BONUS TRACKS: Rhiannon Giddens, Author, and Free-Flowing Fests
Rhiannon Giddens (photo by Ebru Yildiz)
Is there anything Rhiannon Giddens can’t do? Now she’s adding “author” to her list of creative output with a deal for four picture books for Candlewick Press. The book will tell stories of Black American history and experience, illustrated by artists Monica Mikai and Briana Mukodiri Uchendu. The first book, Build a House, shares the title of a song Giddens wrote for Juneteenth 2020 and performed with Yo-Yo Ma and echoes the song’s message of perseverance. It’s scheduled for publication in fall 2022. Next will come We Could Fly, in fall 2023, which also shares its title with a song she wrote, this time with Dirk Powell for her 2017 album, Freedom Highway. Like the song, the book unfolds a conversation between mother and daughter about African tradition and love. Learn more in a post from Giddens’ label, Nonesuch.
I can’t say I’ve ever been to a festival that offers $4,000 VIP passes or “free-flowing Dom Perignon,” but they exist, and apparently they’re booming. The big fests are selling out quickly, Fortune reports, as people seek out experiences after being cooped up during our pandemic year. With the return comes innovation, including livestream cameras for those unable to attend and “unfestivals,” which bring big artists to small venues — for a steep price, of course. One hopes this success is trickling down to the smaller, more roots-focused festivals, and that anyone attending those with a Dom Perignon budget will consider going nuts at the merch tables instead.
There’s a staggering number of songs on the internet, with tens of thousands more landing every single day. While a lot of them are not quite ready for prime time, there are sure to be some gems, but how could any human being possibly sort it all out? The solution may lie in the form that all solutions seem to take these days: programming a computer. This article from The Guardian looks at several firms using data analysis, artificial intelligence, and other technologies to sort the wheat from the chaff. It sounds a little cold and, well, robotic, but it also can help push aside music industry obstacles like nepotism and bias, defenders say. Of course, all of this digital effort is aimed at finding the next big hit by the next big superstar. I’m confident that roots music will continue to find its way to ears the old-fashioned way: through heartfelt performances and genuine fan enthusiasm, with the heart and soul as the algorithm.
Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro and Fiona Whelan Prine, president of Oh Boy Records and widow of John Prine, have been nominated by President Biden to the National Council of the Arts. The Council advises the chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts on grants and other federal arts programs.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Gabe Dixon – “Something Good”
Aoife O’Donovan – “Red & White & Blue & Gold”
Brandee Younger – “Reclamation”
Steve Gunn – “Other You”
Anna Ash – Fire Season
Miley Cyrus, featuring Watt, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujillo, and Chad Smith – “Nothing Else Matters”
Natalie Hemby – “Heroes”
John Cameron Mitchell and Alynda Segarra – “American Sickness”