Lord Huron–Live at the Georgia Theatre

I’ve been interested in Lord Huron since a coworker introduced them to me, and even more so upon their release of Strange Trails in 2015, my favorite CD of the year, in equal parts due to the music and lyrics about creepy love.  They’ve been through town before, but the timing never worked out.  This time, the timing was good; it just required a drive the Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA.  Translated: It makes for a long day.

Lord  Huron Athens concert review

We arrived at the venue before the doors opened which worked out perfectly.  The Georgia Theatre has generally been rated a great concert venue nationally by people who like doing such things, and I hadn’t been to a concert in Athens since I saw an acoustic Neil Young show in the University of Georgia’s gym back around 1984.  That show and venue was dreadful, but Athens is considered a music hotbed of sorts, so it (probably) deserves better.  And they have it.  The building was constructed in 1889, and has served as a YMCA, a music store, a Masonic lodge, a furniture company,  Sears, and a movie theater among others.  It’s been a concert hall now for almost 30 years.  Today, it doesn’t look or feel old due to complete renovations following a fire in 2007.

Upon entering, observing hordes racing up the stairs, we smartly followed. Immediate reaction:  Wow.  Capacity is ~1,000, and it has curved tiered balconies where barstools are placed against railings well suited for placing feet and beverages.   So, we scored front row seats (at the 3rd level).  Still, that’s great, both for the view and the avoidance of standing for hours.  Not to be left unmentioned, overhead fans and solid air-conditioning were welcome on this 92o day, and the sound system was very good for a rock venue.  As a last observation, Athens apparently is burgeoning with young adults even in summer, and it was nice to attend a show where I was an elder in attendance rather than the youth movement.  In other words, Lord Huron’s heyday is now, not the 1970’s.
 Lord Huron Athens concert review

Waiting for the show, we observed what appeared to be a westerly wind bearing moisture across the stage, to the point of wondering if it damaged electronics.  This is apparently a trademark “fog” that the band prefers, though it never really fogged.  At the beginning of the set, various noises thought to be birds (possibly with a guest appearance by R2D2) set the tone for this band, possibly classified as folk-rock.  And thus begins the strange tales of Strange Trails, their last CD which the band is still touring to promote.  And this was my worry.  I already have a difficult time in deciphering leader Ben Schneider’s vocals in the carefully controlled sonic spectrum of their CD.  How would it work out live?

Lord Huron concert review athens ga

At the outset, not so well.  Five songs into it, the band didn’t sound like their recorded selves.  It turns out that vocal effects matter.  Schneider isn’t a bad singer; he’s just not a compelling singer… without the reverb effect.  About five songs in, he sang a spot relatively unaccompanied which alerted someone to note that, “hmm, the reverb switch must be off.”  After being fairly let down, the music I came to hear was heard.  This didn’t seem to matter to the sell-out crowd, who were very enthusiastic from the start.

To the band’s credit, they do color outside the lines, extending several songs or otherwise making minor changes.  The band is more about an overall sound and harmonies than it is particular instrumentation. Of note was bassist/keyboardist Miguel Briseno working the Theremin on “Way Out There,” where sounds are generated by waving hands through electromagnetic fields.  This wasn’t nearly as fluid as the recorded version, but it’s apparently a challenging instrument to execute.

lord huron concert review athens ga

Otherwise, despite the animation of Schneider and the band’s guitarists, percussionist Mark Barry was the visual focal point for those with an elevation advantage, supplementing the music forcefully or barely audible, as the songs required.

lord huron concert review athens ga

The set included a good mix of songs from both of their albums, plus a few others that were on EPs or descended from elsewhere.  Strangely, the closing song and both encore songs were not as strong as others in the set, like “Fool for Love” Overall, this was a good show, but I find myself more interested in what they will record next than the next opportunity to see the band live.  A Blu-ray concert recording with clean sound, though… I’d do that.

