Rare 40 year old early Rank and File concert recording unearthed – Listen

AUK has managed to get a bit of treat for our more discerning readers thanks to Chris Metzler of Décor Records. It is a 40-year-old recording of a live concert at Urban Noize, Portland, Oregon, on November 21st 1980 when Tony Kinman, of West Coast punk legends The Dils, first sang a song with his brother and also ex-Dils Chip Kinman’s new band Rank and File. Joining the brothers are a young Alejandro Escovedo on guitar and Barry Myers, tour DJ for The Clash, and it is the only known recording of this line-up. Rank and File can lay a credible claim to being the first alt-country band and as such, this concert has particular significance in the history of americana as Tony Kinman joined his brother’s band permanently shortly after this show.

The link formed between the punk and country communities in the late ‘70s that lead to the cowpunk and alt-country sub-genres may seem surprising at this distance, but not if you had experienced the times. Punk was a reaction against the increasing complexity and commercialisation of music in the ‘70s and looked back to the more DIY music of the ‘50s for inspiration. What is now viewed as real country was a key part of ‘50s American music, and was sufficiently removed from the Urban Cowboy trends of late ‘70s then contemporary country, to be considered politically and musically acceptable to some musicians influenced by the style and ethos of punk. This ultimately lead to Joe Ely touring with and being championed by The Clash, and bands such as Rank and File, The Long Ryders, The Blasters, Jason and the Scorchers among others blending both traditions.

Rank and File released 3 albums before disbanding in the late ‘80s. The Kinman brothers continued to work together on various projects until Tony’s death in 2018. Alejandro Escovedo left the band after  their debut album ‘Sundown’ and has maintained a solo career in roots related rock to this day.

About Martin Johnson 378 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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Clint West

What a treat! Rank & File were hugely influential in steering my musical tastes in new directions. I was lucky enough to see them live and they made such a mark on me that I’ve completely forgotten who they were actually supporting! It would have been around 83/84 – anyone help?

Paul Kerr

Believe they supported Elvis Costello in 83.

Clint West

Thanks Paul, you are right (of course) I can confirm that I saw them on 10/10/83 supporting Elvis Costello at Ipswich Gaumont. Happy days!

Rank & File was one of the great and underrated al-country bands before the term “Americana” ever came to be. Ahead of their time, to be sure. The 3rd self-titled album on Rhino was a big turn for them, keeping the country attitude but performing it with heavy metal sounds. After that, the Kinman brothers delved into synth-pop, which was a nail in to coffin that could not be pulled out, despite their attempt to return to the alt-country sound with Cowboy Nation. They did make it to a performance on Austin City Limits, which was probably their highwater mark. Unfortunately, they were another great pre-Americana band that never got the recognition that they deserved.


Very true but at least the memories are still there.