Smooth Jazz and New Age music are genres that have always received the short end of the stick. Jazz purists and Rock critics have continually written the music off as ‘lifeless’ and/or ‘boring.’ However, both Smooth Jazz and New Age have survived decades of critical neglect thanks to a large – and continually growing – audience. And why has this music survived and prospered for so long? Because the music connects with the listener in a way that most musical styles don’t. These are not genres that have continually gone after the big bucks. This is music created from emotion – sadness, joy, desire, etc. – and because it comes from an honest place, listeners can easily absorb those feelings that went into creating the art. In turn, they bond with the music because of those emotions. It becomes a very personal experience. And isn’t that what helps us get through life? All of those very personal experiences, good or bad? Thankfully, music will always fall on the side of good.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: EASY WAY is now ready for release. How are you feeling about the project and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
PAGE BURKUM: Getting a new record out in to the world is a great feeling. People are playing “Please Don’t Call Me Crazy” on the radio and our new songs seem to get a good reaction at our live shows, so hopefully that’s a good sign!
The term ‘Honky-Tonk’ means different things to different people. For some, Honky-Tonk is raw and raucous sub-genre of Country Music. For others, it is a smoky bar with beer-stained floorboards, rowdy patrons, and the constant flow of Country Music. From juke boxes to live music performed by local and traveling musicians, Honky-Tonk bars gave birth to a distinctive style of Country Music. Then again, one can say that Honky-Tonk music helped establish the spirit of a Honky-Tonk bar. So, in this case, it doesn’t matter which came first – both the music and the drinking establishments are now intrinsically linked to each other. However, a bar cannot easily hitch itself to a truck and move from town to town like a Honky-Tonk musician can. This means that the spirit of Honky-Tonk must exist within the music and it is up to the many traveling minstrels to spread its ‘gospel’. And this brings us to a man who preaches that gospel better than anyone out there: Dale Watson.
Forty years ago, a Rock artist’s longevity was not something that was guaranteed. The first Rock ‘n’ Roll boom of the ‘50s had been swallowed by the late ‘50s/early ‘60s teen idols. Then those heart throbs were dethroned by the British Invasion. That joyful racket was overcome by the Summer Of Love/Hippy scene of 1967. And so on… Like any industry, the new kids were constantly replacing the old guard, who would then reluctantly slip into the shadows and wait for nostalgia to make them momentarily relevant again. The four Beatles (among others) made it work but a lot of their contemporaries had been left behind, lost in a time warp and destined to play the oldies circuit for the rest of their careers. By 1979, artists and the industry were more understanding when it came to making hit records and extending an artist’s career. However, the Punk movement was initially viewed as a novelty by the bigwigs and while the industry capitalized on Punk’s commercial appeal, they certainly didn’t expect any of the artists to last beyond a two or three-year window, just like any other musical movement that came along since the days of Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. Over time, we have learned that nearly every artist from every genre was capable of something much more than their “15 minutes of fame”. As for the unruly Punk kids, Bob Mould was going to break the mold (semi-pun intended)…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: TIDES OF A TEARDROP is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction to it so far?
ANDREW MARLIN: We have been sitting on a few of these songs for a while and there is always a little anxiety and a little relief in releasing new material. Folks seem to be digging the new tunes so far, so I guess some of the anxiety is giving way to relief!
It has been written many times elsewhere, but it must be said again: Robert Pollard is the most prolific artist in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. When you look back on bands like The Beatles, who put out two albums and a handful of singles per year in their early days, Pollard makes them look like slackers. While his main band, Guided By Voices, and all of his other projects may not have had the cultural impact that the Fab Four had, Robert has still made a huge impact on the Alternative and Indie music scenes. Not only has he influenced a new generation of singer/songwriters, he’s also inspired them to create music as art and music as expression. And while he may not have intended to be a DIY pioneer, he has certainly become one. I guess that is what happens when you’ve been making music on your own terms for four decades. While Pollard & Co. have been releasing music since the ‘80s, they don’t belong to any decade – the albums remain timeless.