If you’ve been paying attention you know that our boy Jim Booth recently published a novel. And that it’s really good. And that it presents us with the opportunity to consider fame and substance at war over the soul of an artist.
He has now authored a guest essay on “Southern Rock Stardom, Postmodernism, and the Persistence of Memory” over at Melinda McGuire’s outstanding Southern lit-focused site, concluding, appropriately enough that:
Here in the South, rock stars respect memory as all good Southerners do and, after all their wanderings, come back home where memory matters, Thomas Wolfe and postmodernism be damned.
Hear, hear. Give it a read.
I’ve been thinking about Completeness of the Soul: The Life and Opinions of Jay Breeze, Rock Star, the third novel from my friend and fellow scrogue Jim Booth. I finished reading it a few days ago, but for me it’s been a slightly disjointed experience because I’ve seen most of it in its pieces before: chapters like “Fins” and “The Balcony Scene” have been previously published as standalone short stories and there are sections (the “Rock Star Handbook”) that Jim originally developed as an offering for an SMS entertainment company in which I was a partner. So I’ve been familiar for years with the component elements, but this was my first encounter with the unified book in context.
After several days of reflection, I find myself musing on things that many readers and reviewers might not have twigged on. Read more
The new Ryan Shaw CD dropped today and I’m giddy as a schoolgirl at her first sock hop. Shaw has one of the absolute best pure voices in the entire neo-Soul genre – maybe the best. It’s like listening to Otis or Marvin or Wilson Pickett or, in more recent days, the criminally underappreciated Malford Milligan.
Still on my first listen, but in the meantime how about I share the wonderfulness with the S&R community? Here’s “Karina.”
It has been observed, here and elsewhere, what a fucking embarrassment Steven Tyler has become. Once Aerosmith was among America’s greatest bands, and today they occupy the #5 spot (with a bullet) on my Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen list.
It was refreshing, then, when Joe Perry brought the hammer down on his silly-ass 64-going-on-14 Teen Beat bandmate. Reports TMZ:
Perry went off on Tyler during an interview with the Calgary Herald — saying, “It’s his business, but I don’t want Aerosmith’s name involved with [American Idol]. We have nothing to do with it.” Read more
Earl Scruggs, the legendary master of the bluegrass banjo, is dead at 88. It was just a few days ago that I was writing about the music that I grew up with, and rest assured, Flatt & Scruggs were welcome in the Smith household. There’s honestly not a lot I can say that I feel is worthy of the man’s genius – not on short notice, anyway – so I’ll keep it simple and let the music do the talking. Let’s start with the song that he was most famous for.
Friend: Hey, Yogi, I think we’re lost.
Yogi Berra: Yeah, but we’re making great time!
It’s probably clear to anybody who pays attention that I’m a rock & roll guy. But I was raised by my grandparents, two country folks who were born in 1913 and 1914 respectively and grew up through the Great Depression. There were two kinds of music in my house, country and gospel, and those aesthetics – the melodies and harmonies, the minor chord dips and the aching they signify, the constant battle between ignorant hope and blunt despair – they shaped my relationship with music in ways that will accompany me to my grave.
We listened to gospel quartets on Channel 12 Sunday mornings. The rest of the time, if there was music in the house, it was the likes of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Roy Acuff & the Smoky Mountain Boys or Cowboy Copas. Granddaddy and Grandmother liked to watch The Porter Wagoner Show (with Dolly Parton, of course) and Saturday nights meant Hee Haw, with Buck Owens, Roy Clark and some of Nashville’s greatest stars. Read more
Once upon a time, marketing music must have been so simple: in the ’50s you just bribed a local DJ and off you went. By the ’80s it was a little more complicated – in addition to cash you needed to bring coke and hookers, but still, it was a straightforward process and everybody understood the rules.
Maybe that’s understating the difficulty of getting discovered back in the Good Old Days®, but there’s no arguing that things are a lot trickier here in the 21st Century, as nichification, genrefication, segmentation, fragmentation, the consolidation of major labels, the profusion of new media and the ascendancy of coolmongering has so dramatically complexified the challenge facing new bands that it’s a wonder anybody even tries anymore. (And if you’re naïve enough to think that hard work and talent will ultimately win out, well, welcome to math class.)
