What exactly is Dark Twang? Dark Twang is a type of Americana and Country music that utilizes darker themes, sometimes even horror elements, in its lyrics while musically turning twang from its traditional upbeat approach that has been used for years to a more melancholy vibe. The sound is of the moment before the last shootout of a movie, or just before you do that big train robbery. It’s the sound of a heartbroken woman in the depths of despair and a man who is at the end of his rope. It can also be described and associated with subgenres such as Gothic Country, Dark Country, Southern Gothic and Gothic Americana.
This was inspired by a playlist created by the wonderfully talented Lucy Giles of Dog Party, called Dark Twang and I fully encourage you to give it a listen. Especially if you love the darker parts of life and country music. She also DJs under the name Lucy Romone and if you get the chance, head out to one of her sets where she spins classic hits in the Rockabilly, Honky Tonk and Twang genres.
Today I Started Loving You Again | Dog Party
Dog Party are a rock and roll band with a dash of pop, punk, country and riot grrrl influences that consists of sisters, Gwendolyn and Lucy Giles. Formed in 2007 the pair have released six studio albums and have toured with the likes of Green Day. Dog Party are very much a touring band, but fans hope that the duo will release some new music very soon.
Their latest release Today I Started Loving You Again along with its B-Side I Just Don’t Understand appeared on streaming platforms in 2020 and embraces a new sound while also staying true to Dog Party as a band. It’s still punk, it’s still rock n roll but it is also twangy and country in tone, pulling from Lucy’s love for that style of music. It’s an old classic love song done in the style of the great Queens of Country. Yes, that is the trio of Lorretta Lyne, Dolly Parton Tammy Wynette.
Roots Run Deep | Heathen Apostles
Heathen Apostles is a Gothic Americana band with influences in Western, Post-Punk and Gothic Rock music. Formed in 2013 Heathen Apostles consists of Chopper Franklin, formerly of The Cramps, and Mather Loth, formally of Radio Noir. Bonding over a shared love of Gothic Americana, Western themes and dark ideas, the duo were soon joined by Thomas Lorioux and Luis Mascaro creating a truly Southen Gothic sound with hints of Twang and Punk thrown in for good measure.
Roots Run Deep is a truly dark and macabre song that gives you that feeling of walking through a deserted western township, surrounded by overgrown farmland and dilapidated barns. If you know you know. But Southern Gothic at its best encompasses the trauma of the Dustbowl, gothic literature like Edgar Allen Poe, folk tales, ghost stories and religious trauma. Roots Run Deep encapsulates all of that as does the sound of Heathen Apostles.
Til My Dyin’ Day | Lindi Ortega
Lindi Ortega is a country singer-songwriter hailing from Toronto, Ontario, Canada who has worked as an independent artist for over a decade. With a voice that is a blend of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris she has been able to create her own sound that has influences in rock with her lyrics focusing on the darker sides of human nature. She has previously worked as a backup singer for Brandon Flowers during his 2010/2011 tour in support of his solo album Flamingo.
Til My Dyin’ Day is a stand-out track from Ortega’s phenomenal 2018 release, Liberty, where she pairs back the foot-stomping country to give us something a little more simple, a little more twang, a little more atmospheric. You can hear the influence of Ennio Morricone in the whole album, especially in this song and the following song Nothing is Impossible. This album and in particular this song feels like it could be in any Sergio Leone or Giuseppe Tornatore movie. It’s dark, It’s Twang and It’s magical.
Girl on Death Row | Lee Hazlewood
Girl on Death Row by Lee Hazlewood is a stunning little song that not only has country and twang but also some beautiful orchestral sounds flowing throughout the song. This gives it a sense of sorrow that the subject matter truly deserves. A woman who is wrongly accused of a crime is put on death row and Hazlewood’s melancholy delivery really brings home her dire situation. Hazlewood was a prolific country and pop singer, songwriter and record producer working alongside guitarist Duane Eddy and Nancy Sinatra. His work with Sinatra is some of his most famous and praised work while being a huge influence on the cowboy psychedelia that rose to prominence in the ’60s and ’70s.
