Alt-country music is a nickname for a genre known as alternative country. Alt-country music has roots in the country music style of artists like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, but is also based in the rock and punk music movements, and has a rough edge, as opposed to the overproduced sound of Nashville country stars like Garth Brooks or Shania Twain. Alt-country music is also sometimes referred to as Americana music, or as No Depression, after an album title by early alt-country band Uncle Tupelo.
The alt-country movement first started in the 1960s, with artists like the Byrds and Gram Parsons, who were as connected to the rock music scene as they were to country music. In the years since, artists such as Neil Young and Steve Earle have successfully combined rock and country music. However, the musical form did not gain an official title until the release of Uncle Tupelo's No Depression album, which included folk covers and punk/folk original tunes. The group recorded four albums before splitting up. Today, both of Uncle Tupelo's singers perform in successful bands of their own: Jay Farrar in Son Volt, and Jeff Tweedy in Wilco.
Some other successful alt-country groups include North Carolina band Whiskeytown and its lead singer, Ryan Adams, who has since formed a successful career as a solo artist; and the Old 97s, an energetic band from Texas that combines country twang with rock music. Uncle Tupelo's offshoots, Son Volt and Wilco, have also done extremely well in the alt-country world; Son Volt had a hit in the early 1990s with Drowning, while Wilco have been revered in the music world for their brilliant album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which combines alt-country with experimental music.
There is also a magazine called No Depression that is dedicated to alt-country music, and named after the Uncle Tupelo album. The magazine has existed since 1995, and has profiled hundreds of important alt-country artists, including Alejandro Escovedo and bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley.