It’s nice to acknowledge the Unsung Heroes that helped those of us here, on the European side of the Atlantic, get access to some of the less obvious Americana acts that were making waves back home in the U.S. With that in mind, frequent contributor to the Unsung Heroes series, Tim Martin, writes about German record label, Glitterhouse.
When the Uncut Magazine ‘Sounds of the New West’ CDs started appearing they featured a label that was new to many. Glitterhouse Records are based in central Germany south of Hanover, were founded in 1984 and for their first ten years were the European branch of Sub Pop home of the Seattle grunge scene. This may seem like an unlikely beginning for a label who were one of the early champions of Americana music in Europe, but they have become a significant player over the last 20 years and 300 releases.
In fact, the first song on that Uncut compilation is a great example of their work. Hazeldine had recorded a demo session in their hometown of Albuquerque. After their set at SXSW, a tape found its way to Glitterhouse, who promptly signed the band and released the album as it stood with very little additional work. A brave choice for a label only just finding its feet without the backing of its American partner. “How Bees Fly” remains a classic Americana album with a raw, slightly shambolic sound, reminiscent of Crazy Horse.
Since then, Glitterhouse have released work by many artists who are regularly featured at Americana UK. Neal Casal also signed with them in 1997 and went on to release five albums for the label. They were the Willard Grant Conspiracy’s European label in the early part of this century as well as being home to 16 Horsepower, Butch Hancock, and Chris and Carla. The label has always had a diverse roster with legendary US band Pere Ubu one of their better-known signings. They have maintained a steady output over the last few years, but recently focused more on German acts, mostly because they are easier to record and release during times of travel restrictions. There have however been multi LP box sets from 16 Horsepower, Mark Olson’s Creek Dippers, and others. Glitterhouse have been home to Olson’s band since the album ‘Mystic Theater’ in 2004, and the box set draws together his earlier self-released albums.
What makes Glitterhouse worth celebrating? At the same time as magazines like Uncut and Mojo were starting to write about ‘Alt-Country’, Glitterhouse were one of the few labels picking up the artists that were being featured by No Depression and distributing them in Europe. Locally in Bristol, there was a shop called Imperial Music who stocked the music, and other than scarily expensive imports it was albums on the Glitterhouse label that were on offer. For taking a chance on music that was far from guaranteed to return a profit and paving the way for artists who are now mainstays of the Americana scene they deserve a thank you.
A good way to introduce yourself to their back catalogue is the 2004 compilation ‘Glitterhouse – The Americana Connection’ which has eighteen songs covering a variety of artists and styles. It’s generally available from your online retailer of choice.