Friday, July 16, 2021

Hitsvilly Has Begun!

My first episode has been submitted! Creating it was definitely hit or miss, with tons of re-recording. I hope it gets easier as time goes by. 

Check it out on Spotify and let me know what you think.

I'm going to create a Hitsvilly website to complement the audio content, but I did it! Right or wrong, it's done and I'm ecstatic.

I said I would do it and I did!

Bucket list, you don't know who you're dealing with.


Sunday, July 4, 2021

Independence Day Belongs To Small Towns


I moved away from my hometown more than twenty years ago. I live in a leafy suburb that has nothing but houses and a store scattered here and there. As I write this on July 4, I am sitting inside my house, listening to the air conditioner kick in. Independence Day is just another day. It could be a generic Monday, or a Wednesday. 

In celebration of the holiday my suburb features live orchestral music on July 10. July 10. Why not July 23? Or August 17? They do things differently here in Minnesota. They also outlaw fireworks, so only the outlaws set them off, generally at two o'clock in the morning outside my window. I'm still perplexed by the irrational fear of fountains and Roman candles -- but then, Minnesotans seem to be afraid of a lot of things. Maybe it's because my big brother sold fireworks from a home-constructed stand for years that pyrotechnics are simply everyday life for me. My little brother and his friends blew all their savings buying bottle rockets and spinners they'd nail to the wall; then beg Mom and Dad for "just five dollars" so they could buy more. Sure, one might have to dodge a wayward rocket shot from a pop bottle occasionally, but so what? No fires ever ensued. Life isn't necessarily risk-free.

The Fourth of July was always my favorite holiday back home. My town did it up right. It didn't matter if the holiday fell in the middle of the week and I'd need to get up for work the next day. Everyday life stopped for the Fourth. The highlight was the parade, a procession that went for miles and miles -- my high school marching band, lines of farm implements, floats upon floats populated with waving riders. Clowns on stilts throwing handfuls of candy to the little kids. Polka bands. Military vets. THE FLAG, which every parade-goer reverently stood for. And every single cheesy display one's imagination could conjure. In fact, the cheesier the better. My family would laugh and mingle, my sister and I parked on the curb, within reaching distance of our kids so they wouldn't wander too close to the action. Snapping action photos with actual cameras. Getting sweat-drenched and sunburned, and not caring. Then, once we were certain the parade was over, peering down the long street to ensure no one else was actually coming, gathering up our kids and our blankets and our lawn chairs and trudging in the hot sun back to our cars wedged in a supermarket parking lot (By the way, business owners were completely, patriotically on board with people claiming their parking spots. They, too, were off attending the parade.)

We'd head back to Mom and Dad's and plop down on tufted chairs in their COOL living room, a couple of the guys stretching out on the carpet. Mom would be in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on her potato salad and arranging her relish tray. Once everyone arrived back at the meeting spot, we'd eat and eat and eat. And drink tons of iced tea. 

As the sun set, we'd gather on the front steps and await my brothers' home-crafted fireworks show. They'd take turns running out to the middle of the street, touching a punk to the latest pyrotechnic. And we'd alternately marvel and continue our gossip session, careful to ensure our kids didn't wander into the dark street.

Then we'd finally head home and flop into bed, red-burned and exhausted.

THAT was the Fourth of July. 

As I glance out my window today, my street is deserted. Everyone is either at the mall or still sleeping. Hard to know. I don't know any of my neighbors. We're not real cohesive here. "Minnesota Nice" is a nice catchphrase that native Minnesotans utter to obviate their true, insular nature. 

But I have my memories of REAL Independence Days. 

Memories will suffice.

 

 






Saturday, June 12, 2021

Podcast Prep

 

It might be that I'm procrastinating, but it just might be that I'm preparing, as most sane humans (unlike the natural me) would do.

I've now committed to the notion of creating my own podcast, and once I've committed to something, well, that's it. But I'm no fool. This isn't going to be a cakewalk. I need to have something to say, and I need to have a professional presentation. 

