Category - celestial jukebox

Whatever you want to hear, whenever you want to hear, wherever you are. If the bastards ever let us…

The Joy of Making Music:
Karen Waldrup At Douglas Corner

Karen Waldrup on stage at Douglas Corner - April 12, 2016

For those of you new subscribers who haven’t seen the expression before, “The Joy of Making Music” is the umbrella/brand for my studio and performance photography business.

This week I had the pleasure of shooting Karen Waldrup at a showcase she performed at Douglas Corner in Nashville.

I met Karen at a music industry gathering a few weeks ago. I was there with my camera (name tag: “My name is Paul; Ask me about my silent shutters”) and met Karen  hanging back at the bar at 3rd and Lindsley while waiting for the proceedings to commence.  We traded business cards. Then I saw a flyer on the bulletin board at “my office” promoting her showcase and figured, “may as well…”

These “industry showcases” are not your typical ‘singer/songwriter’ show; they’re kick-out-the-jams and belt-it to-the-rafters (well, depending on the act) affairs intended to get the attention of the industry types who can make a difference in a rising artist’s career (read that: label heads).

From what I can tell, Karen Waldrup has been banging on some of those doors for a while – and now she’s got the chops and her career is primed for a breakthrough.   She’s got an A-Team band behind her, and this was as ‘professional’ a showcase as I’ve seen in my twenty-plus years in Nashville.

As befits any truly original musician or performer, Karen Waldrup is not an easy woman to peg: she’s a little country, a little southern rock, a little pop. She’s a southern girl who likes her whiskey and wonders if her ex-lover’s fancy new wife serves it as well as she did.  She’s a polished performer with a powerful stage presence who can deliver the goods across the spectrum from hard rocking country to acoustic power ballads.

I caught her here in the rare moment on stage when she seems to be soaking it all in; I say “rare” because  most of the time she was full-throated rocking out. (The rest of the photos will have to wait until she and her management team have signed off on them.)

In the meantime, have a  listen to Karen’s 2015 EP “Getaway”

and check out this rhinestone-fringed guitar!
It's a bird... it's a plane... it's Karen Waldrop's rhinestone-fringed guitar!

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s Karen Waldrop’s rhinestone-fringed guitar!

Y’All Are Gonna Wanna Get Hip
to Bonnie Bishop

"Music Industry Showcase" at The Rutledge in Nashville - December 8, 2009

About 5 years ago, I was fortunate to be invited to attend the annual American Music Conference here in Nashville (little known fact: I was actually on the Founding Council that started the AMA back in like 2000).

After the conference, I sat down with the program guide from all the showcase and went on line (at the time it was LaLa.com) to stream/listen to some of the artists whose showcases I’d missed.  One track stopped me in… well, my tracks.  It was an artist I’d never heard of named Bonnie Bishop and the track was called “Lucky Ones.” Here, listen to it for yourself:

Bonnie has released a couple of records since then; visit her Spotify page to hear more.  What you’re going to hear is one of the gut-wrenching-est voices this side of… well, Janis Joplin comes to mind…

I tracked her down later that year, and she let me photograph a showcase that she performed at one of Nashville’s clubs.  She was still doing her level best to land a fucking record deal…

Over the past decade+, Bonnie Bishop’s career has seen all the vagaries  typical of today’s itinerant, independent singer/songwriters – they who that travel and toil under the radar of the mainstream commercial music industry.  They for whom the life of an “artist” is “mostly driving.”

Two years ago, she was on the threshold of throwing it all in.

That’s all going change with the release of  her new CD, “Ain’t Who I Was” next month.  The title track was released today:

And here’s what you need to know about the pedigree of this new record, which will be officially released on May 27:

  1. It was produced by Nashville’s hottest producer, the Chet Atkins/Owen Bradley of the twenty-teens, Dave Cobb.  Talk about being on a roll: Dave Cobb is responsible for the breakthrough solo releases by Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and  2016 multi- CMA, Grammy and ACM winner Chris Stapleton (all Spotify links).  You just don’t get any hotter a hand than the one Dave Cobb has been playing over the past few years.  And the Atkins/Bradley reference is not an overstatement – he recently took over the keys to Nashville’s fabled Studio A (sometimes referred to as Nashville’s Abbey Road), which was built by Chet and Owen in the 1960s and narrowly escaped  a condo-developer’s wrecking ball in 2014.
  2. The release and distribution of “Ain’t Who I Was” is being handled by Thirty Tigers, a new-paradigm label services and distribution company that is one of the few companies  that has cracked the code on the new digital business – and not coincidentally the same firm that handled the break out releases for Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, among others.