Don Dixon and Mitch Easter co-produced REM’s first two (and arguably best) albums, Murmur and Reckoning. S&R contacted Dixon earlier today to ask if he had any thoughts on the band’s break-up. Here’s what he had to say.
I’ll miss R.E.M. but I completely understand why they’re calling it quits. I haven’t spoken with anyone in the band yet but I believe they’re sincere when they speak of this as a group decision and point to their mutual respect. I think each of them want to move on to other things and not end up hanging around too long like some bands we know.
One must remember when these guys came of age. Read more
Today, if we choose to listen, we’ll hear a great deal about America, about the last decade, about the lessons we’ve learned. Football will be played. Flags will be waved. Tears will be shed.
And tomorrow we’ll be exactly what we were yesterday, only moreso. Maybe today is a bad time for critiques. Or maybe it’s the perfect time. Hard to say. But if you find a few minutes today and need a breather, here are some innocent distractions for you.
First, it’s true – we’re all living in Amerika.
We all have our favorite artists and songs and albums. Even those of us who listen to a lot of different styles and have thousands of CDs in our collections undoubtedly have a few we keep coming back to more than others. While I have never really had this discussion with anyone, I imagine that there are all kinds of reasons why certain songs and collections draw us back.
The albums I have listened to the most would surprise most people, I suspect. Those who know me would probably think I’ve spun U2’s War or Unforgettable Fire the most, or REM’s Reckoning, or maybe one of the Police’s CDs. Maybe even something by Queen. And they’d be close, because I have in fact played the hell out of those albums. My original copy of A Night at the Opera – back in the days of the vinyl LP – was so worn I was expecting the needle to carve completely through the record at any moment.
Every once in awhile I come across unrelated stories that somehow associate themselves in my mind. Take these, for instance:
First, I hope you saw Lex’s tribute to Starchild (given name, Gary Shider), he of P-Funk fame. As Lex notes, Shider experienced problems where the cost of fighting the cancer that killed him was concerned.
Second, another American music icon, Alex Chilton, passed away earlier this year. Read more
There’s been an interesting upsurge in decidedly old-fashioned chorale-style music of late. Perhaps we should have seen it coming a few years ago with the emergence of the upbeat, multi-layered harmonies of The Polyphonic Spree, but now the trend is upon us in full throat, if you will. A capella is big enough that it spawned a TV show, The Sing-Off, won by the outstanding Puerto Rican ensemble Nota. The involvement of Ben Folds added instant credibility to the tournament, although perhaps not enough to fully overcome the incoherent involvement of Nicole Scherzinger (who’s dumb as fried dirt and carries a tune about as elegantly as a free bleeder carries a rabid tomcat). Read more
I remember distinctly how I first discovered Jag Star. I was snooping around on eMusic for new bands and was using the old triangulation method – who sounds like band X? One of my favorite bands is VAST, and Jag Star turned up as a “Similar Artist.”
That was both a great moment and a confusing one. On the one hand, I immediately liked Jag Star’s music. I’ve long loved Power Pop, and while you wouldn’t exactly slot Jag Star in with other bands in the contemporary disciples of The Beatles / Raspberries / Who / Big Star / Badfinger Pop Underground scene, they write great hooks, play really well and aren’t at all afraid to turn up the volume. Not only that, they’re doing it on their terms, the establishment and labels be damned.
On the other hand, I can’t for the life of me figure out how they got into the “Sounds Like VAST” queue. Read more
Lilac, lovelace / remind me of / your true grace
About four years ago I tripped across a band called The Lost Patrol. Since then I’ve noted their work a number of times: they made my best CDs for 2007 and 2008 reviews; their music served as a key element in a piece on the nonlinearity of influence; and they were the subject of a TunesDay post on the band’s “epic retro-futurism.”
Their lead singer when I found them was one Danielle Kimak Stauss, a woman whose hypnotic vocals haunted Steven Masucci’s vast, empty musical landscapes with an ice-cold passion that bordered on the transcendent. After 2007’s superb Launch & Landing Stauss and the band parted ways, and while LP has produced two wonderful CDs in the interim (featuring new singer Mollie Israel), Danielle was nowhere to be heard. Read more