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Rural rock

Alt-country Albertans The Uncas at the Boot

Good time, cowpunk whisky-rockers The Uncas are named for Uncas, Alberta (or Al-burda as the locals are more akin to say), the place several band members were born and raised.

The boys are right citified now, having made the move to the burgeoning metropolis to the north known as Edmonton. But don’t let anyone tell you they don’t still have Uncas in their blood.

They just can’t say they’ve ever played there. Uncas isn’t exactly a town. It’s a collection of farms and a school, axeman Futch Uncas explained. They were once invited to play at the school, but the band respectfully declined. They’re not exactly Raffi – their music better suited to raucous licensed joints than sit-down assemblies presided over by bespectacled educators in Sears golf shirts.

The most recent recording of that music is 2004’s full-length release Sunny Uncas , which carries the label "alt-country." It’s a handy moniker to definitively separate their sound from the nu-country pop purveyed by corporate Nashville for suburban housewives.

Otherwise, Futch says, the Uncas would rather people think of their sound along the line of 1970s supergroup The Band, whom they admire greatly.

Futch also cites fellow Alburda boy Corb Lund as a major influence, both for his current laid-back countrified roots-rock sound and for the metal he purveyed across the prairies throughout the ’80s and ’90s with rock ’n’ roll’s greatest tragedy The Smalls – a band that deserved much more than it ever got, but kept rocking anyways for its legions of Western Canadian faithful.

The rural roots are as much a part of The Uncas as the Projects are to gangster rap. But while The Uncas certainly know how to poke fun at rural stereotypes and not take themselves too seriously (hence the use of "Uncas" as their collective last name), it’s important to realize they’re not a redneck joke band along the lines of Toronto’s White Cowbell Oklahoma.

These Good Old Boys are the genuine article. They’ve been to the now legendary Southern Alberta rock crossroads (the intersection at Brooks where left leads to Taber – home of the perennially-undiscovered Smalls – and right leads to Hanna, home of the superfame and fortune-bestowed Nickelback despite, many would argue, a huge disparity in talent).

The Uncas know how to rock. How to play a song or two that will make the people dance, and throw back a beer or two, or more and have a good time.

Call it alt-country or just plain country or rock ’n’ roll, or whatever you want. One thing’s for certain; it’s exactly what you’re gonna get this Monday night at the Boot Pub.