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…
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.
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)…
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.
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.
Although their name might imply that they may be a Country or Southern Rock band, The Kentucky Headhunters defy categorization. Their sweaty, chest-pounding sound has it’s roots in classic Rock ‘n’ Roll, Country & Western, Blues, and R&B and sounds great in a beer-stained Country roadhouse, a dusty and dry Summer Bluesfest, and in the comfort of your own home. The Kentucky Headhunters play music that sounds like it was grown and harvested deep in the heart of America. The band never plays it safe and always comes out swinging. They are rowdy, rough, and rockin’… and not necessarily in that order. The Kentucky Headhunters are fearless at what they do. And no matter what you call it, The Kentucky Headhunters do it very well.
Originally from San Mateo, CA, singer, songwriter and guitarist Eric Lindell began his career playing the Bay Area live circuit in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Influenced by the Punk, Indie Rock, and Funk/Soul scenes, his music continued to morph into something that he could call his own. Seeking greener pastures and inspiration, he uprooted and moved to New York. After a short stint on the East Coast, he set his sights on New Orleans and moved there in the late ‘90s. It was in New Orleans that Eric Lindell found his own musical voice. Mixing Blues, Soul, Rock, Funk and a keen ear for a catchy melody, Eric released a few indie releases before signing with Alligator Records and releasing his first album for the label in 2006.