Cowpunk (or country punk) is a subgenre of punk rock that began in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and California in the early 1980s. It combines punk rock or new wave with country, folk, and blues in sound, subject matter, attitude, and style. Many of the musicians in this scene have now become associated with alternative country or roots rock.
|Cultural origins||Late 1970s United Kingdom|
|Typical instruments||Vocals, electric guitar, bass, drums|
|Derivative forms||Alternative country|
A 1984 New York Times article on the emerging aesthetic acknowledged "cowpunk" as one of several catch-all terms critics were using to categorize the country-influenced music of otherwise unrelated punk and new wave bands. The article briefly summarized the music's history, at least in the United States, saying that in the early 1980s, several punk and new wave bands had begun collecting classic country records, and soon thereafter began performing high-tempo cover versions of their favorite songs, and that new bands had also formed around the idea. By 1984, there were dozens of bands in both the U.S. and England "personalizing country music and making it palatable for the MTV Generation." Examples included two UK groups—the country-tinged pop band Boothill Foot Tappers and the tongue-in-cheek new wave outfit Yip Yip Coyote—and several U.S. bands: X, the Blasters, Meat Puppets, The Beat Farmers, Rubber Rodeo (which "juxtaposed countrypolitan elements and more conventional rock postures" in homage to "a pop-culture west rather than a geographic or historic one"), Rank and File (playing "an updated version of 1960s country-rock"), Jason and the Scorchers (with "authentically deep country roots"), and Violent Femmes (at that time incorporating "mountain banjo, wheezing saxophones, scraping fiddle, twanging jew's harp, and ragged vocal choruses").
- Palmer, Robert (June 10, 1984). "Young Bands Make Country Music for the MTV Generation". The New York Times. p. H23.
- Gerald Haslam, Workin' Man Blues: Country Music in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999) covers all of the major movements in California Country music from the Hollywood Cowboys to Country Rock. He also includes a chapter on the 1980s and the "Los Angeles renaissance" of country-styled "roots", rockabilly and cowpunk music and interviews members of The Blasters, Los Lobos, X/The Knitters, Lone Justice, Dwight Yoakam, Rosie Flores, Rank and File and The Beat Farmers. Kurt Wolff in The Rough Guide to Country Music (London: Rough Guides, 2000) also highlights chapters covering major California contributions to Country Music: Hollywood Cowboys, The Bakersfield Sound and Country Rock as well as California's contribution to Western Swing. Under chapters dealing with Dwight Yoakam and Alternative Country, Wolf mentions the influence of Los Angeles and its 1980's "roots" music scene.
- "THE BEAT FARMERS". The San,Diego Reader. San Diego, CA. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
- Einarson, John. Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2001
- Haslam, Gerald W. Workin' Man Blues: Country Music in California. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999
- Wolff, Kurt. The Rough Guide to Country Music. London: Rough Guides, 2000.
- Hinton, Brian. "South By South West: A Road Map To Alternative Country" Sanctuary 2003