Welcome to the front porch of The Real Easy Ed, where each week I aggregate and update news, events, images, ideas, sound, fury, odds and ends. Just a little place to pause for a few minutes, get out of the sun and cool down.
New Music Rising
It doesn’t seem all that long ago when hardy music buyers and fans would get in line late on a Monday night outside their local record store. At midnight the doors would be unlocked and the Tuesday new releases were put out for sale. The bigger titles would have been advertised in the Sunday papers, there would likely have already been reviews printed in magazines or other print media, you may have heard a tune or two on the radio and for at least that week you’d get a reduction off the regular price.
These days, the ‘official release date’ that the music industry uses is Friday, but that has little meaning anymore to most consumers who hear about new music online at infinite points of origin. A click here, a click there…and you can pretty much learn about new stuff and hear anything at anytime. There are exceptions, but not often.
So with that, there seems to be a revised definition to this term ‘new release’. With an annual pipeline of almost a couple hundred thousand albums released, something is new when you first hear about it. Yeah…there is still this mini-factory assembly line that a lot of musicians follow trying to get the word out in a short burst for maximum impact…but that makes sense for the one percenters, not necessarily every single title.
With that in mind, here’s something new to me that was released back in February from Alligator Records. I love me a good tribute and anthology, and God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson fills the bill.
The project originally began as a Kickstarter campaign, and features crazy-great performances from Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Sinéad O’Connor, the Blind Boys Of Alabama, Cowboy Junkies, and more. Listen to the full stream via Pitchfork and here’s the man himself, filmed in 1927.
Every Picture Tells a Story
The image at the top of this page was shot by my long-time-we’ve-only-met-online friend Sandy Dyas, who is a visual artist based in Iowa City that I’ve written about often. You can visit her website here and check out her work, books (buy them…really) and blog. And more of her images can be found on this site….including this one I originally published back in January 2014 at No Depression dot com.
Long Before N.W.A. There Was Country Music Straight Outta Compton
Back in 1951 a weekly country radio show was broadcasted live from Town Hall in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton. Within two years it had been picked up as a TV program by NBC and local station KTTV, there were 39 syndicated shows taped for Screen Gems and it had a damngood run, with it’s final show in January 1961. Had a few different names, but mostly it was either the Town Hall Party or The Ranch Party. There’s a good wiki page here on details.
Hosted by Tex Ritter, the list of weekly guest stars included pretty much anybody you might think of back in those times…Lefty Frizzell Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Patsy Cline, Merle Travis, Gene Autry, Sons of The Pioneers, The Collins Kids, Johnny Bond, Smiley Burnette. To our good fortune, many of the shows and individual performances are available on You Tube. Try this search link if you want a shortcut.
The 10-piece Town Hall Party band featured Joe Maphis, Merle Travis, the superb female steel guitarist Marian Hall, Billy Hill and Fiddlin’ Kate on violins, PeeWee Adams on drums, Jimmy Pruitt on piano, and other excellent musicians who created a Town Hall Party sound also heard on many country sessions produced by Columbia Records in Hollywood in the 1950s. Thought I’d share this one with you.
What Exactly Did Tony Visconti Say at SXSW Music 2016?
Acclaimed American record producer Tony Visconti, famous for his many records with David Bowie (including his final album, “Darkstar”), Marc Bolan, Paul McCartney, Badfinger, Iggy Pop, Morrissey and others, briefly choked up onstage last week during his South by Southwest keynote talk at the Austin Convention Center as he finished reading a fictionalized account of the grim future of the record industry. (Story here.)
The story ended with a jaded record executive jumping from the balcony of his skyscraper residence to his death. The dapper 71-year-old producer threw down his prepared notes and had to compose himself afterward.
Couple of thoughts from Tony:
-The vast amount of music being uploaded on to YouTube is “clogging the arteries” of the music business; unmediated and unfocused.
-“With the population doubling how come we can’t sell records? The record labels now are not giving you quality, that’s why you’re disenchanted, that’s why you don’t buy records.”
