Arts Desk

When D.C. Hardcore Went Country

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExdzfPH287c

Long before The Dirty Projectors covered Black Flag, local musician Dan Doggett found another creative way to rethink classic punk rock. While hanging out with his college buddies in 2006, he thought it'd be funny to sing the lyrics to Minor Threat's "Straight Edge" with a goofy southern accent. His friends loved it, and suggested  he could perform under the moniker Minor Twang. It was a joke at first, but Dan decided to pursue the idea further. "I recorded all the songs in my parents basement on an old 4-track I had lying around," says Doggett. "I originally just made a few CD-R copies of it to give to some friends." The project got more popular when those recordings made their way to MySpace.

Minor Twang may have been recorded in a basement, but close your eyes and it sounds like a forgotten Hank Williams tune. Doggett's voice is strangely haunting on his "Straight Edge" cover, as if the decision to abandon drugs and alcohol is an action weighted with melancholy, not buoyed by defiance. In order to better capture the sound, Doggett used different chords than the original to better approximate the sound of a classic country tune. The cover of "Minor Threat" bounces along pleasantly, bearing little resemblance to Minor Threat's punk-rock thrashing. So when the CD made its way into the hands of Ian Mackaye, the new melody was one of the first things he noticed. "I gave a copy of [Minor Twang] to Ian at a Fort Reno show. He said he enjoyed it, but was interested to hear what it would have sounded like if I kept the original chords in place. He also told me he made a copy of it for [Minor Threat drummer] Jeff Nelson."

Doggett's project never really expanded. He played a couple of small shows, and the recordings all but disappeared when MySpace faded into irrelevance. But thanks to the effort of YouTube user "artichokeification" who uploaded the covers last October, Minor Twang will always have a place on the Internet. Only one of the four tracks has more than one hundred views, but even if Minor Twang somehow manages to go viral, don't expect Doggett to pick up his harmonica. Now his primary focus is Monument, a band influenced by '90s emo music, where he plays bass and sings. He's nonetheless proud of Minor Twang and the strange footnote it's left on the D.C. music scene. "I think it's a testament to the originality and solid songwriting of so many bands from the area," he says.

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