Ghost Memories | Gene McKown
Ghost Memories by Gene McKown is a fun yet dark little jaunt down a very overlooked style of rock n roll from the early years, where everyone just loved a good gimmick song. This song is less about Halloween and more about a deceitful man but lyrically McKown uses the idea of ghosts and memories to invoke a sense of longing for times before and regret from his misdeeds. It is very straightforward when it comes to storytelling but definitely one to listen to. You can find more songs of this ilk on Monster Party: Halloween Rock & Roll Oldies, Vol.2.
The Spook | Pete Drake
The Spook by Pete Drake is an instrumental track that just feels spooky in all the right ways. It’s twangy as hell and just makes you want to move your body. Drake was known as a record producer, pedal steel guitar player and an innovator of what would later become known as a Talk Box, who based himself out of Nashville. Despite many people not knowing who he is outside of the Country music genre, he was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2022 and has quite a diverse list of appearances when it comes to his work as a session musician.
he has worked as a backup musician for many well-known artists like Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, and Bob Dylan, on all three of his Nashville albums, and Tammy Wynette on her huge hit Stand by Your Man. He also played on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and produced Ringo Starr’s album Beaucoups of Blues.
The Mummy’s Bracelet | Lee Ross
The Mummy’s Bracelet by Lee Ross is truly a Halloween classic appearing on a whole host of compilation albums catered to those country music lovers who also like the spookiest time of the year. With its simple melody, and ghostly wailing of the backing singers, although the more I listen the more I think it might be an instrument, and his dark low speech as the Mummy, Ross has created a truly terrifying piece that would go on and inspired many other Horror themed artist. It feels very Misfits before the Misfits.
Not much is known online about Lee Ross and I have only just discovered him, but what I can tell you is he was a singer and songwriter who would go on to be a DJ later in life. His song My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You has been covered over 40 times, this includes a cover by Johnny Cash. He passed away in 1992.
Yodeling Ghost | Patsy Montana
Patsy Montana is a trailblazer in Country and Western music and female artists trying to break into that scene. Montana wrote her own songs achieving so many accolades that hadn’t been afforded to women before. She was the first female performer to have a million-selling single, I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart, earning herself a gold disc as well as influencing the likes of Patsy Cline and Dottie West. I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart was her signature tune and released in 1935. After retiring in the late 1950s, to spend time with her family, Montana would make a comeback in 1964 releasing an album which would feature a young Waylon Jennings.
Yodeling Ghost utilises Montana’s expert yodelling skills to create a truly spooky vibe. The guitar is twangy and very Country and Western in style, but there is something wholesome about its sound. It’s also not clean, there is some distortion in there, not like we have today but it feels very much of its time in all the best ways. It will give you chills down your spine as you listen to Patsy Montana’s haunting vocals and storytelling prowess.
I Cast A Lonesome Shadow | Hank Thompson
Hank Thompson was a country singer songwriter and musician whose career spanned over seven decades who’s style can be described as honky tonk western swing. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Thompson uses a mixture of fiddles, electric and steel guitar to emphasise his smooth baritone voice, creating a real sense of cool. Thompson continued recording and appearing in concert well into his 80s.
I Cast A Lonesome Shadow by Hank Thompson is an absolutely beautiful dark song that feels very introspective. He might be talking about the devil, a ghost or even his own inner turmoil at being alone, but either way, it is a melodic melancholy tale that many people will identify with. His rich Baritone voice delves deep into your soul as he tells this tale of heartache. I am so glad I found this song, it is absolutely stunning.
This Haunted House | Loretta Lynn
The absolute powerhouse and one of the Queens of Country, Loretta Lynn encapsulates that Dark Twang sound. With a career spanning six decades, she was a true rebel of the Country music scene with songs like The Pill, You Ain’t Women Enough and Coal Miner’s Daughter delving deeper than many female country stars had before her. She would tour for 57 years and achieved 24 no.1 hit singles and 11 number-one albums in her career.
This Haunted House is one of Loretta Lynn’s songs that I hadn’t heard before. I am a big fan of her work. But this is such a stunningly haunting song that I feel that everyone needs to hear it. The burty of Lynn’s voice is that it is sickley sweet yet that’s what draws you in. She has that rare ability to make you listen to what she is actually saying, This Haunted House is a prime example of this. Here she laments the loss of a lover who has left her, alone in the house they once shared. It’s a heartbreaking song that really looks at the sadness that women have experienced for centuries.
Want more suggestions for Dark Twang, Gothic Country or Southern Gothic music? Check out Midnight Owl’s video below.