EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: Roots Music on the Tube: Summer 2019
Image via Pixabay
Next February will mark the 15th anniversary of YouTube, though it seems as if it’s been around forever. Owned and operated by Google, it is second only to its parent company’s search site as the most visited on the web. The statistics are staggering, and while I’m much more interested in the incredible access to music and its impact to modern culture than reciting a bunch of numbers about YouTube, there are a few that deserve to be shared. While there appears to be no single source of information about the company, sites such as Techjury, BiographOn, BrandWatch, and Wikipedia aggregate from many data sources in an attempt to give us the freshest information. I scanned all of the above in order to share just a few facts and figures with y’all.
Almost 5 billion videos are watched every day, although 20% are usually abandoned in the first ten seconds. Four hundred new videos are uploaded every minute. Last year 95% of the most watched clips were music videos, and the all-time champion clip that sweeps all categories is the song “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, featuring Daddy Yankee, with over 6.6 billion views as of August 2019. Don’t be too concerned if you’ve never heard of it before (neither had I), because we Americana and roots music fans are simply a demographical blip. And while all age groups regularly visit the site, those between the ages of 18-44 dominate the audience. Finally, the gender gap has leveled out over the years, with an almost 50-50 split now, which might explain the popularity of topics such as makeup and video games.
For those of you who have been reading my columns through the years here at No Depression or follow my Americana and Roots Music Daily page on Facebook, you know that I use YouTube to hunt down and share music videos on a regular basis. It’s also become a regular Broadside feature to post my favorite new music videos each season, but this summer I’m feeling challenged to do so. In all candor, there just haven’t been many new albums that have knocked me over in the past few months. That said, I’ve decided to share a few recent discoveries that might be best described as old, new, borrowed, and blue. Happy listening.
John Prine and Poor Little Pluto
Just days after announcing the cancellation of summer tour dates due to dealing with some health issues, Prine released a new video from Tiago Majuelos, produced by the Spanish animation production company Bliss. As of this writing, the tour dates scheduled to begin in September are still on.
That Other Americana-Outlaw ‘Supergroup’
There is much press, publicity, hype, and anticipation for the upcoming release from The Highwomen — Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby. They’ve put out a video, played at Newport Folk Festival, covered Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show and are being hailed as the all-female update of The Highwaymen, the supergroup launched in 1985 by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. I’ve listened to four of the songs that they’ve released so far, and my ears must be broken because it’s not working for me. Sorry.
On the other hand, I recently came across this performance that was filmed at the Country Music Hall of Fame back in 2017. Featuring Jason Isbell, the above-mentioned Shires, Gillian Welch, and Dave Rawlings, it strikes me as the perfect union of both the not-that-old and new guard of the genre. If these four ever joined forces on an extended project they would most definitely and organically take the title of “supergroup.”
The Great Lonnie Johnson in Germany
Filmed in a Baden-Baden, Germany, studio with sets designed to reflect the realities of the urban blues, this clip is from the early ’60s, as it appears on the first of three volumes from the DVD set titled American Folk-Blues Festival. I believe that’s Sonny Boy Williamson doing the intro, and the band features Otis Spann paying piano, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums.
Lonnie Johnson was born in New Orleans in 1899 and as a child he studied piano, violin, and guitar. In the early 1920s he recorded for Okeh Records and has been acknowledged as a pioneer of the single-string guitar solo style. He recorded and performed through the late ’50s, and for a time he worked in a steel factory and as a janitor until being “rediscovered.” He toured throughout the ’60s and passed in 1970. Most of his recordings were done with an acoustic guitar, which is why I treasure this clip so much.
The Doctor Makes a House Call
I was searching for a Dr. John performance that wasn’t simply him playing the same three songs that he’s most famous for and came across this gem. I believe it’s from the TV show Sunday Night, later changed to Night Music. Jools Holland hosted the first season in 1988, and then David Sanborn took over. The show featured an eclectic list of musicians from across many genres, and you can still find some of the performances posted on YouTube. This is simply the best.
Has Mexico Sent Us the Check Yet for the Wall? LOL.
Tom Russell put a song out back in 2007 that could have been written yesterday: “Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall?” Russell, who lives in the El Paso-Juarez area, explained to NPR: “The danger in the song was thinking I was taking a cheap shot at the government, which isn’t where I’m at. I want to be honest about it — I don’t have any politics one way or another. That just doesn’t interest me. I turn my gun barrels on the people I dislike, which are white developers who have used these people and then are the first to jump on the bandwagon and say, ‘Yeah, we gotta get rid of them now.'”
And One More for the Road
This video has probably received more views, likes, and comments on my Facebook page than any other. I had no idea how beloved and respected Junior Brown is in the roots music community since he’s never really had a huge album throughout his career despite releasing 12 great ones. The 67-year-old musician who plays a double-neck guitar he invented is one of the best performers I’ve ever seen, and his shows are high-energy affairs that show off both his virtuoso playing and songs with whimsical lyrics. This one is from his 1998 appearance on Austin City Limits.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard nd Facebook as he Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org