Being a ‘child star’ is a blessing and a curse. Initially, the ‘blessing’ offers the young performer early stardom and adulation. However, the ‘curse’ revolves around the child star growing older and losing their innocent charm. Sadly, the pressures of maintaining your popularity AND experiencing the trials and tribulations of your teenage years and young adulthood is a very difficult task. Some child stars cannot handle the pressure and spend a good portion of their lives drowning in a sea of drugs and alcohol. Thankfully, there are exceptions to the rule and some of those ‘former child stars’ manage to grow older gracefully while staying out of the tabloids. Some of them leave the business while others turn their attention to other aspects of entertainment (directing, writing, etc.). And then there’s Jackie Evancho. Not only has she survived child stardom, she has succeeded beyond all imagination.
When tracing the history of American music, Bluegrass is still a relatively young genre. Hollywood may have added a decade onto Bluegrass’ age by using it as the soundtrack to Bonnie & Clyde’s exploits in the 1967 film, but the truth is that the genre didn’t exist until long after the duo’s 1934 death. While variations of the sound most likely developed a few years before it became mainstream, Bluegrass became a phenomenon in the mid-‘40s and is one of the few styles of music that has continued to progress while also remaining true to its roots – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Even though modern Country Music bears little to no resemblance to the Country & Western of the ‘40s, Bluegrass is still Bluegrass – honest and pure.
Pop music is a strangely wonderful artform. On the surface, it can sound deceptively simple and carefree. However, like a calm and inviting ocean, mystery lies beneath the windswept ripples. The melodies may dance around in the ether but there are a lot of moving parts that make them seem effortless. Every beat, every bass thump, every electronic whirl, every guitar strum, and every harmony is there for a reason. It is up to you, the listener, to realize what that reason is. Yes, you can read interviews and find out what the artists’ intents are but often times, they don’t fully realize the meaning of their songs until years later. On the other hand, one song can mean something different to nearly every person that listens to it. And that, in and of itself, is one of the great mysteries of Pop music.
I can only imagine (no pun intended) a Beatles fan spinning John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s THE WEDDING ALBUM for the first time. I mean, it most certainly isn’t THE WHITE ALBUM or ABBEY ROAD, is it? “Which cut is the single? Where are the hooks? Wait, never mind the hooks – where are the songs? And where on earth is the Rock ‘n’ Roll?” OK, so maybe fans weren’t exactly thinking those thoughts since THE WEDDING ALBUM was John and Yoko’s third release as a duo (and their first as a bona fide married couple) and their avant-garde recordings were certainly nothing new. Remember the UNFINISHED MUSIC NO. 1: TWO VIRGINS album featuring John and Yoko on the album cover in all of their nakedness? Then there was UNFINISHED MUSIC NO. 2: LIFE WITH THE LIONS, which featured a cover photo of John and Yoko in her hospital room shortly after a miscarriage. In essence, John and Yoko’s first three albums were far from light-hearted affairs. These were albums that expressed their emotions in unique ways – through experimental recordings. Yes, there were other artists who made avant-garde recordings… but they weren’t associated with the biggest Rock band in history!
Thanks to American Idol, The Voice and other like-minded TV shows plus the influence of YouTube, it is perfectly understandable that kids today think that the path to a successful musical career is easy and that nearly anyone can be a star overnight. However, reality paints a darker picture. It is often overlooked that nearly 90% of all TV talent show winners end up without a hit record to their name and they fade away into obscurity almost as quickly as they rose to fame. On the other hand, there are still plenty of modern artists who have toiled in relative obscurity for years before becoming ‘overnight sensations’. While not exactly obscure, indie Blues/Rock outfit Reignwolf has taken the long road and is finally releasing their debut album seven years after the band first formed.
In the music industry, fame can be fleeting but true success is measured by the lasting impact the musician’s art has on the listener/consumer. For example, let’s look back at the year 2000. There were a lot of big worldwide hits that year by well-known artists (U2, Bon Jovi, Madonna, Britney Spears, etc.) and some long-forgotten artists as well (Darude, BBMak, Wheatus, MxPx). While many of the hits from that year are still fondly remembered, an equal amount of chart-climbers have been tossed aside like an old stick of bubble gum – chewed up and spit out once they were out of flavor. However, there are singles released in ’00 that were not only lovingly embraced by music fans but also inspired a new generation of musicians. A few of those – including “Babylon” – were released by British singer/songwriter David Gray. The success of his WHITE LADDER album took many by surprise yet it was far from an overnight success…
Nova Scotia, Canada has given us some fine musical talent over the years. Anne Murray, Denny Doherty (The Mamas & The Papas), Sarah McLachlan, Feist, members of April Wine and Sloan, Holly Cole, and Hank Snow are just a few of the native Nova Scotians that have made their mark in Rock history. There are many others, of course, and there will be many in the years to come. Singer/songwriter Steve Poltz hails from Nova Scotia as well. However, he kickstarted his musical career as a member of San Diego legends The Rugburns. For over two decades – and releases on Priority and Bizarre/Planet Records – The Rugburns has remained a sorely underappreciated outfit. Alongside The Rugburns’ trio of releases (two albums and an EP) and a dozen solo albums, Poltz is also known as the co-writer of his former girlfriend Jewel’s multi-platinum hit “You Were Meant For Me,” which reached #2 on Billboard. In short, Poltz has achieved quite a bit in a career that, by and large, has been under the radar. Perhaps it is time for more listeners to get to know Steve a bit more intimately with his 2019 album SHINE ON…
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.
George Clinton is the mad scientist of Funk. He assembles some of the most talented and unique musicians in R&B, Soul, Funk and Rock and creates a sound that is miles ahead of any contemporary Funk band on the scene. Case in point: musicians today are just catching up with what George was doing with Funkadelic nearly 50 years ago. And since Funkadelic always had a fluid line-up over the years, their sound was always evolving. However, Clinton was a prolific leader that felt the need to push his brand of Funk forward. Reaching back into formative years, he reformed his late ‘50s Doo Wop group The Parliaments, renamed them Parliament, and Cosmic Funk was born.
Fourteen years after she released her handmade debut CD-R, singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten is finally receiving the critical accolades that she has always deserved. While the long journey may have destroyed a more impatient artist, Van Etten has taken it all in good stride. In fact, she’s enjoyed the ride. “I’ve always been a fan of the slow build.” Sharon says. “Whether it be with my career, or my songs, or life.” Along the way, music hasn’t been the only thing on her plate – Van Etten has also pursued an acting career that landed her gigs on Netflix’s THE OA and on David Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS revival. In short, Sharon Van Etten has not been idle in recent times, she’s just been very, very patient.