COUNTRY ON THE MOVE ........
The Dixie Chicks have just announced that they have reached an agreement with their recording company, Columbia Records, to re-release all four of their award winning CD's in vinyl. Why? If you have noticed, you will see more and more national recording groups putting their product out on vinyl. The most noticeable ones are on the evening national television shows. Dave Letterman was a champion for those groups that have their music on vinyl. So is Jimmy Fallon, no matter what the genre of music. The Dixie Chicks are more bluegrass oriented with some good older style country music, for them and their listeners, the real thing. There are even some very successful labels, like Rounder Records (who recently made the move from their home offices in Massachusetts to Nashville). Not because of so-called 'country' music of today, but rather to be closer to the next tier down of talent that do not have the millions of dollars to compete for space on the music charts these days. They aren't even interested in creating super stars, they just want to find a viable way for outstanding talent to at least be heard in America. So why the big stir about vinyl instead of digital CD? The most common answer is, the vinyl sound is much warmer, easier to listen to, softer on the ears, and certainly not 'crisp' and mechanical sounding like the digital CD. It also seems more realistic and truer to the 'true' sound being recorded. Digital CD on the other hand is a sort of mechanical reproduction of what is recorded, and does not necessarily 'capture' all the nuances of good music.
Thinking of those same artists who do not have the money to 'compete' in the music charts, for those that do the genre of music called 'country' has turned into a sort of sound-alike, look-alike, "fit the mold or no go" situation that even their so called stars are having trouble dealing with. What that certainly assures us is not only do the major labels that participate in this quandary have total control of their product, they also control the radio stations that chart music, they control the artists on their label, and they control the music publishing as well. Pretty much a short-term big-money profit line, but seeing the festivals of this kind of music being cancelled right and left, it's a pretty good indication that not all is well in the big world of music payola. There's even a sort of underground movement standing firm against this kind of musical corruption. Called "Americana" I've had the opportunity of reviewing some albums from some incredibly gifted music makers. The genre itself is pretty far reaching, everything from folk and old time or traditional country music to jazz and blues just for starters. They do not participate in trying to get their music aired on charting radio station, neither do they spend millions of dollars on advertised promotion that of course offers the normal 'pull' power of mass communication. The Carter Family sold goat gland medicine on Mexican radio way back when. That hasn't changed much, the so-called country stars of today have huge PR firms shipping out any various kind of stories on a daily basis. Anything to keep their 'name' in front of the public.
So how does that 'fit' our upper Midwest lifestyle? Not much. Being a terrific rural state, perhaps the most rural of all our 50 states, Iowa still has a lot of 'common sense' that they stand firm on most of the time. There's still a huge population in Iowa of these common sense folks that still like what they call the 'real-deal' in country music. It's the same with just about everything else. Outsiders say we're just slow. We just say we're not in a big hurry. One of the biggest and oldest festivals of true American country music is now entering it's 41st year in Iowa. It's still seven days long, and it boasts ten stages of entertainment. Perhaps not being in a big hurry helps.
Bob Everhart, Pres. NTCMA - www.ntcma.net
for Country Music News International