I'm quite frankly in awe of the talent and creativity that I've found here on RN. There are many many artists on this site that I think hold up with anything the major labels put out and I can't help but feel that we're on the verge of a whole new way to enjoy music and it seems to me all it's going to take is for the general public...non musicians...to transition to the internet to seek out the tracks that they want to purchase. One of the trends I see is that many of the reporting "stations" for Americana are online streaming sites, and they have much more freedom to play independent artists than traditional radio...it's like the 70's when FM was a more open format...and that's going to help artists without the six-figure promotion budgets get the attention they deserve.
I've had a great time refining my recording technique to get the most out of my simple home studio and what I'd like to do now is work with some other musicians and see what I can do for them. The idea is to collaborate and make singles, that showcase the song and the artist and hopefully takes the song to the next level. Many of the artists that I hear on RN already have amazingly polished tracks, so I'll be looking for writers and singers that I think might be a good fit for my style and approach.
This weeks focus is on a production team from London that was an early fan and another set of tracks that I immediately liked. Frankly, this is not my genre, but the very first song I listened to "Miss U Bad" just jumped into my head because the production just so great. What these four collaborators have accomplished is a consistent set of tracks that have a retro feel while still contemporary. It's all about the beat, the groove; for me it is a little nostalgic, but in a very cool way. Unlike other music in this genre, which can sound dated, MWP has a subtle freshness that keeps it in the moment. One way I think they do this is that the tempos are just a hair faster than you might expect which gives the music a little more drive and urgency. The tracks provide a frame for the vocalists, with the music and singing winding around each other so that the vocals really do become another instrument. Overall there is a tasteful restraint that belies a confidence and and clear sense of fun and joy that is the essence of compelling music.
I'm going to try to spend Sunday mornings getting a little deeper into some of my favorites... When I first heard this guitar player I thought what great tone and touch. He really reminded me of SRV, with a touch of Jeff Beck...two of my all time favorites. Every once in while you hear somebody that you can say is a guitar player's player, and for straight ahead blues I think Scott's one of those guys. What I like about the recordings is the consistency from track to track. The simple blues trio format allows you to hear every nuance and the sound has a warm analog feel. Blues songs can be too long sometimes and Scott avoids that too with crisp arrangements that get the job with a minimum of fuss. If you only sample one track, check out "Cross Cut Saw"...it's a kick!
I'm lovin' this site. However, I've gotten to a point now where I simply can't listen to every new fan. When I started building my profile I resolved to try to listen to everyone, and so far I've kept up, but there's only so much time in a day, and frankly, only so much music, aside from my own, that I can absorb in a day. I'm inspired by everything I hear and I continue to be amazed at the number of creative people finding a voice on Reverbnation; each new fan is the promise of some wonderful new music. One thing I have yet to do is build my list of recommendations, something I've held off on because I want it to be well considered. So far it's been acts I either know personally, or have just focused on for one reason or another. I've responded to many, sometimes just a track or sometimes there's an original spark that just hits me and I know I want to hear more. I need a strategy though, so here's my plan: I'm going to focus on those who comment on my page first, and see how that goes. My reasoning is that if someone likes my tracks enough to make a comment, that there's a strong chance I'll like them as well. More to come...
This comes under the heading "What is Americana?". I've been listening to a lot of artists, and also those that are getting attention in the larger arena of radio and it seems to me that one thing that might be said about this genre is that it tends to favor songs that are, shall we say, less than upbeat. This comes from the folk and blues tradition that's the foundation of the genre. These days I really see how these styles and "alt rock" have merged to create the Americana sound, and though I identify with and embrace it, I can't fully get behind everything being so gloomy. Sure, I recognize that there's injustice and suffering but life can be sweet, too. There's another narrative that follows and it's more carefree and joyful. "See You Tonight", from my record "homemade", follows that tradition. I like to think it could have been written 150 years ago, and it's just about how being in love "makes all my woes fly away" - not a bad place to be...I'd like to see more upbeat songs accepted as Americana. One example is Band of Joy's "Little Angel Dance". It definitely sounds like Americana to me, but it's a happy little song and I like to hear those once in a while, too.
I'm posting a song from my current record "Scrapbook" while I continue to work on some new songs. As I develop these tracks I'm keenly aware that some of them are more "commercial" than others and I got to thinking...what's the difference? I'm not completely sure what the distinction is, but I think part of it is that I consider some of the songs to be closer to what I call Americana, while the others are more "mainstream". For instance, on the record there's a song called "Someday", which I've given an acoustic treatment but I could easily hear performed by a mainstream Pop or Country artist, with a much bigger production than I've done. Anyway, I'm going to keep this site true to my Americana vision and just post my rootsyer (is that a word?...spellcheck doesn't think so) tracks and try to be consistent in that way.
I'm zeroing in on something that's been somewhat elusive recently. When I put together "Scrapbook", my latest collection, I felt that I had come to resting place, and at the time I didn't really have any new things to work on. No sooner than putting up the songs than some new ideas popped into my head and suddenly I was off again, so I guess I must have needed to "finish" the latest set to open up some space for new things. Funny how that works. I also now see that I have developed a two track approach to my writing, and the two sides are pretty far apart, which is kind of strange, though I've heard other writers speak of this. I have some songs I consider strictly Americana and as such not commercial, and others that are aimed right at country radio. I like both approaches, and I think there may be a meeting place in the middle somewhere, though at this point I can't say where that may be.
I went out to a writer's night last night with several rounds and about forty or so people attending; just a typical night in a Nashville club. Coming off the Festival I was struck by how important performance skills are, because, frankly, the majority of folks weren't show ready. Here's the thing: Some of the writers just got up, sat there like a potted plant while others played, sang their song and then afterwards left. I don't see the point in that. Doesn't seem worth the effort. I think there's a two-way balance in performing. You don't have to be a Pavarotti up there, but if you're not you should try. I'll give the benefit of the doubt to the performer who may not be pitch perfect, but they are doing their best and if you constantly try your hardest you will ultimately improve. It's not always how good your song is, or how good a singer or player you are - I think an audience always appreciates someone who's giving their all, and it can mean the difference between success and disappointment. I didn't love all the acts I saw at the Americana Festival, but I sure respected the professionalism of their shows.
Now that the festival is over and life is moving on I see over in the corner a bag of stuff I collected over the course of the event and I'm looking forward to digging into it and getting a feel for some of the music that's in it and learn about some new acts. Along with the CDs and magazines and such is a stack of business cards from folks I ran into during the week. As someone still pretty new to the scene I am always meeting new people and it's interesting to hear about their experiences. A lot of it was random an exchange of business cards in the elevator, which I was on a lot as I ran from room to room in my duties as monitor, or a conversation while waiting for an act to play, and after a while I realized that with over a thousand attending I couldn't come close to meeting everyone, so those that you do come into contact with take on a special significance, and this year I'm going to make an effort to keep in touch, something that's pretty easy between FB and RN, and all the other online resources. Oh, yeah, and there's still last year's bag too...