A Theremin – you’re curious, right?:

Set list:
The World Ender
Time to Run
Lonesome Dreams
The Birds Are Singing at Night
Ends of the Earth
Dead Man’s Hand
Way Out There
Meet Me in the Woods
Fool for Love
The Night We Met
The Stranger

The Ghost on the Shore
She Lit a Fire

Santana – IV

I like Santana… but my interest also has a limited shelf life.  Throw me back to Abraxis, Santana III, Caravanserai or the band’s 1974 live album, Lotus – there’s a lot I really, really like.  BuSantana IV CD Reviewt the band changed, and despite Carlos’ Santana’s sizzling trademark guitar, his body of work has really gone nowhere outside of a surprisingly narrow space of peace, love, and harmony.  For that reason, unless I find a re-mastered old CD in a used bin… for cheap…, then Viva Santana, a best of type selection, has been a steadfast placeholder for the rare mood that I find Santana appropriate.
Carlos’ Santana’s (often preached) commitment to the worldwide spiritual consciousness (etc.) is both what makes him extraordinary and repetitive.  He’s all about positivity, and while he may venture out and explore jazz or “psychedelic” jams, his guitar tone and note choices are always going to point towards a happy place.  That’s a good thing and has worked well for him, but variety is necessarily difficult lacking, oh, say, a brooding or sinister guitar solo.  They lyrics on this album reflect, in much simpler terms, the deepest romantic thoughts of 8th graders written for an audience of 7th graders.  “Love makes the world go round.”  Repeat four times.  It doesn’t get better, and it doesn’t get worse.  The good news is that, whether in English or Spanish, it doesn’t really matter.  They’re serviceable to Santana’s cosmic feel good approach… which leads to great guitar work.

Santana IV features a return of the early 70’s era band lineup, which is at their best, and picks up 45 years later.  By all accounts, this was a happy occasion for the musicians with much of the recording captured in just a couple of takes.  That’s short for saying that most everything is clicking for the band, and with an added dose of musical maturity (not lyrical, gah!) and studio recording quality, the album as a whole is a joy. 

Guitarist Neal Schon, who with keyboardist Gregg Rolie, left the band after Santana III to form Journey, adds a much needed voice to challenge Santana’s tendency to retread his guitar licks.  The result is often superlative for both.  

The album includes a generous 75 minutes of music and there are musical gems everywhere, even if buried in some of the less interesting songs.  I could trim some from my playlist and will over time, but the Santana “mood” usually isn’t satisfied with a single song.  “Black Magic Woman,” “She’s Not There,” and even “Smooth” usually end with a desire for a little more.  The songs here work as well here for a jogging soundtrack as they do for driving in rush hour traffic.  Whatever mystical place Santana imagines, the reality is the music has to fit the activities we have, and for that, I give the CD high marks. 

4 of 5 STARS_thumb

Funky Buddha Brewery

I’m used to trying breweries before or at the same time as others in my beer enclave.  That was not the case for Florida’s Funky Buddha, at this point perhaps the brewery that competes for thFunky-Buddah-Gear-Patrrole State’s 2nd place in recognition, some distance behind Cigar City.

In any case, better late than never.  This brewery wrestles with the dichotomy of inspired creations and the flight from boredom. My first flight sample intended to satisfy my sweet spot: hoppy drinks.

Below we have, clockwise from the lower left, More Moro Blood Orange IPA (with an orange flavor lacking subtlety and at the cost of any tasted IBUs, but still enjoyable), Cornholio IPA (a surprisingly tasteful beer for one so clear, perhaps due to being brewed corn grits?), Hop Stimulator Double IPA (a fine example of the style), and, a No Crusts Peanut Butter and Jelly Brown Ale.  It doesn’t really have a Gulf oil spill sheen as suggested below – there’s a reflection from the blue lights illuminating the company’s brewery tanks.  It tasted like my wife’s PB&J sandwich, not mine as I prefer more jelly.  To call it a brown ale speaks more to the color, I suppose.  It’s already apparent that this isn’t the place for those yearning for authentic German lagers or is otherwise horrified by adjuncts.


Speaking of those blue lights, here they are, a portion of the production area visible from the bar area.


Back to business.  The second sampler, again starting in lower left, includes one of their staple beers - Doc Brown Ale,  Nikolai Vorlauf Imperial Stout (very good, free of any brewmaster curve balls), 42 Truths Pale Ale (perhaps they were bored making flavored beers and overindulged in the pale) and On Top Blonde, a beer far more suggestive in title than it is in taste, which is regrettably ordinary.