RollingStone.com has got a great account of the kismet that went into the song selection and production of this new record:

The recording sessions were coming to an end when Cobb’s cousin, singer/songwriter Brent Cobb, walked into the studio with a track he’d co-written earlier that afternoon.

“Dave opens a brand new bottle of his favorite tequila,” Bishop remembers, “and we all take shots. Then Adam [Hood] and Brent play us the song they wrote. I have chills. I look over at Dave, who is nodding his head and grinning at me. Then I sing the words back to them while Brent plays the guitar and they sound so natural coming out of my mouth. It’s like I’ve been singing this song all my life.”

The song was “Ain’t Who I Was,” which became the title track to the new CD. When you hear it, you can’t help but think that the spiral has come back around, only at a much higher level, and that Bonnie Bishop is about to become, truly, one of “the lucky ones.”

Bonnie Bishop promo photo by Jason Lee Denton

Bonnie Bishop promo photo by Jason Lee Denton

Jon Byrd at The Family Wash

12568753_807693576001219_516528400_n

Finally got to hear a whole set by Jon Byrd – he’s the real deal. Great mix, love the pedal steel, cool songs.

I’m starting to really like the new Family Wash.  The food is good, and the sound is clean and mixed to a level well shy of the kind of “sonic assault” (defined as “so loud you can’t hear anything”) that you get at a lot of Nashville clubs.  Probably not unique to Nashville.

Getcha some Jon Byrd here:

RIP George Martin – A Beatles Playlist

Mr. Martin next to a sculpture of John Lennon in a Havana park in 2002. From 1962 to 1970, Mr. Martin produced 13 albums and 22 singles for the Beatles, a compact body of work that adds up to less than 10 hours of music but that revolutionized the popular music world. Credit Rafael Perez/Reuters

Like the rest of the world, I awoke to the news this morning (I read the news today, oh boy?) of Sir George Martin’s departure from this earthly plane:

George Martin, the urbane English record producer who signed the Beatles to a recording contract on the small Parlophone label after every other British record company had turned them down, and who guided them in their transformation from a regional dance band into the most inventive, influential and studio-savvy rock group of the 1960s, died on Tuesday. He was 90.

The New York Times obituary mentioned several songs that are regarded as among the breakthrough recordings that Sir George produced with the Beatles during their tenure at EMI / Abbey Road Studios in the 1960s.

So, naturally, I skipped over to Spotify and assembled a playlist of those breakthrough songs:

RIP, Sir George. Words fail, let the music speak for you…

Scotch Mist’s Greatest Hits (music from 1982)

ScotchMist2

Sailing off the coast of Maui on the original Scotch Mist in 1982

Well, that was ridiculously easy…

In the 1980s, I lived in Hawaii and owned/operated a yacht charter service out of Lahaina Harbor on Maui. The boats were called “Scotch Mist” – the name bestowed by the original owner who sailed his Cal 36 sloop in a race from Victoria, BC to Maui in 1970. I acquired the boat/business in 1980, and in 1982 added another boat, the Santa Cruz 50 “Scotch Mist II.”

Sometime in 1982, I put together a mixtape of island and sailing songs – the old fashioned way: by dropping a needle into a vinyl groove, then recording the track onto a reel-to-reel tape. Stop the tape, find the next track, cue the tape, drop the needle, rinse and repeat a couple dozen times. It took about two days…

Last night I saw the name Danny O’Keefe in a thread that J Fred Knobloch started about great guitar solos. I recognized the name because a song called “Islands” – from his 1973 LP “American Roulette” – was one of the tracks in that “Scotch Mist” mix tape I assembled in 1982.

After finding “Islands” on Spotify, it occurred to me to see if I could find the same tracks and build a playlist on Spotify. I found all but one (Mark Almond, “Trade Winds”).

It took, oh, maybe 15 minutes to search for every track in the list and add them to a playlist, which is posted here for your “summer has arrived / Memorial Day weekend” musical enlightenment:

The Past Went That-A-Way

McLuhan-ThePastI wrote a little something yesterday about streaming music and the transition that is now threatening to disrupt the music business again as much as the advent of paid downloads did a decade ago.

In the course of that post I made a reference to seeing the future “through a rear view mirror,” which is one of the fundamental lessons I picked up years ago in the writings of Marshal McLuhan.

