The Swedish sister trio Baskery has been compared to the Dixie Chicks, and indeed sisterly harmonies and good looks are part of their presentation. They call their music “banjo punk,” and in their spare, driving sound and their circular harmonic patterns there is certainly some punk attitude. Really, they land somewhere in between the Dixie Chicks and Old Crow Medicine Show, but that’s true of a number of bands, and it’s not what’s attracting attention to this one in alt-country circles.
Instead it’s the lyrics and language. Swedes from ABBA to the brains behind Britney Spears have attracted English-speaking audiences with lyrics that are idiomatic yet just off-center enough to stick in your head, and Baskery does the same. Country music, though, presents a special case: it’s unusually dense with textual conventions, and it is Baskery’s way of encountering these as if for the first time and going their own way with them that makes their music so appealing.
Their songs tell of restlessness, love and breakups, music itself, and sometimes violence. All are country music themes of long standing, but Baskery creates fresh takes on them. “There’s one horse down in a one-horse town…,” they sing. “I live for the river. Don’t we all? Don’t we all?” “I know nothing ’bout guitar, but I’m playing my guitar. This place is filled with dudes trying to prove who they are.” Or “If you kill me, you’ll simply miss me, boy. And if you kill me, make sure you bury me deep. ‘Cause I will follow you, track you down, and I will haunt you.” There’s also social critique in some of Baskery’s songs, something that American country music included for much of its history but has lately forgotten.
The Ark is bringing two Swedish country acts to the club in the same week, which is all to the good (the other is Abalone Dots, appearing with Sam & Ruby on August 31). Baskery’s concert, part of the Ark’s Take a Chance Tuesday series on August 24, is free, but bring nonperishable food items to donate to Food Gatherers. Baskery performs another free show in Liberty Plaza on August 26 (see 5 Thursday “Sonic Lunch” listing) and a show Aug 25 at Live at PJ’s.