Elsewhere, I tasted the Hop Gun IPA, their flagship IPA, which is suitable at a bar where other local beer offerings are limited, and the Floridian Hefeweizen, which is a style that I don’t favor but a friend who does likes it a lot.  Those with me tried the Blueberry Cobbler Wheat Ale, the Bonita Applebum, and the Pineapple Pilsner among others.  They would probably be happier at a beach rum bar, but perhaps that’s why Funky Buddha frequently shops in the fruit section.  I prefer a hint of these things; the brewery obviously has an audience who prefers bolder tastes. 

This comes from a brewery that doesn’t look funky at all but blends in with the South Florida utilitarian building design approach of “here today, may be gone tomorrow.”


I don’t think they’re going anywhere, given the sizable tasting room and ample offerings.  Overall, I’d expect to find this brewery in Orlando, where the tourists seek the thrill rides, but I guess Ft. Lauderdale shouldn’t be without its own attraction.


It’s not much…

… but it’s something.  A search for a former topic on my blog displayed a bunch of other contexts that I hadn’t expected, specifically sites that track blogs.  So, first some from Google, which hosts the site.


331,000 page views?  Are you kidding me?  39 followers… well, I know six, and the others span the globe.  Speaking of which, it seems people tune in from everywhere.  The below is since I began the blog in 2008.


Now let’s take a look at the last month.  What’s up Russia!  It’s not like it’s winter over there right now.  Go outside and play! 


Now let’s check out my most popular posts.  The Hoover Dam… come on people.  It can be seen anywhere.  Maybe you like the pictures?  Now, Zenith Watches… that’s a fine post.  It is.  And it strongly suggests that I should never allow a friend a “guest spot” position on my blog.  Really, if any friend can get more hits than the other 714 posts that I’ve made…  Go get your own friggin’ blog.  Dan. 


Elsewhere, we learn that “amusedtolife” is too long for a domain name.  Why do I find this out now?  Why didn’t Google tell me this when I set it up?  Thanks for nothing.  Stay tuned for A2L.com.  Not. (Besides, it already exists. That’s why you need more characters in your domain name, folks!)


And here we find that my novice coding actually worked for meta tags.  Maybe I should add others.  Someday I will.  Really.


And, yes, we’re up and running! And in the countless hours of writing 717 posts, I’ve created a value of $1,026!!!  Let’s see that’s… oh.  $1.43 per post.  I’m not going to even bother figuring out what the hourly rate is, but… it’s something.  Only serious offers accepted!  Anyone?


Perhaps the location analysis should be more clearly labeled to reference wherever Google is hosting my server this week.  I’m not in California, folks, but, then… location, location, location.  My blog is probably worth about $650 in Georgia.


And, finally, I’m safe and perfectly reputable.  That’s not something you can find just anywhere these days.


Whoever you folks are, hey.  Maybe comment every once and a while to a post.  It gets lonely in Caligeorgia.

Delta Rae–Live at Eddie’s Attic

Oh, the pressure.  Having raved about Delta Rae long enough, my wife finally got the opportunity to see them in concert, the band having recently launched their summer “New Moon Rising” tour.

Delta Rae - Eddie's Attic

The show was originally booked for a new venue called City Winery, but their Certificate of Occupancy wouldn’t be ready in time.  So, the show as moved to the venerable but more compact Eddie’s Attic.  This was, I hoped, a good thing.  I first caught them at Asheville’s Bele Chere festival, may it sadly rest in peace.  Delta Rae had the talent, energy, and the songs to stand out far above the other acts through the weekend.  Three months later, I saw them in a small bar in Atlanta which looked like a gap-filler for a journey from NC to LA, and once again they were excellent, though abbreviated and short on audience interaction.  More recently, I saw them on a Yahoo Live internet broadcast from a venue in Philadelphia – a bigger stage, the world watching to a degree, and while they were a polished unit, the event may have limited their ability to interact and sequencing of songs didn’t have the same flow.   If that had been my first experience, I probably wouldn’t have been as keen about the band.

In any case, put them in a small venue where people are “cozy” with one another, and it breeds intimacy.  So I hoped. 