While I was citing that notion, it dawned on me to Google the phrase “mcluhan rear view mirror” and was surprised to discover that the phrase has its very own web page, which quotes the pertinent passage from The Medium Is The Massage:

When faced with a totally new situation,we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.’1

In other words, we are trying to fathom a streaming media future with the metrics of a unit-purchase past.  In other, other words, flogging the engine with a buggy whip.  Git along, little motorcar…

Actually, if you have any interest in McLuhan’s observations, this whole site is worth spending some time with.  It is based on a doctoral thesis by an Australian named Alice Rae and is extensively researched and documented.  Hopefully Alice won’t mind if I cite the centerpiece of her ‘about’ page:

Was Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) one of history’s greatest thinkers?

Tom Wolfe, who met McLuhan in 1965, praised him in the New York magazine as a thinker on par with ‘Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein, and Pavlov’.

Critics remained unimpressed, calling McLuhan a ‘false prophet’ and ‘one-idea man’ and his work ‘pretentious nonsense’ or at the very least ‘slightly dotty’.

Since McLuhan’s death in 1980, the advent of the Internet and the vindication of McLuhan’s theories has led to something of a McLuhan renaissance.

He was declared ‘Patron Saint’ of Wired magazine in 1993.

Which maybe explains why I keep coming back to him.

Why Would Anybody Ever Buy Another Song?

From the Department of No Shit, Sherlock:

Crowded Field

Crowded Field

Derek Thompson points to the elephant in a post at TheAtlantic.com.

Citing the increasing saturation of the streaming music market (where any more than one or two services qualifies as saturation), Thompson points to the elephant that has been in the room since… well, since the first Real Audio player made streaming music a reality in… what, 1996?:

…what isn’t there room for in music?

Buying it.

“Young people today don’t buy music anymore,” said Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst at Wedge Partners. The numbers agree.

I suppose my objection here should be something along the lines of “whatchyou mean ‘young people’, Kimosabee?”

Or maybe I should take it as a compliment that somebody thinks 63 can qualify as ‘young’  – particularly since I just bought tickets for a movie tonight at the reduced fare for ‘seniors.’  But I digress…

I have been arguing for years that the ‘unit purchase’ model for music – whether it’s physical products like CDs (or, yes, even the revered, resurrected vinyl…) or virtual units delivered as purchased downloads – has been on the wings of the dodo for years, and that any assertions to the contrary are an exercise in viewing the future through the rear view mirror  (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I sincerely implore you to click the link and find out).

And no, the fact that I’m engaged in a project that is about to release its third physical product at the same time that I’m predicting the demise physical products is not lost on me. I write these things because I think I’m observant, maybe even a tad prescient.   I never said that made me invulnerable to also being a hypocrite.  Such is the nature of living on a cusp. But there I go again, digressing…

As Thompson reports, the handwriting is on the wall, the die is cast, the nails are in the coffin.  Pick your metaphor, but this is we see when we turn the car around and start steering through the windshield:

“…digital music sales fell last year for the first time ever, by 6 percent, as the music business inches closer to an access-over-ownership model. Overall streaming (which includes digital radio) is up 32 percent to 118 billion song streams in 2013. On-demand streaming (e.g. pick and click a song on Spotify) doubled last year.

Meanwhile, we have Tommy Silverman and others at the annual Austin TX Spring Break Clusterfuck known as “SXSW,” (that’s pronounced “ess-ex-ess-doubleyew)  professing to possess the keys to a $100-billion kingdom with a more colorful metaphor of his own:

This enema that we’re going through is making us realize that our business is much bigger than what we thought it could be,” Silverman said. “We’re in the attention business now.”

And the nominees for the 2014 ‘Masters of the Obvious’ award are….

Silverman etal be right, the entirety of the recorded music business  could certainly be much larger than the rapidly-shrinking single-digit-billion-dollar business it has recently been reduced to.

I’ve done this math for you before: A couple of years ago the NPD group estimated that the average music ‘consumer’ spends a paltry FORTY dollars per year on music purchases (that figure is surely even less now).  That expenditure adds a bountiful 30 or 40 new tracks to their record collection every year.  Now persuade those tight-fisted consumers that for only TEN DOLLARS (per month…) they can have the entire history of recorded music – past-present-and-future – at their disposal, and you can effectively triple or even quadruple your aggregate industry top-line.

Of course, that’s assuming they have any money left after paying for their cell phone, cable teevee, broadband internet and Clover brewed coffees at Starbucks (which I am drinking as I write & post this…)

It may not add up to the $100-billion that Silverman is hallucinating, but it could be considerably more than whatever the current figures are.

