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.