By Paul Wellman
IN-PRINT SAMPLE #1 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 74)
WISHES COME TRUE: It’s easy to label college femme folk as drab and acoustic, but folk rock fatale Jonatha Brooke has managed to etch out a unique and innovative sound with her seventh solo release, Careful What You Wish For. Despite its battered and edgy exterior-as this is truly folk music with a skinned knee-Brooke illustrates a maturity seasoned by experience and sweetened by sentimentality. Her Chrissie Hynde-esque soulfulness is enhanced by a youthful optimism, which makes for an endearing live performance. Catch Brooke with Michelle Mangione and a special guest at SOhO on Friday, June 8 at 8 p.m.
ONLINE ESSAY #1: Why I want to be a Music Writer
My interest in music journalism is the result of a waging battle of artistic idealism and disillusionment. I grew up in a house that honored the importance of music and was afforded a skilled and enthusiastic education, which included classical training, performance, broadcast, and analysis.
Through heartache and sacrifice, I crawled out of college two years ago towards the working world with high hopes of using my degrees in English, political science, and music proactively; but I didn’t witness the culmination of my interests in the business world when struggling to leave the realm of the academic.
When writing, a skill I had used in academic papers or poorly worded advertising, crept into my mind as a potential career, it was a short hop, skip, and jump to realizing my ideal position as a music writer. I have always wanted to work in the music field, but realized that I was an analytical artist in an industry that rewards the creative.
I hope to harness my writing to promote and improve the state of music and music education in our local community and beyond. I hope to have the opportunity of an education that will teach me how to control my writing in a useful manner, continue to refine and develop my interpretive skills, open doors to a career in writing, allow me to work in the arts while speaking to and developing my other interests, and most importantly, help me contribute something meaningful.
IN-PRINT SAMPLE #2 (from Sound & Fury, Independent vol. 75)
Blackfield’s debut album was composed of 13 tracks of whining from the freshly dumped. The band’s sophomore release, Blackfield II, rounds the grief cycle with the anger and bittersweet acceptance of a detached ex. The album marks a wonderful step up from the sappy feel-baddery of its predecessor through a smattering of catchier melodies and relatable lyrics. The band’s artistic improvement is showcased courtesy of a working collaboration between Steve Wilson and Israeli pop phenom, Aviv Geffen. Still, its ethereal arrangements and stubborn adherence to depression, featured in tracks like “Epidemic” and “Where Is My Love?”, make the album a hard listen; shameful, considering the musical feast it, like most prog rock, promises to be.
ONLINE ESSAY #2: My first concert experience
Music enthusiasts are leery when asked about their past musical choices. Taste indicates persona, and anything less than the Beatles or Led Zeppelin is open for merciless criticism. This being said, it is with utter humiliation that I must reveal my first concert to be a Something Corporate show. It was held at Slim’s in San Francisco and sponsored by LIVE 105.3FM with specially priced $1.05 tickets.
My friends and I had arrived two hours prior to doors opening to find the ticket line three blocks long. Hours passed, tickets were sold, and we had finally come within feet of the box office when the concert sold out. Disheartened, we reluctantly turned toward the parking lot when a van containing the band members pulled into proximity.
Our spirits lifted once again, but only in time to see the van-which had slowed to find the loading dock-peel out, kicking street refuse and watery sludge in our faces like a surreal scene in a movie. Stubbornly determined, we followed Something Corporate to four other venues and had similar luck. We finally saw them at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles nearly a year and a half later. Final verdict: Not bad.
IN-PRINT SAMPLE #3 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 75)
STILLWATER REVIVAL: Life on the open road-musicians of Midwest Americana love to explore this idea as if they were composing the next Odyssey. Bluesy lament after folk ballad after barnburner, these men and women sing of the impossibility of love, limitless isolation, and the curious need to keep trucking. Jimmy LaFave has tapped into the heart of this twisted romance in his latest release, Cimarron Manifesto. Mixing red dirt rockabilly with honest and unadorned country blues, LaFave’s siren song calls you to commiserate a love unrequited. Experience LaFave, presented by Sings Like Hell, with special guest Joel Rafael at the Lobero Theatre on June 23 at 8 p.m.
ONLINE ESSAY #3: My dream interview
To be a music enthusiast safe from the scrutiny of others, one must fortify himself with an encyclopedic knowledge of artists, albums, and genres. So, when the topic of whom I would interview in the absence of time, space, and worldly constraints was heaped onto my plate, I immediately thumbed through my Rolodex of interesting musicians. Initially, I wanted to choose an artist unique enough to prove to you, Internet readers, that my expansive catalog of musicians was more complete and impressive than that of my competition.