-Fans “used to put a vinyl record on a turntable” and play it hundreds of times. “None of that goes on today. There are great people all around us – the next David Bowie lives somewhere in the world, the next Beatles, the next Springsteen but they’re not getting a shot, they’re not being financed.”
-Our music industry is one “where singles all sound the same, where sales aren’t that great, where people are streaming and if you get 20 million [plays], you get enough for a nice steak dinner”.
-“I’ve always had black kimonos. I’ve always loved black kimonos. I know I’m rambling on. I’ll get to the point where I met David Bowie.”
Mixed reviews, but Vulture wrote: “By catering to cultural curiosity, excavating his early career, and using both his platform and the room’s rapt attention to strike while the iron was hot with a cautionary tale, Visconti did better than a sentimental speech. He casually played with prophecy, a move his much-missed friend would certainly appreciate.”
Bob Dylan’s 25 Musical Heroes
This list was assembled and published a few weeks ago over at The Telegraph and I found it a quick interesting read. Here’s just a couple of my fave quotes, but do go take a look for yourself at the whole enchilada.
Boy, I love them . . . the Flying Burrito Brothers, unh-huh. I’ve always known Chris Hillman, you know, from when he was in the Byrds, who had a distinctive sound. And he’s always been a fine musician. The Brothers’ records knocked me out.
John Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. All that stuff about Sam Stone the soldier junky daddy and Donald and Lydia, where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that. If I had to pick one song of his, it might be Lake Marie. I don’t remember what album that’s on.
Karen Dalton is my favourite singer. Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday’s and played the guitar like Jimmy Reed and went all the way with it.
I Just Sold My Newport Folk Festival Ticket and Won’t See Joan Shelley.
It ain’t easy to get a 3-day pass to Newport because they do this email notification thing through Ticketmaster, and you gotta act fast. I did, and bought mine a couple months ago. It was just around $200, which I think is a bargain for what you know will be an amazing musical weekend of exploration and discovery. You don’t even know yet who’ll be on the program, as only about a dozen folks have been announced, but its hardly a leap of faith to know it’ll be great. Joan Shelley will be there…knowing I’ll miss her is a disappointment. Her music speaks to me.
My one and only time at Newport was in 2014, and although I held tickets for last summer a ‘life happens’ moment forced a pullout. I was pretty sure I would be good-to-go this year until I sat down and worked on the details. A sad-assed vertigo sufferer, the train seemed like a better mode of transport than my Civic, and there would be some ground transportation needed to get to town from the station. Once there, moving around is pretty easy. Walking, boat shuttle, taxis. But where to stay…oh my. With an average lodging cost of about $300 per day…camping not an option…that’s what did me in. I couldn’t find a way to make the whole thing come in at much less than a thousand bucks, and although I love music, I’m a man with a budgetary restriction. So not this year…sorry.
By the way, Ticketmaster has a pretty neat way for you to take a ticket, put it up for sale through them, and in less than a week it was sold to someone else and my dough was re-deposited into my account. I think I lost twenty bucks or so in fees, but its an easy way out.
On Sharon Jones: A Favorite Story from Oxford American
Homecoming Queen by Maxwell George was published on January 19, 2015.
North Augusta Baptist Church is a humble house of God, steepleless and cast in brick, with a pair of squat towers flanking the stained-glass black Messiah on its façade. Last summer, I got my picture taken next to the marquee out front, which advertised an upcoming Youth Revival weekend—fitting enough, since my being there related to a former young congregant. In the mid-1960s, soul singer Sharon Jones gave her first public performance here, as a singing angel in the Christmas pageant when she was in the third grade. (Click here to continue.)
Videos You Wouldn’t Know Existed, Unless You Found Them By Mistake.
I aggregate and post daily on my Twitter feed:@therealeasyed and Facebook page:The Real Easy Ed: Roots Music and Random Thoughts. My every other week Broadside column is published at No Depression.