Mostly I've been writing copy. And writing and writing and writing copy. It takes a lot to fill up a predetermined (thirty minute?) podcast episode. Of course, each episode will include complete songs, but considering the typical song is about three minutes long, I will still have a lot of talking to do.

The one thing I'm not nervous about is the talking -- yea, that doesn't sound like me, but I have confidence in my speaking voice, unfounded though that may be.

What gives me tremors is thinking that what I have to say won't interest anyone. Thus I write and I write and I keep writing. I can edit later.

What I have done:

  • I registered a podcast name.
  • I downloaded some free wav files to use as introduction to a regular feature I plan to include in each episode.
  • I searched for free music files to use as a theme song, but I couldn't find any. I'm considering using the intro to one of my own recordings. This is not an ideal solution, but at least it doesn't cost $$ that I don't have.

Things I'm considering:

  • Hiring a fiverr artist to create a logo. (The other online option costs $65.00, though I really like it.)

Things I haven't yet done:

  • Signed up at Anchor. I know I could just sign up and be done with it, but signing up feels like I have to plunge ahead, and I'm not ready for plunging yet.

 

I'm trying diligently to be rational about this process. I will have one chance to do it right. 

I will say, however, that my excitement level remains high. As always, you will be the first to know when I actually pull the trigger.

 



Sunday, May 30, 2021

Spotify Beats SiriusXM All To Hell

 

Well, I made the switch. 

It wasn't easy. Sirius is dedicated to making sure one NEVER cancels their subscription. For those who are wondering, use the chat option and just keep telling the chat bot that you can't afford to continue. It's a hard argument for their reps to counter. "I'm sorry. I'd really like to continue, but I'm pooo-ooo-rrrr." I actually am poor, so that wasn't a fabrication. I can afford one music subscription, and Sirius just wasn't doing it for me. 

I'm not sure, but I'm suspicious that they have some kind of financial arrangement with Juice Newton's management, because "The Sweetest Thing" and "Angel Of The Morning" kept popping up on every country channel I clicked on (and, come on, Angel Of The Morning isn't even a Juice Newton original.) That, and Crystal Gayle. I like some Crystal Gayle songs, but not over and over and over. SiriusXM never swaps out their songs. They take their subscribers for granted. The best channel on Sirius is Willie's Roadhouse, and even then, they like to feature an obscure Kitty Wells single that I couldn't abide. It takes a lot for me to listen to Kitty Wells in the first place. I'm not eighty. Dwight's channel doesn't feature enough Dwight, and besides, I own all his albums, so there's no added value there. 

What do I like about Spotify?

Simply this: 

I can create my own playlists, so I can listen to the songs I actually want to hear. And there's not one Juice Newton track among them. Seriously, what's with Sirius's infatuation with Juice Newton?

I actually emailed SiriusXM once and volunteered to give them some music recommendations. Of course, they ignored me, but it made me feel better. 

What bugs me about Spotify?

Sometimes the only versions available are remakes. I DON'T LIKE REMAKES. I like recordings to be the way I remember them. I realize this isn't Spotify's fault -- they have to go with what's provided to them. Still don't like it.

I also don't like that Mel Tillis's singles aren't available. Maybe Pam could rectify that; I don't know. 

But overall, I could spend interminable days creating playlists. And love it. I like categorizing things and I like that nobody can stop me from doing it.

It took me way too long to switch on the light bulb. Often we simply stick with what's familiar, even though it sometimes shreds our nerves. If it wasn't for my podcast notion, I wouldn't have even given Spotify a second look. 

Now I'm so busy creating playlists, my podcast idea has taken a back seat.


 


 



B.J. Thomas


If you're a millennial reporter tasked with reporting on the death of someone you've never heard of, I guess you can rely on good old Wikipedia to inform you that the only hit single B.J. Thomas ever recorded was "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head".

