"Alt-country" is a term commonly used to describe music that's more like "Southern rock" – and is rarely as country as it is alternative. Country roots are relatively rare in the modern indie scene, which is why Deportees' new album, Damaged Goods, is a tribute to the term, and is actually a legit 50/50 mix of alt and country.
Covering their bases between honky tonk, pickin' & grinnin', and slow ballads, Deportees mix classic country elements with more thriving rock rhythms, and in the process, create a surprisingly elaborate crossover sound. These Swedes organize the best parts of "country" with the best parts of "alt", and do it better than a lot of Americans could.
"People Like Us", the opening track, is a quick honky jam, remniscient of the Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey". A snappy falsetto and background vocals really groove the song into infectious territory. Deportees are two brothers and two others, and Peder Stenberg's vocals are a major component, propelling the music with a soulful engine. In the title track, there's a Seger-esque strain in his voice that commands urgency from the churning guitar and flowing chorale behind him. "Who Is Gonna Meet Me", is a well-orchestrated, dark swell of countrified melancholy that's rare even in Nashville.
There's an impressive variety of ups and downs on Damaged Goods. "Missing You, Missing Me" is uptempo and chugs like a train flying through the plains. "Line of Fire" has a lonely campfire feel, with acoustic plucking and distanced drums. The background vocals around the album bestow vivid extra dimensions of depth and soul and are a big part of why this record stands out.
It's like Deportees took modern instruments and sentiments into the old West and created a sound that's way behind its time and ahead of it too. Sort of strange that a Swedish band can reproduce an all-American sound as well as anyone, but it's more of a testament to how thoroughly fascinating this album is. As "alt" in Swedish means "all" in English, this album is pure and real, all-country.