by Kevin Pearce
I saw some headline the other day where the Tory leader was saying people who were addicted to drugs and drink had made their own lifestyle choices, so tough luck. Yeah, right. It’s as easy as that. Well, we all have our own addictions. Mine was records. I used to buy stacks of them. CDs, old vinyl, brand new and second hand. I could justify it. They were cheap. They were for research. They were only one click away.
Well, life has a way of pulling the rug from under you. Suddenly it wasn’t quite so sensible to spend small fortunes on records. Nevertheless I needed my musical fill. So I gravitated towards the ‘net. The music blogs. The ones where music obsessives post links to files of the sort of sounds some of us hardly dared dream even existed. I got the hang of it, and I got hooked on downloading lost classics shared by modern day saints. Saints who have changed my world, and made it possible to worship at the altar of the Louvin Bros, Gaylads, Quarteto Em Cy, Jorge Ben, Jack Scott, Soulful Strings, Mark Murphy and any jazz vocalists from the late ‘50s with a tendency to the bleak, desolate and cerebral.
There used to be a campaign about home taping killing music. I could never get my head round that. If some guy in Glasgow wanted to fill a cassette with The Litter, Pleasure Seekers, Tim Buckley and Tim Hardin then that was not going to bring the industry to its knees. It might make me jealous or grateful, but hey ho. So as it was then, so it is now. The musical wonders I go fishing for on the web are not available on CD. The original vinyl would cost a ridiculous sum of money. Anyway the money would hardly go to the artists. And let’s face it the industry has had enough money out of me over the years. So let’s therefore raise a glass to the saintly sharers.
Of course I’m addicted, and I get twitchy if I don’t get to make regular visits to my favourite blogspots. The sites come and go, naturally. But there are important ports of call. Like Loronix, the home of beautiful Brazilian sounds, where I’ve discovered Tuca, Marilia Medalha, Beth Carvalho, and so much great music. Like My Jazz World, where I’ve gone for anything touched by David Axelrod or Charles Stepney/Richard Evans. Or Musical Moadem, a true treasure trove where I’ve been seduced by Betty Blake, Nancy Harrow, Pinkie Winters, Pat Bowie, and many more jazz sirens. Or Twilight Zone with its endless supply of garage punk and its fabulous 27 volume Stompin’ series of wild rhythm & blues. Maybe some old reggae at You And Me On A Jamboree if I’m in the mood. Perhaps Redondo Roundup where fantastic old rockabilly type stuff like Johnny Dollar and Jody Reynolds is buried. And maybe strangest of all there’s Quiet! There’s A Lady Onstage, where among some disconcerting contents lie gems from country pop girls like Jeannie C Riley and Bobbi Martin, through ballads and blues, to ‘60s Czech r’n’b belters like Helena Bleherova and Yvonne Prenisilova. And you need to hear Helena’s Slovakian Sugar Town. Trust me!
So the argument about killing new music? Well, if I ran a record label, and I’d invested heavily in a new act, I would be pretty peeved if some toe rag had posted it free on some shoddy site. But then if someone had posted illicitly one Georgia Anne Muldrow song, and someone recognised the name from the great new Erykah record and had a listen then went out and bought Georgia’s stuff, well that’s got to be a force for good. It’s happened to me with Irene Kral, one of my current passions, who I discovered at the excellent Saints and Sinners site. I’ve a bit of a thing about Irene, and even sent off for her Better Than Anything CD, which has sleevenotes by Tommy Wolf, who co-wrote Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most (and bless Bob Dylan for introducing us to Betty Carter singing this) and Ballad of the Sad Young Men, and apparently worked on a musical of Nelson Algren’s A Walk On The Wild Side. Wow! I need to hear that.
So, there, you see, music posted on the web can prompt you to go out and buy the product. In fact, my copy of Mary Lou Williams Presents Black Christ of the Andes has just turned up. I’d come across this incredibly beautiful record, this jazz hymn, on the web, and just had to have it. And anyway the package, courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways, is so beautiful. Now that’s something the web really cannot compete with.