Wrong. Criminally wrong.

I learned about B.J. Thomas's passing this morning and musical memories began pouring out. 

I was thirteen in 1968 and carrying my transistor radio with me everywhere that summer. I think that's when I first heard this guy with a sexy, relaxed, yet soulful voice wafting through the AM speaker.

I loved that song.

Later that same year, this new guy released another hit, which has been grossly overshadowed by Blue Swede's off-the-wall version (which, yes, I liked), but for pure laid back listening enjoyment, try this:

(Same backdrop. And I bet whatever show this was spent TONS on that aluminum step ladder.)
 
It wasn't until the following year that millennial reporter's one halfway familiar song was released. My friend and I dutifully went to the theater to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And yes, B.J. was correct -- the song didn't really fit the scene (or the period), but that's neither here nor there. It's a catchy, typical Bachrach pop song.
 
 
B.J. had a couple of top twenty hits between '69 and '75: "I Just Can't Help Believing" and "Rock and Roll Lullaby", but then something odd happened. He showed up on the scene as a country singer.
 

Far from "Raindrops" being the Thomas track I'll remember most, it's this one instead:
 

 I like this one from 1982:
 
 (Sorry - terrible video quality, but at least there's no stepladder.)
 
Some would say B.J. Thomas either had a voice that was too country for pop or too pop for country, but I say he was simply a one-of-a-kind phenomenon. Unique; not a musical appropriator. 
 
I'm so glad we'll always have his music.
 
Rest in peace, B.J. Thomas.



Thursday, May 20, 2021

Ever Ask Yourself, Whatever Happened To...?


I generally assume the bands I once knew have scattered like the winds, which brings me to Sawyer Brown. I wasn't a big or even middling fan, but I heard "Some Girls Do" on SiriusXM the other day (Sirius plays the same twenty to twenty-five songs over and over again -- it's like classic rock radio) and asked myself, "Whatever happened to...?"

The Google Thing™ is an indispensable tool. I quickly learned that not only is Sawyer Brown still together, but they're still touring. In fact they'll be in my general area of Minnesota this summer. Don't scoff at county fairs or casinos. The best country concert I ever saw in my life was from the second row of a casino stage. To country artists of a certain age (and their fans) casinos have been a gift from heaven. I would definitely buy tickets to see Sawyer Brown perform in a casino. 

SB is kind of an anachronism, much like Alabama. They were everywhere, had their hits, but never quite burst through the glass neon ceiling. In 1983 there was a Saturday night (?) syndicated talent show hosted by Ed McMahon called Star Search, and had eight categories of competition, including the now infamous "spokesmodel" bracket, which...really...models who can actually speak? Anyway, a new group called Sawyer Brown won the very first vocal group award (Mark Miller had hair then).


Sawyer Brown wasn't accepted in Nashville at first, as Mark Miller detailed in an interview, because they were considered too "rock and roll". Seriously? That's not rock and roll. Regardless, it was partially the group's own fault. They didn't do substantial songs. It was all fun, which is okay, but it's kind of like Achy Breaky Heart. Fun songs are okay for a month or two, until they descend into dreck. I get it; they went with their strengths. And now, almost forty years later, I bet fans lap that stuff up (ahh, nostalgia).

 


They also remade "The Race Is On" (don't remake classics), and I don't know if this is an official video, but the quality is awful.

 

I never once purchased a Sawyer Brown album until "The Dirt Road". Mark Miller and Gregg Hubbard wrote this one. Maturity? This is when the group ventured into substantial territory. And the song is flat-out good.


Even the "fun" song on the album actually said something:


Subsequently the band incorporated hefty songs into their repertoire:

Those of us who were around watched Sawyer Brown transition from a goofy bunch of kids into a serious band. The years kind of do that, don't they? Sirius kind of tricked me into only remembering the silly stuff, but this retrospective knocked some sense into me.

Yea, I would definitely see Sawyer Brown in concert...now.




Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Fake Country Band Album Reviews - Volume 2


It seems my first edition of fake country album reviews has been my most popular blog post in the fourteen years I've been tapping out words, so what the heck? Let's do some more.

Kids, you, too, can do this at home. All you need is a fake country band name generator and a fake album cover generator, all searchable items on The Google Thing (TGT™). You will, however, need to compose your own reviews. 

Herewith are my latest:


Despite Blasphemy Auction - Fuck!


Granted, this band is not for everyone, but DBA is unapologetic. They just don't fucking care. Rising out of the punk music scene of Mandan, North Dakota, Despite Blasphemy Auction flicked off a gang of polka band wannabe's to claw their way to the top of the Anglo-German music syndicate, and they're frankly pissed it took so fucking long. They've got a lot to say, and none of it is pretty. Blasphemy Auction finesses obscenity landmines with filthy genius. 

 
Buck again on your radio?
She mocked with a cough 
I said, girl, you don't like it
You can go fuck off
 

Songwriter and bassist Carl Burger Eckroth-Heitkamp spares no one's sensibilities with tracks like "Asshole Loser" and "M*****F***** Cut Me Off!" 

A gem buried deep in DBA's bio reveals that Carl moonlights as a Methodist minister when the band's schedule allows. Perhaps it's that dichotomy that informs the group's authenticity. WTF - it's the music, after all, that effing matters. 

Grade: F+


Certified Supervisor - Kinda Busy Right Now

Lazily climbing the indie charts with their first single, "Can You Come Back Later?" the band Certified Supervisor arbitrarily doles out a pile of tracks as relatable as a partially-completed time card. Lead vocalist Dusty Desktop avoids direct confrontation with subliminal ballads like "I Shouldn't Have To Tell You" and "You're Leaving Already?" Her most unsettling composition, though, is "Will I See You On Saturday?" Absolutely bone-chilling.

A rumor circulated on Twitter a while back that CS only secured a recording contract because Dusty's uncle happens to work for the label, but Connections Records' head Frank Favour harshly rebuked the offending busybodies and subsequently threatened to have them demonetized.

Bottom line, fans had better like this album. And what's not to like? Uptempo rockers, "Extra-Long Lunch" and the attitudinal, "What Now?" guarantee Certified Supervisor's upward trajectory in the indie music realm.

Grade: A++


Drooling Snowflake - Excuse Me?

Who says new country bands don't emerge from San Francisco? Not me! Drooling Snowflake not only inhabits a niche that is quintessential California but it just might have invented its own sub-genre: Peeved Country. Drawing on its Silicon Valley roots, DS is quick to latch onto the latest cause du jour, which may, alas, render the band obsolete in mere weeks and requires its primary scribe, Jamey Raage (he/him) to furiously scribble out tunes that hopefully won't be passe before the band can even record them. 

The California Sound inhabits a special place in country fans' hearts, from Buck to Merle to Dwight to The Eagles; and with this debut Drooling Snowflake strives to secure its place among those legendary greats. Tracks as diverse as "tRumpkin Rubes" and "Walmart, I Can Smell Ya'" evoke the dripping disdain of "Okie From Muskogee", albeit without the fisticuffs and in-your-face bravado. Instead it smacks of furious slap-fights and haughty flounces.

Don't get me wrong; Drooling Snowflake is a niche for sure, but not one to be ignored. The band's best track is, to this critic's ears, "January Six Insurrection Blues". Reminiscent of  Merle's "Workin' Man Blues', it takes a completely different tack, one that may best be described as "everybody made my life miserable, so I will just roll up inside this blanket". 

Pity is not a good reason to purchase a CD, granted, but give this one a spin. It only costs nine dollars and ninety-nine cents, and two pennies of each purchase are dedicated to eliminating the environmental scourge of hairbrush tangles, a primary contributor to the horrific demise of Pacific sperm whales.

Grade: B (for Biodegradable)