of fire
Sing a song gonna take me higher
Good lord turned his back on me
Lucifer gonna set me free
- Neil Young has a few. The best known is "Down by the River", a murder ballad which may be partly based on "Banks of the Ohio" and "The Knoxville Girl". "Running Dry" also counts. His long-time bass player Billy Talbot has one called "Living in the Spirit World".
- Jim White is more of an "Americana" or as Greil Marcus says "Old Weird America" artist, but that'll inevitably include some dark rural and Gothic Country tunes. Possibly the best known is "Still Waters."
- LL Cool J inexplicably performed a gothic Country Rap for an IKEA commercial.
Tropes present in this genre:
- The Alcoholic: Heavy drinking and alcoholism appear in many songs, often to go with the western feel of the music.
- Deal with the Devil: Exchanging your soul for skill in music, often At the Crossroads, is a common permutation.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Overlaps with the themes of alcoholism.
- Cool Horse: Horses go with the "old western" aesthetic.
- Ghostly Goals: Ghosts are common, they may want revenge or simply to communicate.
- Murder Ballad: Quite a few songs involve killing someone.
- Or Was It a Dream?: Paranormal experiences are frequent, with the protagonist often unsure if they're Real After All.
- Revenge Ballad: And just as many involve retribution for such a crime.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: The protagonists of these songs frequently show signs of Sanity Slippage.
- War Is Hell: War is rarely, if ever, portrayed as anything but awful.
- Weird West: Not an unusual thing to see on this genre's covers◊ or lyrics.