Amateur music blogger (clearly an oxymoron) posts some thoughts…and also makes recommendations based on a sophisticated auditory filtration system: his ears
Well…I guess I’m being a bit sarcastic with that, but for those of you who followed Grant Alden’s recent post and subsequent thread, as well as previous conversations of a similar bent on this site, there is sort of a tug here between the role of professional versus amateur writer. The magazine offered talented, experienced and knowledgeable writers and editors who checked the facts, made sure articles and reviews lived up to their measure of high quality and who worked hard to insure that the magazine delivered to your doorstep was something you would find value in. You the consumer were willing to pay for the magazine, and hopefully look at the ads…generating a cash flow (but not enough I guess) for the publisher who would be able to pay for all this quality journalism and hard work.
On the other hand, this website features writers…and I’ll willingly use that term loosely… who often come here with no documentation nor qualification. Sometimes we have little clue as to whether they/we/me are a fan or fanatic, record label flack, publicist, promoter or artist. We don’t know whether they/we/me are fifteen or fifty and there’s no test to see if they/we/me are well versed in musical history. There’s no check nor balance. The only editing is done by the poster , or maybe someone in the community who spots a mistake and will take the time to make a correction. There’s really no moderating going on here other than to insure that we keep the site clean and tidy; freedom from porn and acai berry ads is a goal.
Getting back to Grant, on the subject of music criticism and the challenge of the internet community now taking over that role to a large extent…it was an exchange he had with Kim Ruehl about filters in particular that caught my interest. Without cutting and pasting and probably messing it up terribly, what I took from it was that Grant felt that we need people with experience to differentiate and point out the best (my word…not his) between all of those 60,000 new releases that come out every year versus Kim’s point that her generation (and the one after) prefers an all-access approach where they choose for themselves.
Fellow poster DEADDRUNKANDNAKED joined the discussion and tried to re-state Grant’s point of view with “No Depression and other magazines gave their recommendations a weight that is tough to find out there on the internet (the word of mouth recommendation).” DDAN is a music fan who admitted to surfing the interent in pursuit of more music but he/she also said that “despite my ‘plugged in-ness’, I can point to three people who have recommended or led me to 95% of the artists I listen to”. So what I got from that was that DDAN used the internet as just a research tool…and that doesn’t seem to be that different from reading a magazine. One or the other was/is no less or more valuable. Just different.
Another poster (is there a better or more accurate name I should call these folks?) Truersound hit it on the head for me in explaining what I do: “As a music blogger I will be the first to point out that I am not a music journalist, nor am I a music critic….I am a music blogger. What I lack in writing skills I make up for with bells and whistles that printed publications could not do. Things like videos, streaming media, mp3s and links to the artists own sites. “ And on the subject of reviews: “I tend to shy from negative reviews, meaning I just don’t post them. Unless maybe it’s an old favorite who made a horrible album.” And now speaking directly to Grant on the subject of filters: “I think of myself is a FILTER like your saying does not exist. I like to think I sift through and find the gems for the folks who have neither the time nor inclination”. And finally: “I guess what I’m saying is….the internet is probably the best thing to happen to music fans….as it empowers them like never before. I blog about music I love because I love it….not because I expect to get paid for it. (hey, I told you I wasn’t a writer)”
Okay….so that all leads me to this: I found a few things lately that I’ve been listening to, and I’d like to share them with you. Almost everything I find these days is through the internet and occasionally from the kindness of former music biz associates who will send me a care package from time to time. So here you go..filtered through my very own ears:
–The Kinks Choral Collection will be released here in the US on November 19, but I was fortunate to get a copy from a friend in the UK. Ray Davies has reworked some of his old songs with acoustic guitar and the assistance of the 65-member strong Crouch End Festival Choir, and has created something very unique and compelling. “Waterloo Sunset” in particular is absolutely breathtaking in it’s execution. On his website he writes: “I don’t want this to be (a) a karaoke record or (b) a singalong with backing vocals’. I wanted the arrangements to be ambitious and for the pieces to be interesting to sing, but I didn’t want it to sound like Messiaen or something like that, which wouldn’t lend itself to my style of music.” It works.
–Closer To The Bone from Kris Kristofferson is out this week and I started listening to it a week or so ago. Reminds me a bit of another great songwriter’s efforts from earlier this year…Leonard Cohen. The voice is not perfect and he’s no longer a matinee idol, but it’s so intimate and raw that I find myself drawn in. If you liked his duet with Ani DiFranco at the Pete Seeger birthday bash, you’ll like this a lot too.
-Red Heart The Ticker….why don’t more people know about this band (of sorts)? Yes…another husband and wife collaboration…Robin MacArthur and Tyler Gibbon. They live on a 250 acre farm with their daughter and make beautiful alt-whatever music with a host of folks. Two releases…2006’s For The Wicked, and the latest is Oh My! Mountains Below and although I see the first on Amazon, the latest seems to be available only on their website. I’m not going to sit here and do a review…but the songs, instrumentation and harmony will blow you away. Track it down. (Unless I’m the last man on the planet who knows about this, I believe I’ve found one of the best releases in a long, long time.)
-M. Ward seems to be taking some knocks here lately (I participated in that thread)) so I want to point out one track that I really like a lot from Transistor Radio. “Here Comes The Sun Again” is a really nice basic folk song…short, pretty and the last 30 seconds are a nice segue into a George Harrison riff you might recognize.
-Finally….remember the bootleg albums from your youth? White sleeves, paper sticker set lists, high price, low quality and often hidden behind the counter? I guess they’ve been around on the web for a look while now, especially from the jam band fans but I’ve noticed more and more popping up on fan sites and blogs. The legality is dubious I’m sure and while some artists encourage it, others prosecute. That stated…there’s one outstanding recording from a Steve Earle show in San Francisco back in 1996. Norman Blake, Peter Rowan and a bass player you probably know and I’ve dreadfully forgotten…but it’s on the tip of my tongue. Darn. I think this lineup played only a handful of shows and in addition to having superb sound quality, I’d consider it historic and almost your duty to discover it if you love Earle like I do.