Easy Ed’s Weekly Broadside
What a difference a few days make. Last week America wasn’t involved in a war, and this week we’re dropping bombs. Over the weekend hundreds of thousands of people came together all over the world to raise awareness of climate change, and here in the Hudson Valley almost overnight the leaves have begun to turn colors and drop to the ground. Coincidence? And as if placing an exclamation point to the power and process of change, Kris and Bruce Jenner executed a divorce without lawyers; she gets the 20,000 square foot house in Calabasas, he retains the country club membership and they split the money down the middle. Real life is so much stranger than fiction.
Well, its been one helluva week for music, hasn’t it? After months of a personal lack of interest and boredom toward most of this years new music (not writing off everything, just most of it), I’ve seen an avalanche of new tunes from a wide variety of artists. First up, and a tip of the hat to our friends from Scotland after a tough fight at the polls, is the amazing Roddy Woomble and Band who released a brilliant and beautiful two-disc live album through a joint venture with speaker/headphone company Bowers and Wilkins. How you might possibly acquire this, I do not know. I found it, and it’s possibly my favorite of the season. And if you don’t know of Roddy, despite a half dozen albums, you might know his band Idelwild which has enjoyed success through the years in both recordings and live performances.
These old ears are also awash in a new Leonard Cohen project, and it continues the streak he’s had with a great ensemble, intensely beautiful poetry and lyrics, and that voice of his. You know, to you Americana Music Association people, if you can give acknowledgement to a heavy metal singer and a UK guitar folkie, I think next year a Jewish French-Canadian might fit nicely into your genre-busting award program.
Pardon my ignorance if y’all know about Dublin roots band I Draw Slow, especially after their barnstorming of American festivals this summer, but I somehow missed it and have been sucked into their new album this week.
This is a theme I’m picking up on: that my favorite Americana music of late isn’t from these shores. We’re going back to the roots of roots music.
Some other new tunes sitting in the parlor next to the gramophone at the moment awaiting my time are more American Americana, and yet to be heard. Bonnie Prince Billy, Mark Erelli (with a ton of musical guests), Chuck Prophet, Otis Gibbs, Jerry David DeCiccia, Kelly Pardekooper, Lucinda Williams and the reissue of Steve Earle 1995 ‘comeback’ show in Nashville with a great band and Ms. Harris contributing vocals on a few cuts. Special mention to accordionist Martin Green’s new project, which may be a bit too esoteric to all of you hillbillies.
One final note about a film that’s available on Netflix this month, and I hardily recommend to all who may have missed it. Alex Winter’s story of the rise, fall and impact of Napster titled Downloaded is a documentary and oral history of the invention from a nineteen year old kid and his friends, that changed the world. Featuring an all-access no-holds-barred look at Shawn and John Fanning, Sean Parker, other fellow founders and contributors, ex-label honchos, artists, managers, consumers, fans, musicians, lawyers and politicians…this is the story of the day the music ended, as we had known it.
What really held my attention and fascination was the reminder that Napster, and the popularization of such terms as file sharing, peer to peer, downloads, streaming and piracy aren’t very old. In fact, Napster came into being June 1999 and was over for all intents and purposes by July 2001. That makes it very modern history; and the subsequent death of modern mass music retailing, changes to the major label and distribution system throughout the world, the monetization of downloading and streaming, and the nature of changing how revenue streams are derived for artists and composers is staggering. And to think, it was just the work of a couple of kids sitting in their bedrooms and playing with their computers while talking tech geek on chat rooms.