But whatever the figures might be, we will never realize the full potential of any future business model until we stop trying to drag the old models long with us.  I don’t care if your fancy new “human-powered” streaming music service is called “beats,”   It does no good to beat an internal combustion engine with a buggy whip.

But there’s another message in all of this that I think has been overlooked, and that’s all this emphasis on recorded music.  That’s the biggest buggy whip that we’re dragging along with us, the biggest thing that looms in that rear view mirror.

As long as we’re focused on how to preserve or grow the recorded music business, we’re going to miss the point of what Silverman inartfully calls “this emema” that the industry is going through.

What we cannot see so long as we’re driving backwards into the future, surveying the landscape in front of us through the rear view mirror (really, try to get that image in your head…), is that the ‘future of music’ is much less about the recorded music than it is about the way that music lived before it became any kind of product – back when music simply did not exist unless there was somebody in the room playing it for you, which person was often yourself and your friends.

The future of music is not any kind of product, physical or virtual, delivered by truck, download, or stream.  It’s much more… organic, and ‘aural’ than that.  But until we’re a little further removed from the product era, it’s going to be hard for most people to appreciate that prospect.

The idea was never more succinctly put than during a conversation I had with Scott Huler, one of the presenters at last year’s TEDx Nashville.

“I tell my kids,” Scott said, “that music is not something you buy.  It’s something you make.”

I don’t care how many billions Tommy Silverman thinks the ‘music industry’ can be, those children are the future.

 

 

 

 

Breaking News! Music Industry Adapts…

… to the most recent technology shift.  Just in time to get clobbered by the next one…

musica-streamingI have to admit I’m getting a big kick out of the two items that landed in my news feed this evening.

First, Billboard has reported that…

For the third time this year — and only the fourth time ever — the year-to-date total sales of digital albums have exceeded those of CDs.

How long did that take, about ten years?

Let’s see, when did iTunes start selling downloads.  April 28, 2003. So, yeah, just a little over ten years.

That’s important, because it tells us how long it takes for something that seems unlikely one day to become “mainstream” the next.  It’s the statistical flip side of “it can’t happen here.”

Which is significant, because of the insights offered in another piece that was published today.  David Ross’s Nekst.biz posted an interview with Billboard’s Glenn Peoples that goes into considerable detail about how music online is already shifting from downloads to streaming:

…half of the country listens to Internet radio on a regular basis (monthly), so that’s mainstream behavior, but there is still room for growth…The streaming model is set to grow for the foreseeable decade.

There is much more to the analysis than that (obviously).  But that might be all you need to know.

The first item tells us how much has changed in the past decade. The second item tells us now much is going to change in the coming decade.

All of the above was written while listening my Bill Frisell channel on Pandora.  Which is now playing Pat Metheny.

The Celestial Jukebox abounds. Along with newsfeed irony.

Life is good.

More Joy of Making Music: Suzy Bogguss

…This time with a Spotify player for the new CD (scroll down)

Suzy Boggus and Company

Suzy Boggus and Company

Full Photo Set Here

We had another one of those “Only In Nashville” kind of nights last night when Suzy Bogguss hosted an outstanding lineup the 3rd and Lindsley Bar & Grill.

Suzy is one of the few artists (and in this case, I use that overused term consciously and deliberately) who achieved some stardom during the “Country Music Integrity Scare” of the 1990s.  A lot of the performers who achieved some profile during that period have since disappeared down the backside of the arc of stardom, but Suzy Bogguss keeps turning out great new recordings and remains an absolutely engaging and entertianing performer.  I’ve been a fan all along and I’m pleased to see she’s still turning out great music.

Last night at 3rd & Lindsley she opened her own show, joined on stage by Matraca Berg and Gretchen Peters for the ensemble they call “Wine, Women and Song” – offering some of the sweetest three part harmonies since “The Trio” with Emmy, Linda, and Dolly.

That was followed by the real reason for the night, the official release of Lucky, Suzi’s new collection of Merle Haggard songs.  For this set she was joined by some of the finest players on the planet: Charlie Chadwick on bass, Chris Scruggs on all sorts of things, Guthrie Trapp on electric guitar, Pat Bergeson on guitars and harmonica, and a drummer, whose name I will insert into this space when somebody reminds me who that was …

Update (Feb 12 ’04): Good News!

Lucky was released yesterday and is already available on Spotify. So have yourself a listen:

P.S. If you see an entry where I have mispelled Suzy’s last name… I know now that there are two “S”s at the end of “Bogguss.”  I won’t be making that mistake again…