There are a couple of things I specifically like about Eddie’s Attic.  The first is that it’s a “listening room.”  If you want to chat with your buddies, step outside.  If you insist on talking during a song, a waiter will likely remind you of the policy.  The second thing is that when you arrive, you check in.  They keep track of who got their first and let you enter in that order without the tedium of having to stand in a queue line.  Translated:  front row seats, for my wife, a friend, and his kids, close enough to the stage that my feet are cramped in the meager distance distance to the stage.  The proximity of the mic stands below give a good sense of it.


The lights dim, the band takes the stage, and from the opener (“Hitch a Ride”) on, they slay the audience.  What does a front row seat do for you in a slaying?  It makes it up close and personal.  This is more obvious when the female singers stand on a box just off the front edge of the stage… too close to take pictures even.  Wow.

Another 2’ makes a difference, with this being my friend’s still-vertical (and better lit) perspective:


The band has six members, and on a stage as small as Eddie’s, the drummer and bassist were all but stuffed into a corner.  The front stage was occupied by three Holljes siblings Ian (vocals and guitar), Eric (keyboard, guitars, vocals), Brittany (vocals) and Liz Hopkins (vocals).


Delta Rae can and has covered a wide variety of styles – the sentimental love songs, the heartfelt society commentary, the mystic/Gothic, blues, country, traditional spirituals, etc.


And each singer has their stylistic strengths.  The Holljes brothers do a superb job in writing their songs to place each at their best advantage.  And while each sings well individually, there is no need for grandstanding guitar solos or other theatrics when they sing as one.  The songs are belted out, wonderfully.  There’s no Dylan or Springsteen clinched teeth delivery here or a hint of a need of studio masking.  Every song requires a little movement, but if it demands a lot, they all move.  About anyone may take a turn at the bass drum, for example.  It may be hard to understand without seeing them in person, but they invest themselves in each song.  Delta Rae is very good on their CDs. They’re awesome in concert.  


Their first big “hit” was the main set’s closer, “Bottom of the River,” a some creepy song.  Dim the lights, add a spotlight and a fan for the hair, backlight the drum, led Brittney take over, and… bewitching.  Every time.

Delta Rae Eddie's Attic, Bottom of the River, Brittney Holljes

The night included a great mixture of songs off their first two albums, but still leaving some worthy songs out such as “Fire,” “Cold Day in Heaven,” and the uber creepy “I Will Never Die.”  In any case, this left room for several new songs, each of which speaks very well of a new CD whenever it may come.  I’ve seen a lot of concerts, and two of theirs are easily in my top 10.  So, yeah.  You can say I’m a fan.  Oh, and my wife is a fan now, too.

Set list:

Hitch a Ride
Chasing Twisters
Morning Comes
Hurts Like This
Meaning of it All
Never Back (likely not the full title)
Pay No Rent
If I Loved You
All Good People
Dead End Road
Moved Down South
Bottom of the River


Dance in the Graveyard / I Wanna Dance With Somebody


Etowah River–E. Cherokee to Canton

When I was in Boy Scouts, I remember a meeting at Lake Greenwood in South Carolina where we were to try out kayaks.  We received the expected safety lecture after which, gee, we had time each take the kayak about 100’ turn it around and head back so everyone could get a turn.  I remember being frustrated and fearful of flipping but liking it.  Later, we would have a canoe trip that due to heavy rainfall prior, resulted in us steering the canoes over every planned river portage, past our overnight camping site and to the end of our run in the first day.  Fun.

Since then, I’ve taken some rafting trips – which are exciting but essentially an amusement ride as the guides have the knowledge and do the work, and we’ve taken to renting kayaks, usually while on vacation.  And, probably like most people, I always have a curiosity about seeing a river when passing over a bridge.  It’s not a calling to nature, just a peaceful scene of far more interest and variation compared with, for example, pine trees along interstates and back roads.  Anyway, the interest led to desire which led to, finally the purchase of kayaks for my wife and I.  Idle conversation with other kayak owners consistently suggested that once bought, they’re frequently used.  We’ll see, but over three weekends, I’ve used mine three times.

