Barbara Adler

Welcome to the Johnny Horton Remix

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In this installment of Klasika, Barbara Adler gives us a taste of some of the music she’s working on as part of her year-long, multidisciplinary art project inspired by Czech tramping.

In Klasika, Barbara uses the Czech fascination with the American Wild West to explore themes of adaptation, appropriation, fiction and thievery. As part of this work, The Johnny Horton Remix project takes these themes and makes them danceable. For Barbara and her musical collaborators, Ten Thousand Wolves, the remix is an opportunity for music to engage with history. The band does this by wrestling with the flaws in the original tunes: rewriting culturally boorish lyrics, working women into the story, and making the songs speak to their own experiences.

Barbara writes:

“The ‘Welcome’ track traces my ‘roots’ in country music back to my family’s history in Czechoslovakia. Along the way, it explores questions of authenticity, cultural identity, and the power of remix to shape history. It’s a mash-up of party beats, documentary and audio storytelling: think of it as a podcast you can get down to.

Barbara Adler: word mix, field recordings, lead female vocals
James Meger: music remix of ‘North to Alaska’, male vocals


The Story

“Welcome to the Johnny Horton Remix. We play nearly un-recognizable covers of songs you’ve never heard of…”

The Remix starts in the front seat of a beat up, bronze Chevrolet Citation. Or maybe it starts in 1970’s Communist Czechoslovakia…

I grew up thinking Johnny Horton was a really big star. I mean, big like The Beatles. I assumed everyone in North America had heard ‘The Battle of New Orleans’ as a child, the same way we’ve all heard Fred Penner. Only cooler, because — unlike Johnny Horton — Fred Penner never sang about firing cannonballs out of an alligator. So, I grew up knowing nothing about country music. And now I have a country band…

I think it’s my dad’s fault. He discovered Johnny Horton in Czechoslovakia, where American cowboy music was often consumed as a pleasurable “eff you” to the government. Before I was born, my family emigrated to Canada. In Canada, my dad eventually found the Best of Johnny Horton on 8-track and played it for me in the Citation. He liked it, so I liked it.

And then I loved it.

I loved it so much that I didn’t want to listen to anything else. I got my way, maybe, because of what that music meant to my dad in Czechoslovakia. It also helped that 8-track was on its way out, so there wasn’t much else to listen to in the Citation.

When we finally got a car with a tape-deck there was a Simon & Garfunkel Best-Of that guided me to puberty with Feelings and Poetry. But the Remix starts before that — with an old car, cowboy dreams, and a bunch of songs that hopped the ocean twice to find me…

More from The Johnny Horton Remix: