The NBT Music Columns : The Future of Country/Americana/Roots Rock

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The First of, I hope; many articles from Singer Songwriter True Independent

Ron Rutherford

24 Oct 2007 (W) NBT Blog Subject: The Future of Country/Americana/Roots Rock

Having turned 16 in 1969, I was privileged to have experienced the music of the 60s as a young man. What an absolutely amazing time it was, for every time I turned around there was yet another mind-blowing single or album being released, and it was all on the radio aside from being widely available on vinyl or “black licorice.” Even the “B” or flip sides could not be discounted, and sometimes were the better songs and production. As we say nowadays but in retrospect, it was all good, and coming at speed with cool, kinetic, kilowatt weight. My ear was firmly to the Rock and Roll railroad track and I was thoroughly enjoying each and every successive “hit” from the oncoming tune traffic.

5 years later, as a 21 year old in ’74, even more profound changes had occurred on the music scene. The music of many was interfacing and the genres/styles were intermingling to an even larger degree i.e. Progressive Rock and Jazz-Rock Fusion to name a few. Not only an artistic and cultural revolution had occurred, but an evolution that took the cap off the genre genie bottle for good.

Then, there appeared to be a paradigm shift in the mid to late ‘70s, and the aforementioned music and culture metamorphosis cycle was predominantly over. Life continued and great music was still being made, but something had changed.

No need to go into great detail. Those of us who lived it know about it. Those who did not can easily understand from a little search and discovery of the history of not only the music of the time but the society as well.

Point being, out of the smoke and ashes of all the movements and over the decades since came a rebound and return to fundamentals by many musicians; to what became known in modern times as “classic” or “roots.”

Thus, in the modern music era we find a whole new brand of Country/Americana/Roots Rock being created and released born from their predecessors that are as musically viable and artistically alive as ever. I also would include Folk and Blues in this broad stroke. Well crafted songs sung with passion and produced with skill. All derivative from what came before but still brilliant and well worth the listen in a new unit of time.

The technology to record and deliver has moved light years into the digital age, and the Internet has made the music available broadly to anyone, anywhere, at any time, so one only need travel the web to hear wonderful new music and get to know worldwide music artists intimately.

As I surf MySpace Music and other sites dedicated to “word and song” I am constantly impressed with the level and amount of great music being produced that would not be heard if it were not for the Internet. You won’t hear these great artists on land-based, terrestrial radio, satellite, television or cable. You won’t know about all the “new” music without tuning into Podcasts and Internet Radio along with media players on professional, social networking and personal music sites. Therefore, the “new media” digital technologies have leveled the playing field.

From having practiced what I am preaching here, I can tell you unequivocally that the Country/Americana/Roots Rock scene and every other form of music are thriving underground and above ground. There is no lack of great singer/songwriters and bands to enjoy no matter where you turn your music attention dial to on the Internet.

As mentioned before, MySpace Music and other music oriented sites have been gold mines for me in discovering what my peers are up to with their careers.

It’s a brave new world for the music entertainment industry and song show business. A renaissance is ongoing and one could say yet again “viva la revolucione” in a similar manner to the ‘60s and ‘70s music scene. Difference being that there’s no slowing or stopping this train now as happened in the mid to late ‘70s. Just the sheer volume and quantity of great music readily available worldwide thanks to the digital age and the Internet will keep things on track this time. The multitude of “tracks” of phenomenal quality of today’s Country/Americana/Roots Rock artists is forging a path into an exciting time where the ghosts of music past are getting new life.

The fundamentals, and those practicing and molding them into 21st century music, never really went away, it’s just that now they are coming back to the forefront bigger and better than ever with a vengeance, and I for one am thrilled with the current state of music affairs and the prospects for a more than healthy future as my ears breathe a continuous sigh of relief while navigating the no longer “nether regions” of music on the Internet from the ability to experience the freedom fork-in-the-road bypass of the ever-present commercial media machine onslaught.

Yes, I am happy to report that Country/Americana/Roots Rock is alive and well and leading the charge down the track. I trust now the train will keep a comin’ all night long and won’t be derailed ever again. The switch has been pulled and we are off and runnin’ hot.

Take a good listen to the current Country/Americana/Roots Rock music and I’d be willing to bet you dollars to donuts that you agree with me. ‘Nough said…bets on…and we all win! Welcome to the Music Revolution circa 2007!

Now close your eyes and envision Paul Revere on his horse with an iPod on rockin’ to the sounds of Country/Americana/Roots Rock as he spreads the good news, and give me a good giddy up and Yee Haw as we kick up good new music dirt!

Happy Country/Americana/Roots Rock listening and creating…wagons ho…let’s ride!

And, as always, keep your freak flag flyin’!

Ron

_____________Ron Rutherford

Rarestar Music

Rarestar Records

Los Angeles, CA, USA

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The NBT Music Columns : The State Of Music

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More thoughts from true Independent Singer/Songwriter Jessica Johnson.

 The music business will always thrive simply b/c of every human being’s desire and need to emotionally release and connect.  I have no fears about where the industry is headed and how it will thrive.  It’s just a matter of the who and what.  Major labels?  Independent Labels?  Major Artists?  Independent Artists?  Probably a little bit of both.

  If major labels (like Sony/BMG) are the Exxon/Mobils of the music world then I certainly don’t see them going anywhere anytime soon.  If indies act as the A&R and development division and the majors act as the M&P division…well then that seems pretty harmonious, don’t you think?  So maybe you’re thinking…distribution, hello?  Yeah, it’s called the digital age of downloads.  Even major retailers are beginning to realize the gradual extinction of the compact disc and therefore allocating less floor space to be devoted to them.  Why on earth would anyone want to haggle with crowds, physically search through a massive collage of cd covers, only to have to wait in line?  Now that I’ve broken it down, it sounds so crazy.  iTunes, Napster, Yahoo!….you just point and click.  Beautiful.  

I think the future of music is solid.  Actually, I know the future of music is solid.  The more drama in the world, the more there is to write about and the more people need an escape from reality.  I just wonder what it will sound like and who will survive.  Now that music has been put more directly into the hands of the consumer due to endless exposure of artists via the internet, I wonder if we will start hearing a change in the quality.  More substance, less subpar.  I wonder.  I think there will definitely be a “revolution” of sorts.  I just wonder who will be left standing and who will be newly appointed. 

I think this is a very exciting time in music. 

The NBT Music Columns : Banter Records

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All Promotions should be this good, this quietly funny and all the music on independent labels should be this brilliant. Go to their site and check out this great stuff.

Technically, Banter Records started in 1989 when they planned to release The Greatest Album of All Time, the title of Chuck Norris’ collection of ballads, showtunes and Christmas carols.  However, the label collapsed before things had begun when Norris landed a role in the greatest film of all time, Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection.  Later that year, the owners of Banter Records decided to base the fate of the label on one agreement.  On July 17th, 1989, Matt Halverson, Tyler Stover, and Caleb Morairty, stood atop their duplex in Bakersfield, CA, just past midnight, prepared to jump.

“If we want to continue this label, if we want to make something amazing, we have to prove to ourselves that we’re in this for life – together!” said Caleb, raising his fist to the sky.

The sincerity in his eyes was evident to Tyler, but he looked down to the grass below and remembered that he forgot to water the lawn that morning, and the hard ground would make for a hard fall. “I don’t know about this, Caleb.  I mean, it’s only about seven feet, but what if we get hurt?”

” – Yeah, I don’t know about this either,” chimed in Matt. “I mean, what’s this gonna prove?  It’s not even far down and it has nothing to do – .”
” – We have to prove it to ourselves that we can make things happen,” said Caleb. “I mean we can’t finish Chuck’s record, I know that’s in the past, but that was going to be amazing!  We have to recognize that we may never make something, or almost make something, as good ever again.”

Matt raised an eyebrow and said, “Well, I was never really into that thing, I just though Chuck was kinda cool, but I’m sure we can make something better.”“Maybe we can make an EP out of the tracks we have,” followed Tyler. “I bet Chuck would like that.”“And besides, jumping makes no sense.  It’s literally seven feet down.  I mean if we actually walked to the apex,” said Matt, pointing to the crest of the roof, “it’s probably about ten feet from there.  I guess that would make more sense,” he said, still confused by the purpose of jumping.“Yeah, I don’t know why we’re really up here.  I guess I was just being dramatic.”

“Good,” said Tyler. “I really didn’t want to jump,” he said.Caleb smiled and looked to the sky, realizing that it was still possible to make something great, something that the world would love, and what he hoped would one day change the world. “Yeah, let’s make Chuck Norris’ EP.  We don’t just owe it to Chuck, and not just the world, but we owe it to ourselves.”Matt raised another eyebrow, glanced over to Tyler, whom was eagely nodding in agreement, and replied, “Okay.  I’m in.”“Yessss!” they shouted in unison as they conducted a three-way high-five.

“But let’s wait a decade or so,” said Matt.  And, without any questions, they all agreed.In 2004, with the spiritual support of Chuck Norris, the label re-launched.  After over a decade of soul-searching, dead-end jobs, and jaundice, their musical tastes had abandoned showtunes and Christmas carols.

  Unfortunately, they never released Chuck Norris’ EP.  However, their first release, Clock Work Army’s A Catalyst for Change EP, was met with much critical praise and was hailed as, “The effing best EP ever!” by Andy Dick.  Emily Neveu’s voice is haunting and captivating, one the will garner much more praise from her new album, which will be released under the name Calico Horse in early 2008.  Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession produced the album and it’s gonna be a scorcher!  Banter Records also released The Antiques’ debut full-length Nicknames and Natives later in 2005.

  On October 2nd, 2007, Banter will release Boddicker’s Big Lionhearted and the Gallant Man, which was produced by Brian Deck, mastermind behind Modest Mouse’s and Iron & Wine’s best records.  In 2008, the label will release The Antiques’ second album, Cicadas, which was produced by Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, Okkervil River, John Vanderslice).  It sounds like the music made by the lovechild of Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and James Mercer (The Shins).  Joey Barro of The Antiques has been recording a solo album with Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips and Jackie Greene.  Plans to release that record are being…..um…..planned.  Last, but certainly not least, is the solo work of producer Brian Deck (Califone, Red Red Meat).  He is an expert in the art of audio judo and he will sonically kick your ass.For more (accurate) information, please visit www.banterrecords.com.Banter Records Loves You.

 

The NBT Music Columns : The CyberPR Blog (Ariel Publicity)5

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Man Behind The Monitor:  D.I.R.T. TV 

Today we’re chatting with Dave Lamoureux, the Executive Producer of Canada’s Dirt TV. 

 Trevor:  What’s the purpose behind DirtTV?

 Dave:  The goal of Dave’s Indie Rock Talk is to give Independent Musicians the exposure they deserve!! DIRT airs across Canada on StarChoice Satellite (ch.323) and Express-Vu (ch.258) Satellite Networks on Sundays @ Midnight Pacific Time. Check it out at http://www.dirt-tv.com . There may be other sites and shows that promote independent videos, but none that air across Canada!!

 T:  What got you started in doing a Video based show/site? 

D:  When I moved to Dawson Creek- in the Great White North of Canada – to work on TV, I found I had a lot of free time on my hands. I also had access to a television station, so I decided to use it to my advantage! Being a musician and producing a couple of videos that the OTHER STATIONS wouldn’t play, I wanted to provide a way for other Independent artists to get exposure across Canada on television and the internet.

 T:  Why is the Internet and important medium for the music video?

 D:  Because DIRT accepts content from all across the globe, the only way for artists around the world to see the show is for it to be on the Net. Music videos are meant to be heard, and the playlists of the OTHER stations don’t always make it easy for the Independent Musicians out there to get exposure.

 T:  How can digital music videos compete against the world of MTV and Vh1, etc.?

 D:  Music on the Internet is the norm today, and DIRT is a place for ALL genres of music to be heard and seen. You won’t find many of the videos on the DIRT show and website anywhere else! Just because it’s Dave’s Indie ROCK Talk doesn’t mean we only play rock exclusively. DIRT is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get (other than awesome videos from all types of genres, from rock, to metal, to rap, to folk, & emo!) Have you seen MTV lately??? MTV Canada is mostly interviews and reality shows. What happened to the music?? The fact is the Internet is slowly overcoming television. Where else can you see what you want, whenever you want, wherever you are as long as you have access to the Net.

  T:  What are some creative ways you’ve seen independent artist create low budget videos to compete with major label bands.?

 D:  I have seen many low-budget videos that compete or even eclipse major label band videos!! The difference a lot of the time is being a producer, I know how difficult it is to produce a quailty video, and the production value of these videos is sometimes staggering. I have animated videos that must have taken weeks of man-hours to put together.  Access to consumer class off-line video editing equipment and camcorders has also made it a lot easier for the general public to have access to the means to produce videos. For me,  the best videos have a story line, and sometimes this alone makes low budget better. The more creative the video, the better! Rock On!!

http://dirt-tv.com/

 

The NBT Music Columns : The CyberPR Blog (Ariel Publicity)4

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TODAY’S NEWSPAPERS ARE TOMORROW’S RECYCLING, BUT YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE LIVES ON

 A look at the decline in print publications and an interview with Robert Lewis of Music-Reviewer.com. 

“The fact is, I don’t want this junk in my house. And that’s what today’s newspapers have become: Junk. Clutter. Who needs it?” says John Dvorak in his recent article Newspapers Baffled by Declines.   

According to data collected by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, newspaper circulation is seeing it’s largest decline since the early nineties.  The 2.1% drop in weekday editions and 3.1% drop in Sunday editions must come as no surprise, as the 1.9% circulation drop in 2005 foreshadowed what was to come.  Some believe traditional print is less a victim and more a self-saboteur. John Dvorak of PC Magazine writes, “The newspapers themselves create the problem by not understanding what they’ve done to themselves.”  He continues, “the saturation effect of advertising has made it intolerable—not the newspapers piling up, but being inundated by advertising within those papers and confronted with far too much shotgun advertising from all sources.” Dvorak admits the emergence of the web has had a significant impact, but he also paints the picture of a flawed system; the newspapers can’t survive without the advertising dollars but their lack of flexibility in targeting those ads leaves them vulnerable. 

 Electronic publications aren’t without their struggles, as I learned in a conversation with Robert Lewis.   He took over Music-Reviewer in 2000 with the mission to provide much needed coverage for unsigned and under-promoted bands, with a balance between mainstream favorites and unknown gems.  No matter how much of a trendy undercurrent blogging and Internet zines are becoming, their proliferation creates a much greater struggle for the same credibility as their established print counterparts.  Lewis, who took over at a point went blogging and music-zines were a rare breed, explains the initial difficulties, “It was hard at the time to get our foot in the door at most publicity houses.  Record labels and publicists hadn’t fully embraced the Internet yet, and they just didn’t know what to do with an e-zine…  So even trying to gain their respect and trust through the ‘old fashioned’ means was a challenge and a half!”  With great content comes readers, and in turn, credibility.  By 2003, just before Robert stepped down and put the site on hiatus, Music-Reviewer averaged over 200,000 viewers a month.  “Fast forward to November, 2006.  I just couldn’t deny the call of the magazine any longer… now, just a few short months later we have nearly reached the levels of readership we had after seven years of publication the first time around.” 

One of the major drawbacks of the option of taking the magazine to print is the sheer ecological irresponsibility of doing so, “While I am certainly not a tree-hugger…needless wasting of resources is just that, needless.”  Shorter reviews and more lead-time are other elements that make print less viable these days, but the true power of a web-zine, which hasn’t even been fully realized by some online publishers, is the possibility of interactivity. Music-Reviewer recently positioned the site as an interactive music utopia, as he explains, “It’s almost like going from 2D to 3D movies.  As a reader, you not only see what other people think about your favorite artists, you can get in there and get your hands dirty too.”  He continues, “If you like a review you can throw an ‘attaboy’ at the writer.  If you hate it or disagree, you can try your hand at reviewing yourself!”  At the end of the day, it comes down to reach, and Lewis has fully rationalized the discrepancies between print and digital, “With the Internet, the world is my oyster.  In print, I might someday aspire to be the music review king of Albany, NY.  You connect the dots…”

The NBT Music Columns: Music and Politics

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Holly Wood aka musician/songwriterFat and Furry writes for NBTsee more of her incredible art and listen to her music here

www.artfangs.com

 Music and Politics 

The use of music to criticize and satirize the society we see around us is an impulse as old as the creation of music and song itself. Even the very first traveling bards and minstrels whose role it was to go from place to place bringing tribesmen and villagers up to date on the happenings in the wider world outside could not refrain from putting  a political spin on the battles and intrigues that they sang about. We see plenty of very graphic political and gossipy graffiti in places like the ruins of Pompeii, and it is not much of a stretch to imagine that there would always have been some wise-ass with a lyre or flute in the bars and tavernas taking pot shots at local political figures.  And of course, the catchier the music, the more people listened, remembered the song, and passed it around. In England and the US at least, our old Mother Goose nursery rhymes  are an historical treasure trove of period political doggerel and street songs; some dating all the way back to the Middle Ages.

 In ancient days bards and minstrels had a kind of immunity because they were carriers of the news that everyone needed to hear, and repositories of the history of a people. they got food and a place to sleep in return for their music. Even today, some ghost of that ancient immunity survives in the relative freedom of expression that musicians have to deal with touchy and inflammatory subjects, especially if it’s done with humor and wit. (but officer, captain, lieutenant, general- It’s just harmless entertainment! Just a silly – little – song!) George Bernard Shaw said “If you’re going  to tell the truth, you’d better make them laugh- Otherwise they’ll kill you.”

 In very repressive circumstances, political statements have had to be carefully couched and concealed in historical parallels, imaginary plots, almost in code. Constantly watched by the steely eye of Stalin, Dimitri Shostakovich said what he needed to say, even though his musical works were mercilessly picked apart word by word, almost note by note, by Stalin personally. He lived and composed in fear of his life, and his health was ruined because of it.

 But humorous or serious, music has a power that the forces of repression haven’t been able to kill. songs have the power to inspire and keep hope alive in a dark place. They have been passed from prisoner to prisoner. Of course, music has always been effectively used by the forces of repression as well. Who can deny the hypnotic power of a fascist anthem being shouted out by thousands of people at a rally (or concert)? However, when respective lyrics are examined, songs that are composed for ideologies of power and domination are empty posturing, designed to close your heart and make it hard. All the truth, beauty, and real inspiration is on the side of songs sung for an ideal. They expand your spirit, open your heart, and make you feel there’s something worth living for.

 All that being said, I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m a fan of drippy, sad-bastard faux-folk protest music. My personal motivational music is more like James Brown, Rammstein, and the one perfect album put out by the Electric Six, “Señor Smoke”.

 

Peace, love, courage- Holly Wood/Fat and Furry  

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