The next step is figuring out where I might go, taking into consideration the logistics of reuniting the kayak and the car.  An iPhone App called “Launch Sites” is helpful, and there are many internet sites to review as well, to the point where it seems non-profit organizations are tripping over themselves to claim particular rivers as their enviro-causes.  The result is that by making it easier for people to use the rivers, the reach of their work and numbers of supporters expand.  For now, though proximity/convenience win, so the Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI) becomes of interest, an organization that among other things is helping the development of a 160-mile long Etowah River Water Trail.  And they hold monthly events through much of the year – aka guided tours.  First up for me was the trip from East Cherokee Drive, south of Ball Ground, GA to a new launch spot in Canton, GA.  Though perhaps 6 miles apart as a car drives, this was a 13 mile kayaking trip, about 5 miles further than I’ve kayaked or canoed.  It begins in the upper right of the picture below and finishes roughly midway between the two red stars in the lower left of the map below.


The rain forecast having improved from unenticing to perfect, I left the house to reach the boat launch by 9:00 a.m… amid a rain storm.   CRBI encourages boat launch development wherever they can, including this site, which is a short dirt (mud when raining) road that quickly leads to an area where kayaks can be off-loaded from the vehicle, then dragged or carried down a 10’ incline to a serviceable landing area.  My first lesson learned was to always bring a rain jacket.  Fortunately, one of the other two people there had an extra poncho that I could borrow.  Then I drove my car to the newly established Etowah River Park in Canton (with a formal boat launch and paved ramp for which CRBI fought) for the return trip via a van ($10) with the other drivers at 9:30.   At 10:00 came the obligatory signature of a waiver, requirement to wear a life jacket, and a brief introduction to river hazards.


The rain, which held off patiently during the briefing, returned to greet us in full as we hit the river.


The river is a better indicator of how heavy the rain was… Very quickly, we passed Blankenship Sand Company, which has equipment to withdraw sand, presumably, from the river.  I would have taken pictures, but, hey, it was raining.  The picture above is fairly representative of the river – flat and tree lined.  The lack of development along the banks was surprising.

With nothing, therefore, of photo interest, I found a small creek just prior to where we stopped for lunch, at the third black circle in the diagram below.  Perhaps 80’ into this creek was a train trestle, which is an active line.  I have to wonder about the ongoing inspections.


Another beam was lying on the ground, but the supports seemed in decent repair, regardless of the detached or fallen pieces.  In any case, the trip back out of the creek was more picturesque.  (That’s poison ivy on the left, kids).


Around the corner we find people gathered for lunch.  There wasn’t much of a sandbar with the higher water, so I opted to park on a slanted rock with my new river buddies.


First up is Tom, Lender of Ponchos in Raging Storms, and also the group “sweeper.”  His role is to stay at the back and make certain that no one gets lost or left behind.  This particular stretch of river didn’t have any significant detours, but for ~25 people, we stretched out quite a bit, each to his or her own pace.


And then there was Jonathon, a retired machinist, I think, whose company my wife would enjoy.  He’s sporting his new hat which was not as waterproof as he had hoped.  He keeps a good pace, enjoys spotting invasive plant species, calling out the names of birds heard in the trees, detouring to remove trash where practical, and correcting me when I point to a couple of distant circling birds and say “buzzards” with “No, hawks.”   In any case, he’s taken many of the CRBI trips and is good river company.


The group included very few people familiar with each other, though a good number knew the guide.  The group was roughly split between people older and younger than me.  It included couples, some with kids, women with and without friends (one who was particularly bored with the lack of rapids), and unaccompanied men like myself.  In short, people enjoy the outdoors and who were consistently approachable and friendly.  After a 20 minute break, we resume, eventually coming across this guy who had caught a couple catfish and was happy to show them off.


Sound carries on the river, whether from conversation on a kayak far ahead or elsewhere.  So, we were greeted with river music well before we discovered this house, blasting out music over their lawn.  This was, I think, one of three houses that had observable views of the river, none very closely.  I suspect that the area floods regularly.


