Easy Ed’s Weekly Broadside
This week’s post comes to you as I sit in Washington Square on a blue sky day, listening to an ad hoc jazz band while waiting for Kyla Fairchld, the former owner and publisher of No Depression. She flew into New York last night from Seattle on her way to the FreshGrass festival, and we’re meeting for breakfast. It’s funny how the world works these days. While we have exchanged countless words via email, texts and telephone calls for well over five years, this will the first time we’ve actually met in person. The chapter closes on our relationship as isolated technocrats.
Eating crow is one of those cute American colloquial idioms that is said to have first been used in a story about a New York farmer living near Lake Mahaopac back in 1850. The story is irrelevant, but the concept that I’m about to admit to possibly (alright…maybe definitely) being wrong about something is both foul and fowl.
For years my mantra has been: ‘There is no such thing as good or bad music. It’s just music.” By extension, I’ve found award shows and the organizations who sponsor them to be at odds with my feeling that all music should be celebrated. Singling out just a few does nothing for the thousands and thousands of artists who also do great work, but who may lack a record label or a publicist or a management team or great networking skills to help push them to the forefront.
And I’m pretty sure today that I’ve been wrong.
This week in Nashville, the Americana Music Association bestowed it’s top three awards to Jason Isbell. Others who walked away with a gold star on their permanent records included the Milk Carton Kids, Sturgill Simpson and Buddy Miller (has there ever been a year Buddy hasn’t won something?). Lifetime achievement awards went to a diverse group that included Jackson Browne, Flaco Jimenez, Taj Mahal, Loretta Lynn and Jimmie Rodgers.
Beyond just a night of awards and accolades, the entire week in Nashville has come alive with Americana music (the ‘big tent’ version of it), with thousands of people flying into town to celebrate the music with forums and performances, schmoozing and promoting, enjoying and celebrating. And the thing is, with an opportunity to turn on and expose more and more people to this genre, what could be so wrong with that?
I’ve went back and looked at all of the awards that have been handled out by the AMA over the years. And you know what? It’s inclusive, not exclusive. While there may be a sight lean toward a certain type of musician of a certain age or with significant career longevity and work product, there is also an incredible wide berth of acknowledgement for many artists. So if I was to consider the entire body of work that the AMA has accomplished and the artists and music it’s recognized, I’m now a supporter. And I’m truly appreciative to all of the folks at the organization who have toiled through the years and put up with curmudgeons such as I.
As the crow flies.
Tell me if these lyrics mean anything to you: “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. I’ll cry if I want to. I’ll cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.”
For me, that song takes me right back to mid-1963, pre-British Invasion, when Lesley Gore scored a huge hit with it. Produced by Quincy Jones, “It’s My Party” is a teenage tale of losing a boyfriend to another girl at her very own party. And there was also had an equally good ‘response and revenge song’ in “Judy’s Turn To Cry”, where that good for nothin’ Johnny comes crawling back. (The Crystals also cut “It’s My Party” with Phil Specter behind the glass, but Quincy moved like lightening to get his version released first.)
One of my favorite couples, Jules Shear and his wife Pal Shazar, have been performing this song at their concerts. As cover songs go, it’s a great choice for Pal’s voice and emotional delivery, along with Jules’ exceptional harmony, guitar work and arrangement. They have taken a teenybopper pop classic and re-imaged it into a simply classic song for the ages.
For me, it’s the centerpiece of their newest release, a five song EP titled Mess You Up. The duo continue to drop groupings and couplets of three minute pop masterpieces on us, with this their third collaboration in only two years. Over the coming winter will be more work out in LA on the Kickstarter-financed film documentary on Jules, solo work that Pal tells me he’s been working on in the studio every day, and more of her own beautiful artwork that is inspiring her to paint into the wee hours of the morning. What follows is an original video creation inspired by the song from the extremely creative and prolific Sherry Wallace.