Who to choose? Ravel? Liberace? Alcazar? Johnny “Guitar” Watson? As I cycled through, it became abundantly clear that the challenge set before me had been completed long ago: I would interview John Lennon. John Lennon has been the most significant musician, artist, advocate, and idol of my short twenty-three years of life. The idea of crossing the space-time continuum for the fortune of his company is too great an opportunity to pass by. Sorry readers, selfishness prevails. But with a man who has touched the social fabric of the last fifty years so incredibly, it is sure to be a worthwhile interview. I would ask the following questions:
1. You once expressed to Yoko Ono your frustration at artists covering the music of Paul’s solo career, but not of your own. In recent years, A Perfect Circle covered “Imagine,” Green Day covered “Working Class Hero,” and the I Am Sam soundtrack covered your work with the Beatles. Do you feel that your music has been changed in the belly of the consumer? Are the covers worthy of your approval?
2. How has the music community affected your impression of it and role in it within the last twenty years?
3, Oscar Wilde once claimed, “No artist desires to prove anything;” yet you have had an extensive career as a social critic and have even used your art to influence change. How do you consolidate your role as a social critic and artist?
4. How have your personal choices affected your craft, including your role in social advocacy, fatherhood, and marriage?
5, After twenty-six years of silence, what is the message you feel the world should hear given our current state?
IN-PRINT SAMPLE #4 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 76)
EL BUKI IS BACK: Though the feathered locks and sequined costumes of Los Bukis are long gone, the qualities that made Marco Antonio Sol-s the group’s unstoppable force-his flair for the dramatic, consummate musicianship, and dashing good looks-are alive and well. In his latest solo release, Trozos de Mi Alma 2, Sol-s fuses elements of contemporary rock, big band, and dance with modern norte±o and tejano sounds. The result-10 lovely tracks of romance and yearning-proves that his illustrious, decades-old career has only just begun. With the heart-wrenching vulnerability and vocal force of Harry Nilsson, the versatile showmanship and orchestral know-how of Bobby Darin, and live orchestral accompaniment, Sol-s is sure to impress. He performs bellbottom-free at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Friday, June 29 at 7p.m.
ONLINE ESSAY #4: Cover song that eclipsed the original
I’m not one for cover songs. Too often, the cover of a song overshadows its more brilliant and honest counterpart and heaps a load of misplaced praise onto the cover artist. Many covers duplicate, water down, or destroy the essence of the original. A good cover song, however, is a magnificent celebration of the splendor and artistry of its original. It overcomes the faults and popularity of the original and suggests a new way of looking at the song. Therefore, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue’s cover of “Proud Mary” is, without a doubt, the ultimate cover song.
The Turners create a soulful, funky, and energetic cover that maintains the magic of the original recording artist, Creedence Clearwater Revival, while making a distinct departure in style. The cover resurrects the melody, lyrics, and impact of the original with brassy regalia and makes an effort to diversify rather than improve. The song gave the Turners their first Top Five hit and has continued to hold its own to this day alongside the Creedence original. Though both songs are classic, this cover has made an indelible mark on its genre and time, and proudly holds its place in music history.
IN-PRINT SAMPLE #5 (from Positively State Street, Independent vol. 77)
FALLING IN LOVELL: Four years ago, the Lovell Sisters were just your above-average, highly talented, classically trained teenage musicians. Then they were bit by the bluegrass bug. “Over the last couple months, we tried to narrow ourselves in a genre box,” said Jessica Lovell, fiddler and lead vocalist. “But when it comes down to it, we want to play good music that people enjoy.”
So they have, with an energized, imaginative debut release, When Forever Rolls Around. Band members include 21-year-old Jessica, 18-year-old resophonic guitarist Megan Lovell, and mandolin-playing youngster Rebecca Lovell, just 16 years old. But don’t be fooled. The group’s fast-paced innovation and melancholic dobro make for a sound that’s mature beyond their years.
The Lovell Sisters’ art is a fusion of time-honored Americana, new-grass innovation, and ventures into swing, Celtic, and even classic rock. It’s no wonder they were snatched up by Lyric Street Records, producers of a little-known band named Rascal Flatts. “There’s something about going to a live show,” Jessica reminisced about her early bluegrass experiences. Catch the Lovell Sisters, presented by Sings Like Hell in a concert with renowned singer/songwriter Michael Weston King, at the Lobero Theatre on July 7 at 8 p.m.
ONLINE ESSAY #5: Most overrated album
I approached this week’s assignment with great trepidation. To say that an album is overrated means that I disapprove of work that obviously deserves - and has been rewarded - much praise. It also assumes disappointment in the artist, music, or album’s popularity. This is simply not the case. An album is overrated if the significance of the album is overvalued. Given this standard, I believe The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is largely overrated. This is a hallmark concept album, considered the Beatles’ magnum opus in new artistic terrain, song writing, and instrumentation. Its celebrity, however, has become a force to reckon with; overshadowing noteworthy music of its day like the Velvet Underground, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. It even trumps the important innovation of other Beatles’ albums like Revolver, the White Album, and Abbey Road. Perhaps the most significant reason Sgt. Pepper’s is overrated, is the fact that its inflated standards have made it virtually impossible for new music to compete. In an age when the music industry struggles with fanatic consumerism, disposable trends, and illegal pirating, every album is made to seem greater than is truly the case. In this instance, a worthy album is held on too high a pedestal to allow for anything else to clamber up.