Mike Ireland and Holler

Mike Ireland can’t be killed with conventional weapons. The Kansas City native hated country music as a kid but became one of the sharpest voices in the alt-country underground. He began as an indie rocker and first made national noise with the Starkweathers, a politically pointed country-rock outfit named after a serial killer. But that band disintegrated after Ireland caught his wife cheating with one of his bandmates. Ireland taught English for a while before pouring his shattered emotions into his debut for Seattle alterna-label Sup Pop — singing in the country twang he’d detested as child. Ireland left Sub Pop and released Try Again last year. Then he revamped Holler. Whew. The merry-go-round hasn’t kept Ireland from performing at little places like the Grand Old Opry or from opening for marquee names such as Randy Travis and Vince Gill. Ireland’s alt-country is more country than alt, but his melancholy could soothe the mopiest of Trent Reznor disciples. And if Ireland doesn’t have enough to be tortured about, the dude is getting balder than a motherfucker. That’s OK, because he has some killer mutton chops picking up the follicle slack. Oh, and he’s immortal. Which helps.

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