Country music still has a rugged side, no matter what pop-oriented acts like Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum say. The Country Throwdown Tour, sponsored by an energy drink and featuring a rockabilly skull in its logo, is an amalgam of the genre's rougher necks: Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Johnson, and Jack Ingram.
Case in point, Johnson's That Lonesome Song is one of the rawest mainstream country albums in recent memory. In addition to drug-addled material like "High Cost of Living," he should be ready to uncork some new tunes from his just-completed follow-up.
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Meanwhile, Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses pull the proceedings further down the alt-country path. Bingham, who used to be a rodeo bull rider, won an Oscar for Best Original Song for "The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart)" earlier this year and contributed several songs to Crazy Heart, a country film that pulls no punches either. Catching a dozen acts over the span of a day isn't exactly for weaklings, anyhow.