BONUS TRACKS: Gadgets, Gatekeeping, and Getting Ready for (Gulp) the Holidays
Photo by ninitta via Getty Images
We all think fondly about the albums we’ve loved over the years — the ones that got us through a breakup, made us dance in our living rooms, sounded awesome when we belted them out in our cars. But much less nostalgia is spared for the devices that made it all possible. Pitchfork writers compiled a piece this week on the iPods, stereos, portable players, and more that put the music into our ears. Like one writer in the piece, I had a car in the mid-aughts with a radio but no tape deck or CD player (and definitely no Bluetooth), so the Griffin iTrip FM transmitter, which fit awkwardly atop an iPod and beamed the sound to a radio frequency, was a lifesaver during long commutes. It’s probably now in a drawer somewhere, missing life on the road, but I hope it knows how much it helped me.
A recent “Curmudgeon Column” in Paste set out to explore the world of what the writer called “Afro-Americana” — a cringey term from the get-go, and the rest of the journey isn’t much better. There are plenty of bizarre points and weird false comparisons, none of which deserve further broadcasting here. But old-time musician Jake Blount offered a response to that piece this week that most certainly does. He points out the dangers of gatekeeping in music, and the history of it by white men, and the similarities between “Afro-Americana” and the “race records” of the not-so-distant past. The writer, Blount offers, “is not the first white man to see too many Black people moving into the neighborhood and respond by building a wall and shutting the gates. He will not be the last.” Read Blount’s piece, also in Paste, here.
No one’s breaking out the mistletoe just yet, but the holidays are coming (I saw egg nog in my local grocery store yesterday, on a shelf just under the pumpkin spice products). Amanda Shires is getting in the spirit with the announcement today of her first Christmas album, coming out Nov. 12. For Christmas features nine original songs and two covers, including a “darkly charged reimagining of ‘Silent Night,’” according to the announcement. Other holiday albums are on the horizon from roots artists including Brian Fallon, Norah Jones, and The Pistol Annies.
Karen Dalton never reached superstar status in her lifetime, but many thought she should have, and many have wondered about her tumultuous life, and what music may have been within her had circumstances not gotten in the way. A new documentary, Karen Dalton: In My Own Time, hit theaters last week, and will arrive to streaming platforms on Nov. 16. Read more about Dalton’s story, the new footage and recordings made available to the filmmakers, and how modern-day TV and movie placements have brought her voice to a new generation in this piece from NPR. (Also be sure to check out our story about the 50th anniversary of Dalton’s In My Own Time album in our Summer 2021 quarterly journal.)
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
IBMA World of Bluegrass Showcase artists including Hubby Jenkins, Barbaro, Stillhouse Junkies, The Sweet Lillies, and Bella White
Amos Lee – “Shoulda Known Better,” from his new album, Dreamland, coming in February
Lilly Hiatt – “Lately”
Angel Olsen – Aisles
Christopher Paul Stelling – Forgiving It All
Strand of Oaks – In Heaven
Sylvie – “Shooting Star”