A Newbie’s Random Observations
As a new contributor to this site (although I’ve read it for years), here are a few thoughts on music from a 50-year-old white guy…
I’ve spent my life trying to explain to people why I enjoy the music I like, and (usually unsuccessfully) why they should, too.
Leave it to Jason Isbell to explain it better than I could: “It’s punk, but it doesn’t sound like punk. It’s punk with different instruments and different songs.”
Isbell then goes on to explain, “It’s people who are trying to do the right thing. When it’s at it’s best, it’s people trying to make music because they love music, and they’re not trying to swindle anybody, they’re not trying to get rich and famous immediately, they’re trying to make music that goes back to their roots, they’re trying to have some credibility, they’re trying to be authentic.”
I recently saw Isbell at the UNITE to Face Addiction rally in Washington, D.C., where he was on the bill with Joe Walsh, Sheryl Crow, Steven Tyler, the Goo-Goo Dolls, and The Fray, among others. As a freelancer, I received a press pass to take pictures at the event, but my primary interest was seeing Isbell live for the first time.
All afternoon, I found myself telling people about Isbell’s music. Despite critical acclaim, especially for his last two albums, and growing awareness, many in the crowd didn’t know who he was.
“Just listen,” I said. “Then you’ll know.”
I turned around to look at the crowd during “Cover Me Up.”
Other Random Observations
• As I mentioned, I’ve wanted to contribute to this site for a long time and finally am taking the time to do it. I’m not nearly as knowledgable as some of you are, but this is one club I’d like to join. Hope you’ll provide some feedback and go along for the ride with me.
• Like anyone reading the pieces on this site, I love music. All kinds, live or studio. Ones that play to the masses — there’s nothing better than a good pop song — and ones that draw a handful to each show. My primary requirement is that the majority of the instruments be played by humans, not machines. Also, as a writer, I greatly appreciate anyone who can tell a story through words and/or emotions. The best performers can do both.
• Great quote: “I suppose that I didn’t know what I would become, but I always wanted to be extremely brave and I wanted to be a constant reminder to the universe of what passion looks like. What it sounds like. What it feels like.” — Lady Gaga
• I’m a huge fan of The Replacements, and saw them twice on their all-too-brief (though highly entertaining) reunion. This quote sums them up perfectly: “The Replacements and REM were the Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the fucked up.”
• Have you ever listened to an album and wondered, “What were they thinking when they chose THAT as the first single?”
• Jon Dee Graham has long been one of my favorite artists, in part because he’s so freaking smart about the small things in life. Here is a quote in which he paraphrases Bruce Springsteen, another favorite:
“Springsteen was here for South By Southwest and, the one thing that he said that really just killed me, because once again, it proves to me that artists are all the same…he said you must have absolute confidence and you must doubt completely, and you must be as brave as possible but you need to worry all the time, and you need to know that you’re the best act in town and yet at the same time know in your heart you suck. And that’s it, right there, that’s it.”
• Milkduds and Merlot: Sounds like the end of a long day, the name of a country song … or both.
Let’s end this with a Jason Isbell quote, which pretty much sums up my attitude toward writing about music in this or any other space: “I’m happy [for] anything that’s given me more of a home to do what I like to do.”
Glenn Cook is a Northern Virginia-based freelance writer and photographer. Check out his work at http://glenncook.virb.com