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SXMX: American and Mexican Roots Music

Despite many lyrics that sing of pride in Southern hospitality, country music occasionally reflects attitudes that border on being both racist and openly anti-immigrant. This hypocrisy is particularly ironic when considering the similarities in the roots music of the United States and Mexico. Even in Athens, the realms of mainstream American and Latin American music are generally disparate. Although this may be the result of many forces at work, Matt Hudgins hopes to shine light on the unnoticed likenesses of two musical cultures that have too often been at odds with one another.

While spending a semester in Mexico in 2008, Hudgins enrolled in a Mexican guitar class. He was surprised to discover that in the traditional songs he was learning, “a lot of the rhythms are the same as the old country music [he] grew up with,†he says. This unwitting revisitation to his own roots sparked a musical proliferation. “Songs just started coming out of me.â€

In spite of this inspiring experience, when Hudgins returned to the States, he found himself hesitant to practice the language or remain actively engaged in the culture that catalyzed so much musical growth. However, his work at Nuçi’s Space provided the opportunity to return to Mexican music.

“I finally stopped being a wuss and started talking to a lot of the mostly Latino bands and got to be friends,” he says. “One day it just hit me: we should do a show together. Mexican music is what inspired me to start playing country music; I reconnected with my musical roots through Mexican music.â€

Hudgins hopes not only that he will continue to reacquaint himself with the music that is so meaningful to him, but also to highlight different worlds of music within one city. With an appreciation for the basic musical characteristics shared by traditional Mexican and old-time country, he is the perfect candidate to lead a movement to break down the barriers that exist between the various music scenes in Athens.

“There’s, like, a separate Latin music scene. It’s funny working [at Nuçi’s Space], because I’m realizing that there are a lot of different scenes. I’ve lived in town for 12 years and had no idea that these places existed.†Hudgins adds, “It’s a shame that the worlds are so separate. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable of the music scene; I’ve been playing in town for almost 12 years now. But to just now be discovering these whole other groups of people that are playing awesome, great music—it’s surprising. It’s exciting to be discovering all of this new stuff.â€

By providing Athens with an accessible conjunction of two seemingly different schools of music, Hudgins hopes to make progress in dismantling the social norms that continually isolate people of separate cultures. On May 19, Caledonia Lounge will hold “South by Mexico,” affectionately nicknamed SXMX (in reference to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin). The concert will feature Matt Hudgins and His Shit-Hot Country Band, Los Meesfits and Cielo K-Lentano, the three of which will provide an opportunity for direct comparison and, hopefully, a heightened appreciation for both their reciprocity and their variations. Not only will it be an occasion for a country band to take a stance for the hospitality it should represent, it is a time for people to learn about another genre of music they may never have given a chance before.

“I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun, and I think people will be surprised if they come and sort of check it all out to find that they’ll have a really good time,” Hudgins says. “They might be surprised to learn about what they’re open to and what they like to hear—maybe expand their musical horizons.â€