a word about…i don’t know…production and image?
Last Saturday I got a chance to hear a whole bunch of music at a neighborhood roots music festival. All types of folk music from Celtic to Balkan to country to alt to surf to Klezmer to polkas to rock to roll to blues and what have you. It was a nice day with no coastal eddy and possibly the only complaint would be from my son the vegetarian, who had to endure the smell and smoke of cooking meat from the grills of the vendors.
One set I caught was from an artist I’m going to choose not to mention by name. Her and the band put on a phenomenal set of twang, possibly the best I’ve heard yet from this group. I’ve seen them several times before and this woman is a very talented songwriter, singer, guitarist and front person. Her band, which seems to shift a bit from time to time, getting bigger, smaller, electric, acoustic and sometimes with different personnel, was spot on this day. They drove the beat and complimented her perfectly.
So she has three albums out, the last one produced down in Nashville and it probably cost more than the first two combined. The producer is supposed to have credentials and a good studio, although when I looked him up it didn’t seem all that impressive. But the artist chose him and off she went to Music City. There’s (at least) 1,352 producers in Nashville, and they can all produce twice as better than I can…or so it goes.
Her first album from several years ago was a lo-fi event, and it’s my favorite because the songs and her vocals are very fresh and clean. A fairly simple production. The second one was a bit more like her live show at the time and it was a pretty good sophomore effort, but a show she did around the release date already made it seem out of date because it was way better than the CD.
The third one which came out about a year ago is my least favorite and what some might call “over-produced” if there is such a term. Because it sounds nothing like the artist I heard on Saturday. Or any other day for that matter. Her band wasn’t on most of the album because the name producer used studio musicians, as is the way in Nashville. The album is polished to a point where it smothers the songs and buries the voice and to these ears it is unlistenable.
Which brings me to the cover art and her image. This woman is very pretty with nice hair, she wears little makeup, usually is in jeans or country-looking clothes. And for whatever reason, she chose to have what I guess is called a style makeover for the album and the picture on the cover. Sadly, it looks nothing like her. Nor is it reflective of her music and stage presence.
Now some might argue that she is just trying to reach a little higher with a fuller production and fancier or glamorous image. And as an artist she has that right to present her music and image any damn well she pleases, regardless of my two cents here. But I listen to a lot of music, and have seen a lot of live music in my time and I know that talent doesn’t grow on trees, it’s a gift. And when you discover someone who has it, you hope that they will make good choices to showcase it in the best way.
Sometimes they don’t.