where are the songs today?

Growing up in Jersey in the mid 70s the rock music of the Jersey Shore was almost a religion for teen agers – Springsteen and E Street, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, the Source, and the bars and the clubs were legendary – The Stone Pony, The Student Prince, The Chatterbox, The Surf Club, The Firehouse, and so many I can’t remember off the top of my head. Probably because I was able to get into a lot of them and get hammered when I was 16. But that scene set a tone – Rock and Roll was real music, country was what you heard on the Andy Griffith show when The Darlings came to town or god forbid – Hee Haw was on TV and was forbidden to be played on your car stereo.

Maybe it was just the when it was, or maybe it was who we listened to, but besides the band the songs were awesome. They meant something, the writer or the band was telling a story. Yeah you could dance to them, but if you weren’t in the club you actually listened to them, You wanted to buy the 8 tracks or cassettes, or you bought the vinyl and recorded cassettes for the car. You can still listen to those songs, and if you’re feeling nostalgic they’ll take you back to those bars or your car. Or you can kick back in your recliner and still know what that songwriter was singing about. You can’t find that in what they play on the radio these days. With rare exceptions (Brian Fallon, the Gaslight Anthem for example) you don’t find that much depth in modern rock and roll, if there is still such a thing. But you can find it in Country music, if you look hard enough,

I don’t mean country radio, that’s just so much shallow bullshit where the hat is almost as important as the voice. Blake Shelton can pull it off when he wants to, but he has a machine to feed so you have to search for the nuggets. But there are performers you won’t hear on radio who can rivet you to your stereo or phone or youtube or facebook however you consume your music. I’ve been a longtime supporter and promoter of Jeff Black , and recently became a fan of Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson. I’m not sure you’d call all of their music ‘country’ especially Isbell and Simpson, but that’s where they’ve been pigeonholed. Maybe it’s more Americana – doesn’t really matter anymore. And then there’s Dawn Beyer.

Dawn found a different way to make it. She quit playing in the Nashville bars everyone plays in trying to get discovered. She plays on Facebook Live. Several times a week for a 15 – 30 mins she plays original music, sometimes throws in a cover – she’s worked with George Jones and Garth Brooks. dawnbeyerShe plays for tips – using paypal as a tip jar. And maybe once a week she schedules a full live show – you buy a ticket on http://www.therealnashville.com and you gain admittance to “The Fort”, a private Facebook group where she puts on hour long or longer shows. It’s an impressive model that has here busting her ass but also has made her pretty successful. And if you like here music enough you can book her for private concerts at your house or wedding or party or whatever. But what’s so compelling about her isn’t her business model but her songs. I think I’m pretty picky about what I listen to, especially if it’s something labeled “Country.” I heard one song, visited her Facebook page, watched some of her videos, bought a ticket to “The Fort”, and after that live show downloaded everything I could find. Her heart is in her music, she has something to say in every song, and her voice is captivating telling those stories.

Sorry for the commercial tangent, but it kind of makes my point. If you want good music, relevant, intelligent songs that tell a story and give you just a peek at the artist behind it you probably should be looking for the overlooked country singers. Or maybe I’m like every generation – hearing what the kids are listening to and asking “How can they listen to that shit? I’ll show you good music damnit!”

 

like sands through the hour glass…

carcassettedeck_thumbI generally try to adhere to the philosophy of “Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional” as I make my way through the funhouse of life. I refuse to dwell on my actual age, or the oh so slow degradation of what my body parts will or won’t do, or what

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they’ll still do but now it hurts like a sonofabitch later on. I can play for hours on end with a real Slinky, or pass an afternoon with a set of buckyballs. I have a custom engraved military grade fidget spinner I own a working set of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots. And I’d much rather spend a day playing pinball than learning the intricacies of “the cloud” (which by the way is how I make my living). So I’m occasionally blindsided by current events and progress. For example, I had no idea until recently that scientists can grow you a new bladder in the lab, using materials from pigs.  Or that they could make new blood vessels using cotton candy. That kind of stuff is interesting, but tends to roll off into the seemingly humongous store of useless information I carry around. But every once in a while a milepost event happens that makes me sit up and realize “shit! I really am getting old”.

It wasn’t when my sons turned 21, nor when I realized that if it ever came down to it they could kick my ass if they wanted to. It wasn’t when I received my AARP card. It wasn’t when my wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. It wasn’t when my first orthopedist, only a little older than I, suddenly died. You’d think the fact that I HAVE (or had) an orthopedist would be a clue. It wasn’t even the day I realized that I was setting my alarm clock 15 minutes earlier than I used to, basically because I do have  an orthopedist and it takes a while to get everything working right in the morning.  Nope, it was the death of the car cassette deck that did it

An article in the New York Times (from 2011) noted the passing of the factory installed car cassette deck. You are no longer able to buy, anywhere, from any dealer,  a new car with a cassette deck in it. I didn’t know you still could, but now you can’t anyway so I didn’t really miss anything there huh? BUT….

Was it that long ago that I took a job just so I could install one in my car?

The car cost 200 bucks, the cassette deck?

$300, but it was replacing an 8 track and worth every penny.

How many copies of “Born to Run” did I wear out because Bruce is the fucking Boss god damn it and I’ll play it every day if I want to!

How many mix tapes did I make to try and persuade the girl of the moment to help me with the clasps on her bra, or at least let me touch it…please?

A lot of people I know have never seen a car cassette deck, having grown up with CD players, mp3 players, and satellite radio. I haven’t seen one in over 15 years. Haven’t seen a cassette either, except at flea markets 5 for a dollar. As I read that Times article my knees creaked just a little bit more, my vision blurred just a little bit more, and I had to turn the volume on the mp3 player up just a little bit more. I thought about picking up some “Just for Men Gel” for my increasingly white beard and moustache. And I wondered if it might be getting time to have “that” conversation with my doctor, the one about the little blue pill. Though apparently that’s really my wife’s call.

Thankfully, before I called to make the appointment I realized that yeah, I used to have a cassette deck in my car, and that was a long time ago and yeah I’m getting old. But I still have my slinky, was reading that Times article on a tablet, was listening to The Gaslight Anthem, don’t own any neckties or slippers, and just the other day I knocked my son’s block off in Rock em Sock em Robots. Maybe they can take me, but they’ve got to sleep sometime (and sometimes they still sleep in my house.) If AARP wants to help me buy stuff cheaper and cut ahead in lines who am I to argue. I have a voice controlled mp3 player in my car, the stereo is worth twice what the car is, and when I feel really good I can still fire up my bike and piss off my neighbors rumbling down the road.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I dropped my Buckyballs and I’ve got a Roadrunner cartoon marathon on tap for the evening.