CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Bandcamp Treasures from Jason Isbell, Margo Price, and More
Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires (photo by Chris Griffy)
I have been intending to do a full Bandcamp feature since this column began, but never got around to it for the very reason I am getting to it this week: There were always other, time-limited projects that were going to expire if I waited. But with the slowdown of traditional crowdfunding projects, now seems as good a time as any. Bandcamp is not a traditional crowdfunding platform so much as a direct-to-fan interface with higher-than-average payouts to artists and a charitable side that has earned it a lot of goodwill. Since March, the site has designated one day per month on which it waives its normal 15% fee to direct 100% of the sales price to the artist. July’s was last Friday; it hasn’t yet announced if there will be another in August, but keep an eye on their blog for updates. This week, I’m going to bring you four Bandcamp-exclusive releases instead of my usual three because one is a single and at least two of these artists should need no introduction.
Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires – Reunions Live at Brooklyn Bowl Nashville (click here for album)
May was supposed to be a huge month for Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, a chance to take the songs from their new album, Reunions, out on the road. Instead, Isbell and his wife and 400 Unit bandmate Amanda Shires spent May 15 in an empty Brooklyn Bowl Nashville, playing two-person acoustic renditions of the full album. On the day when Bandcamp donated all of its Juneteenth profits to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Isbell and Shires dropped the digital album version of the livestreamed show, complete with flubs, dad jokes, and musings about “security capos.” If you found Reunions more rock oriented than you’d prefer or just love completely organic live recordings, this is one you’ll want to have.
Bully – About a Girl/Turn to Hate (click here for album)
Even giving leeway for Americana’s close cousinhood with all things punk, Bully’s straightforward snarling punk fury might be at the very corner of the genre’s “big tent,” even if they did open one night of Isbell’s 2018 Ryman residency. The reason I decided to include this A/B single release was because one of the two songs the band covered was Orville Peck’s “Turn to Hate,” along with Nirvana’s “About a Girl.” While “About a Girl” is as angsty punk delicious as a Nirvana song covered by Bully should be, “Turn to Hate” is a much more restrained alt-folk take. All of the vinyl copies of the single are sold out, but there are still digital copies available, as well as a cassette single for those still trying to get the cassette nostalgia train moving.
Margo Price – Perfectly Imperfect at the Ryman (click here for album)
Like most artists, Margo Price has felt the effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns, pushing the release of her new album That’s How Rumors Get Started back to this Friday from its intended May date. So Price decided instead she’d use May to drop a Bandcamp-exclusive live album pulled from her three-night Ryman Auditorium residency in 2018. The album features not only Price and her band in their best form, but also many of the most notable sit-ins from the run, including Jack White, Sturgill Simpson, and Emmylou Harris. It’s a digital-only release with all net profits going to the MusicCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, which provides support to artists in need during the COVID-19 tour stoppages.
Live at Yep Roc 15: Robyn Hitchcock (click here for album)
In 2012, Yep Roc Records celebrated its 15th birthday with a four-day music festival called YR15. Now, in 2020, they’re releasing a selection of performances from that event, including Tift Merritt, Dave Alvin, Los Straitjackets, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Jukebox the Ghost. But it’s Yep Roc’s weirdest citizen that drew my interest. Anyone who’s seen Robyn Hitchcock live probably came away both entertained and unsure what in the world they just witnessed. The set here pulls heavily from Hitchcock’s album with The Venus 3, Ole Tarantula, and also closes with a guest appearance from Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets. It and all of the Yep Roc 15 albums are digital only.