My wife had another obligation and was otherwise not keen on such a lengthy trip.  Very reasonably, sitting in a kayak for hours does become stifling.  So this trip served to observe and report back for future trips.  This section of the river had surprisingly little “action.”  The biggest was a large sandbar on a turn of the river with an accompanying tree overhand.  This is where our guide decided to stop for our final pit stop, thus pulling aside at the only spot where the river narrowed and had an observably fun current.  A few of the kids swam the spot repeatedly, of course.  Still, the lengths between breaks were appropriate to stretch legs and grab a snack.  Aside from the sandwiches I ate for lunch, this last minute purchase hit the spot:

Joe Cook was our guide and also the author of “Etowah River User’s Guide.”  He’s as conversant about the river as he is area High School sports rivalries.  He had judged correctly that we would miss the Cherokee fishing weirs which are wedge shaped stone formations in the river, that were used to gather and trap fish.  These were marked by the black spirals on the map earlier.  I saw one as I quickly passed over it, the water level being too high to see them outright.

At our break area, he pulled out a seine, had people kick at the rocks and caught various insect nymphs that were then swept into the screen. 



Aside from any academic learning from discerning a dragonfly nymph from another invertebrate, the point is that if you’re fishing, here’s your bait:


There may have been five rental kayaks which Joe provided, but otherwise people brought a wide variety (sit on top, cockpit), whether intended for quick turns (whitewater) or faster glides through lakes, .  Mine isn’t perfect for any specific end use, but it’s serviceable at most – light rapids, slow moving water or lakes.  It’s aptly termed “recreational” rather than “touring” or something more specific.  It has a flatter bottom than many (great stability at the cost of speed – which means more paddling as well) and has a retractable “skag” at the rear which would be a rudder if could turn.  When deployed, it helps keep the kayak straight by resisting the kayak’s tendency to turn left or right against the force created when one paddles.  This isn’t an issue for boats longer than 10.5’.  The trip helped get me get comfortable with turning the boat in a current without the skag to avoid obstacles should there be a need later.  The endurance test also confirmed it has a very comfortable seat.


From this point, it was only a couple miles to the end.  The “paddle” was scheduled from 10-5.  We hit the water around 10:15 and pulled out at 3:45, somewhat faster than planned.  The current helped, but no one was paddling fast.  Sometimes, it’s okay just to float and enjoy. 


I’ll be booking more of these.

Lost in Translation

“Vinyl,” as the rebirth of the record album is termed, has an album sleeve roughly 12” x 12”.   Sitting in record bins, this was the equivalent of a billboard for record companies to pimp the album within.  At times, they got either sneaky or high minded abounivlangut it and placed more seemingly altruistic stickers like s “Give the Gift of Music” on the covers.  I don’t know that I profited from that pitch, but they did as I was always mindful of gift giving in this regard.  Music lovers generally have an affinity for music lovers.  Another advertising campaign trumpeted that music is the universal language.  It resonated to a degree, even to a young teen.  

It may be universal, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to taxonomy.

When writing my occasional album review, I struggle at times finding the right descriptor of the music.  Alt-country vs. Americana, for example.  I’m not entirely clear on what the difference is.  Maybe the prior has the obligatory Nashville “country twang,” while the other carries an authentic accent from the Blue Ridge mountains or thereabout.  Or perhaps alt-country has enough artistic grit that it garners resentment from neo-country hacks… Oh, there I go creating another label; maybe it will be useful to someone.  

Back in the emerging days of blogs and online reviews, I enjoyed searching for sites that might reliably surface interesting new music or relics that I had somehow missed.  It was a worthy pursuit given the failings of corporate radio and a very tired Rolling Stone magazine. Somewhere in the late ‘90’s, I stumbled across a site that drew my interest, The War Against Silence, that seemingly had no ambition for significance other than the author’s pleasure in the work.

The author, Glenn McDonald, knew about bands which I had not heard despite being sharing the same generation, but beyond that, he had the higher level of thinking (and memory) necessary to connect artists styles and find the right words to do so plainly:  

Some years, my musical world and the public one fail to intersect at all. In general this is fine with me, as the public musical world tends to be clogged with music that is supposed to make you want to eat fast food, but instead makes me want to firebomb shopping malls.

Other times, as needed, he wrote majestically.  I don’t often come across words like “libidinous,” “oeuvre,” or “Rococo,” but a frequent intersection of musical tastes, the pace of reviews, and a frequent joy in the reading set that site apart.  McDonald started the blog with the publication of his own 542 page (downloadable) book of music reviews of his entire collection (!), then carried on for years eventually evolving into an exposition of the joys and endurances of daily living and inserting a new musical release into that context.  This was less helpful, to be sure, but for those of who find music to be very much the stuff of life, it was fascinating.  Music heard right is intellectually dissected, tested for mental merit or emotional relevance, and absorbed into the living of moments.  To evaluate music from an existential vantage rather than from an objective pronouncement of value was as inevitable as it was singular.  I would think that music writers consciously understand that the music to which they are drawn enhances the life experience, but when taking a critical eye, they lack the introspection, willingness to share  or audience to make this type of “review” work.  Or, maybe it’s the pressure of putting out a review without having lived with it long enough.  In any case, McDonald gave this up but not before the whole of the matter subtly influenced my own desire to write in a publicly discoverable space. 

Back to my classification dilemma, most recently encountered with Sturgill Simpson’s latest CD.  Recently, I was flipping TV channels and caught a few minutes of the Country Music Awards, as fast paced and entertaining as an awards show can muster...  I lasted about 15 minutes.  But, given the state of music marketing and distribution (particularly the absence of airtime in the FM radio market for rock music post 1993 or so), I had to ask myself this:  If there were independently run radio stations with program managers and DJs who took chances with new artists, as there used to be, how many of these country musicians would instead be creating what would become classic rock for today’s generation?  The posturing is there, the power chords, the melodies, and the verse, chorus, verse, chorus, instrumental solo, verse, chorus, outro structure.  The only differences are the noted twang, the costuming, and the shallow pond from which the lyrics are sipped.  And pedal steel.  Shania Twain proved (and profited from) this when she released Up! in 2002, which was released with three different mixes for country, pop and international audiences… though given those options, she might have graced us with rock and metal options as well.    

What adventurous radio stations are left are generally found on college campuses, but their anti-commercial niche is now a readily accessible cog in the music streaming machine.  Of those, I continue to prefer Spotify, where I listen to new releases as they become available while writing, paying bills, playing games on the PC, shopping or trying to find my next kayak adventure.  Most of these new releases can be heard in full, and it doesn’t cost me a dime.  Sure, I have to put up with occasional ads, but, hey, I grew up with radio. They’re not going to annoy me enough to pay for an ad-free experience.  It’s not that I’m unwilling to spend money; if I like a new release sufficiently, I’ll go buy the CD as physical possession still has a hold on me.  I like the art.  I like having the lyrics.  I like having a hard copy. 

If I don’t like a release enough to buy it, I’ll add a favored song to my personal Spotify playlist so that I can come back to it later, even if I rarely do.  This begets data, of course, but I welcome Spotify’s algorithms that observe my tastes and curate other music that I might like.  “Discover Weekly” begins my week with about 150 minutes of music for me to sample.  It’s not perfect, but it’s improving as I continue to add to my playlist.  Listening to this is not an imperative on my schedule, but efficacy of the time spent is far better than sampling the featured new releases each week.  And, circling around to my continual pursuits of new music, this is a much more immediate experience than reading strangers’ opinions, never mind deciphering their lives. 

Wondering perhaps if McDonald had regained his footing and was again reviewing CDs, I revisited The War Against Silence recently.  Not so much, but it seems he’s a busy guy.  On a different tab of the site, I find that McDonald was the principle engineer and “data alchemist” for a company that made streaming services better and which was subsequently acquired by Spotify.  That makes all sorts of sense, even if the tedium of categorizing the musical styles of bands in Indonesia does not appeal.   In any case, it seems likely he is a driving force in classifying, 1,435 1,438 music genres (He added three since I last looked.  I suppose a new genre has the buzz of discovering and naming of a new star).  An MIT grad mixed with music results in, well,  take a look, and click on the species of your choice for a music sample.  Then read the origin story of “the sorting hat.” 

In any case, I have some new options should I need them when writing a CD review.  I don’t like country much at all, so I’ll let others decide if Sturgill belongs where I assigned him or if he is better served in the newer subclades.  Country rock. Progressive bluegrass.  New Americana.  Deep New Americana. , Anti-folk.  Whatever.  I’m off to try the playlist for neo-progressive…  Oh, and: