How Do You Define…. and why does it matter?

…singer-songwriter

puzzled emotoconYou ever stop and think about how you perceive and personally define styles or genres of music?  What does AAA mean?  Americana?  Rock?  Pop?  Can you articulate the difference between Rhythm & Blues and contemporary R&B?  Neither can most people – even those we’d think might or should know …such as event talent buyers.

So, I’m on the phone this week – doing what I do – consulting on matters related to music in Colorado, and I get asked “how do you define singer-songwriter?”  My immediate off the cuff answer was “everyone in music is a singer songwriter if they sing songs they write.”  That’s true.  If you sing songs you write you are in fact a singer-songwriter.  But the definition goes well beyond that.

The question came about because the person I was consulting had gotten push back from event buyers for being a singer-songwriter.  For many people in the scene – event buyers especially – the term brings a less than likable meaning – that of solo (or duo) act that sings soft wimpy ballady acoustic “folk” type songs – the type you hear in coffee shops and many brew pubs regionally today.

folk singerAccording to Allmusic.com,  “…the term Singer/Songwriter refers to the legions of performers that followed Bob Dylan in the late 60s and early 70s. Most of the original singer/songwriters performed alone with an acoustic guitar or a piano but some had small groups for backing. Their lyrics were personal, although they were often veiled by layers of metaphors and obscure imagery. Singer/songwriters drew primarily from folk and country, although certain writers like Randy Newman and Carole King incorporated the song-craft of Tin Pan Alley pop. The main concern for any singer/songwriter was the song itself, not necessarily the performance.”

Examples of singer songwriters also include:  Simon & Garfunkle, Billy Joel, Elton John, John Lennon, Van Morrison, and James Taylor from the 70’s and from the more contemporary listings, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow, and Sara Bareilles to name a few.

This point is worth repeating; The main concern for any singer/songwriter was the song itself, not necessarily the performance.”

So why does it matter?  It is the performance issue that drives many buyers away from so called singer-songwriters.  Many buyers don’t see the singer-songwriter as a performer – as an ENTERTAINER (despite the Billy Joels and Elton Johns, who few think of as singer-songwriters, but rather pop and/or rock acts).

I made a few calls to verify that my thinking was in line with realities on the ground.  I wondered why “singer-songwriters” need not apply in most cases.  The answer was “energy.”  What I took from that was not “energy” but FAMILIARITY.  Bring an Elton John or Bob Dylan tribute band to the party and you’re in.  Bring in Bob Dylan performing solo songs on an acoustic guitar that no one has yet become familiar with and he’s out.  Why?  FAMILIARITY = ENERGY and ENERGY = FAMILIARITY.

It’s not that folks expect to hire cover bands …and tribute bands fall into a different role in the scene – accepted as something more than a cover band.  It’s that folks who put on events desire music that the average attendee can “move along to” (read:  “sing along to”) even if they’ve never heard the song before.

If you avoid using the term singer-songwriter, as an artist what do you say you do musically?  Americana?  What’s that?  What’s different between pop and rock?  Is country “country” if it doesn’t sound like what’s on commercial country radio – or is that even country to begin with and when is it “too country?”  How bout the differences between Rhythm & Blues (R&B) in the classic context, and R&B in the contemporary context?

One event buyer/planner this week asked me to find them “Colorado sounding” acts.  When pressed, I came away with an answer that what was meant was acts in the bluegrass, jam-grass, jamband, reggae. jamband oriented funk and hip-hop, and “Americana” (read: non Nashville sounding country) styles of music.  At no time was I asked for singer-songwriter, folk, rock, pop, blues, soul, jazz, or country.

My best advice?  Leave the genres to those who care (uh … hello?)  and define based on comparatives, on “if you like so and so you’ll like _____________”  … choose “__________ compliments so and so in a mix,”  NOT “_________ sounds like so and so.

And even if you are, don’t call yourself a singer-songwriter … most singer songwriters I know can do solo, duo, trio, quartet, or even orchestra shows – and are not simply a gal or guy with a guitar …or Bob Dylan without a band …a “folk” singer.

When we think of great Colorado singer-songwriters, here are a few I think are definitely worth mentioning …we do love singer-songwriters in Colorado.  Turns out they’re among our most revered treasures.

 

#coloradorocks #coloradovideos #colordaosingersongwriters #leaderofthepack #localmusicmatters

 

The Colorado Sound Live365 – TOP 10 Mid-FEB 2014

Doing some backend work on the station … added new cut from Dianne Reeve’s new album today to the morning 6A-11A schedule.  Pulled the spins list .. these are the most heard titles right now.

(_____) = date added to rotation.

1. Otis Taylor – Blue Rain In Africa (Oct 03, 13)
2. Jeff Brinkman – Island (Oct 04, 13)
3. Trout Steak Revival – Bell (Dec 29, 13)
4. The Fray – Love Don’t Die (Oct 25, 13)
5. Big Head Todd & The Monsters – Josephina (Jan 23, 14)
6. Elephant Revival – Birds And Stars (Dec 29, 13)
7. The Changing Colors – True Love Knows (Jul 30, 13)
8. 3 Twins – Station On Down The Line (Dec 29, 13)
9. Mosey West – Old Stone (Jan 23, 14)
10. Matt Skinner Band – Ashes To Ashes (Dec 30, 13)

The Colorado Sound S7 EP32 SEPT 2013

Goat_Logo_color_on_whiteI’m so done with the heat until next June.  Seriously.  I am not done with festival events however 🙂 …. One more – SEPT 20-21 – Fortober Fest – Fort Collins – bicycles, beers, and bands is the theme for this newer annual event now in its second year.  This year’s featured acts = 12 Cents for Marvin, the Railbenders, P-Nuckle, Jeff Brinkman Band and several others.  It’s the last big chance I know of to catch some of the region’s top bands outdoors before the fall sets in hard.  Time to decorate the bike and join the fun … hope to see you there.  Isn’t September 21 the first day of fall?  Hmmmm.  

In artist related news – congrats to John Common and Jessica DiNicola on their wedding this past week … nicely done you two 🙂  If you don’t know these two fine singers, check out this video of John & Jessica performing at the Soiled Dove Underground in 2011 … 

SuCh Stretch MarksCongratulations are in order for Colorado actress and neo-soul songstress Su Charles who goes by the handle SuCH … she signed a distro deal for her more recent album, Stretch Marks, to be sold at retail in Japan – a pretty big deal there .. and she also won Denver’s equivalent to the Tony Award – called the Henry Award – she won for outstanding lead actress in a musical for her performance of Celie in the Colorado Purple.  SuCh is a Boston born, New York raised, California educated, Chicago groomed soul singer living and working in Denver – and I for one am glad she is.

News broke just this morning that Jeff Brinkman made the cut for this season’s X-Factor …  see the video here => https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151552424196895  “The X Factor” Season 3 premieres Wednesday at 8/7c on Fox.  With that … the Featured Video Pick of the Week is Jeff Brinkman – Island … 

PLAYLIST S7 EP32

Boenzee Cryque “Still In Love With You Baby” [single] (1967)
Zephyr “I Am Not Surprised” from Sunset Ride (1972)
a. Tom Collins “Mambo” from Stick & Poke (2013)
3 Twins “Little Bird” from De Nada (2013)
Bad Brad & the Fat Cats “Thunder On the Mountain” from Eyes on the Prize (2013)
Meniskus “The Equalizer” from Stowaway (2013)
Lion Drome “Curve of the Earth” from Curve of the Earth (2013)OneRepublic “Light It Up” from Native (2013)
Pretty Lights “Around the Block (feat. Talib Kweli)” from A Color Map of the Sun (2013)
(D) Gabrielle Louise “Colours” from The Bird in My Chest (2013)
Newcomers Home “Hold On” from In the Hour (2004)
GogoLab “Honey Trap” from Border Patrol (2013)
Cory Harris “Got to Be A Better Way” from Daily Bread (2005)
India.Arie “Slow Down” from Voyage to India (2002)
Flobots “The Rose and the Thistle” from The Circle in the Square (2012)
12 Cents for Marvin “Russian Roulette (Tragedy Version)” from Change (2006)
Dubskin “Warrior Stomp” from Release from Fear (2011)Head for The Hills “Never Does” from Blue Ruin (2013)
Thom Chacon “Ain’t Gonna Take Us Alive” from Thom Chacon (2013)
Patti Fiasco “Small Town Lights” from Small Town Lights (2013)
Yonder Mountain String Band “Criminal” from The Show (2009)
Wendy Woo Band “Hold On” from Live (2013)
Danny Shafer “I Am” from Wherever You Are (2013)
Fingers of the Sun “The Leaves Were So Green” from Fingers of the Sun (2011)Jim Stranahan “I’ve Got No Rhythm in My Feet” from Free For All (2010)

The Colorado Sound – V4 EP40 Oct 2012

LOL … I almost forgot to post this week’s playlist… only thing made me remember was a post or two on my facebook page thanking me for playing some of this week’s new music from Boa & the Constrictors and Eef .. two of the new blues records this month.  This time of year is one of the most exciting for new releases, and this week was no exception.  The Boa & the Constrictors record was an advance, so I can’t share anything from that with you, sorry to say… as is the new Beats Noir! record, “Where the Sun Goes Down,” and I’m With Her‘s “Songs We Said Goodbye To,” which is due to drop officially on Nov 2.

On another note, I’m always looking for great recordings from the past and happen to have come across one I’m hoping to add to the library soon — from an old friend Victoria Woodworth .. check out this video from a recording done at Caribou Ranch in 1980.

PLAYLIST

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club “Viceroy Filter King” from Always Say Please and Thank You (2000)
Sixteen Horsepower “Black Soul Choir” from Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes (1996)
Ending People “Beat of My Heart” from Fill Your Lungs (2012)
Flashbulb Fires “Dark Ghost (I’ve Got Arms)” from Gasconader (2012)
Rebel Tongue “Lose Hope” from Movin’ On (2012)
(D) Boa & the Constrictors “Married to the Blues” from Married to the Blues (2012)
(D) Eef “I Ain’t Gonna Wait Forever” from Bluesalicious (2012)
Arliss Nancy “Should’ve Been There” from Simple Machines (2012)
Jon Snodgrass “Remember My Name” from Visitor’s Band (2009)
(D) Shawn Waggoner “Placebo” from Goodbye Raven (2012)

(N) I’m With Her “Lost My Way” from Songs We Said Goodbye To (2012)
Words In Flight “Only A Dream” from Music Is… (2012)
Leftover Salmon “Ain’t Gonna Work” from Euphoria (1997)
Andrew Vogt “Phil Woodshed” from Cats Afoot (2010)
(D) The String Cheese Incident “Can’t Wait Another Day[single] (2012)
Kyle Hollingsworth “She” from Then There’s Now (2009)
Katie Glassman “Bye Bye Boise” from Snapshot (2012)
Robert Cline Jr. “Mockingbird” from All The Right Reasons (2012)
(N) Jeff Brinkman “Halo” from Strange (2012)
Devotchka “The Enemy Guns” from How It Ends (2004)
Achille Lauro “Lightning” from Flight or Flight (2012)
(D) The Babysitters “Gigantic Sunglasses” from Have A Seat (2012)
(D) Beats Noir! “Where the Sun Goes Down” from Where the Sun Goes Down (2013)
Petals of Spain “I Gotta Know” from I Gotta Know (2012)
The Apples in Stereo “Same Old Drag” from New Magnetic Wonder (2007)
Mama Lenny and the Remedy “Dangerous To Touch” from Punches & Hugs (2012)
(N) Chris Malley and Bob Schlesinger “Illegal Snakes” from Split Shot (2012)

The Colorado Sound – V4 EP39 Oct 2012 (+ a rare review / Jeff Brinkman – Strange)

Someone recently gave me a good idea for my monthly news notes and spins column – hyperlink every band/album.   I haven’t got the time to do that unfortunately.  What I think I can do is provide a link to “debut” entries… here on the weekly playlist to begin with, and I’ll give some consideration to doing it on the monthly charts also.

(D) = album debut = first time a track from an album has been played on the show.
(N) = song debut = first time a song from a previously debuted album has been played on the show.

REVIEW – Jeff Brinkman “Strange”

Before I publish this week – I’ve been sitting listening to the new album by Jeff Brinkman, Strange, as I work on this post.  Of the over 300 releases I’ve tracked this past year this one makes an excellent case for being among the BEST OF 2012.   Typically, when I audition an album I’m looking for that ONE song that “makes” the record – it starts with the performance and moves on from there.  Three such songs and an album “has legs,” meaning it will probably stay in rotation for several months of the year, easily long enough to be a year end TOP 40 contender.  When an album has MORE than three singles it’s a bonified hit, the kind that will usually receive both critical praise and sustained radio airplay…. and more often than not propel an artist/band to broader popularity and more featured show slots.   This is a beautiful year end surprise.  It easily establishes Jeff Brinkman and Mark Kranjcec as one of the best songwriting and co-producer teams I’ve ever heard regionally, and Jeff himself as one of the best of Colorado’s great male singer/songwriters of the past half century…. easily in the same class as Todd Park Mohr (Big Head Todd & the Monsters), Sean Kelly (the Samples), Isaac Slade (the Fray), or Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic).  I would expect this record to be featured prominently on adult/acoustic rock oriented playlists at several stations around the state.  The wonderful Miss Pattie aka Mrs Goat suggests he reminds her of  Cat Stevens and Eddie Vedder … works for me.  Also recommended for fans of Paul Simon and Dave Matthews.

PLAYLIST

Otis Taylor “Harry, Turn the Music Up” from Clovis People Vol. 3 (2010)
Eddie Turner “Monkey See, Monkey Do” from Miracles And Demons (2010)
Chris Daniels “Medical Marijuana” from Better Days (2012)
Longest Day Of The Year “Change Our Ways” from Turn Into the Ground (2012)
Johnny Hickman “Another Road” from Tilting (2012)
(D) Rocky Mountain Night Train “Get It On” [single] (2012)
(D) Cutthroat Drifters “Duration” [single] (2012)
(D) Bronze “Devil Again” from Snake Oil (2012)
Tommy Bolin “Bustin’ Out for Rosey” from Private Eyes (1976)
Coles Whalen “Beautiful Without Me” from I Wrote This for You (2012)
SHEL “The Battle of Evermore” from SHEL (2012)
The Samples “My Town” from Samples (1990)
Free Bear “The Repeater” from Free Bear (2012)
Hazel Miller “Heart to Heart” from Westword Music Showcase 1999>2000 (2000)
Lannie Garrett “I’m On Your Side” from DoubleBack (1993)
Bop Skizzum “Do You Want It?” from Coloradical (2012)
The Knew “Old and Young” from Man Monster (2012)
Churchill “Made A List” from Change EP (2012)
(D) I’m With Her “Don’t Wait for Me” from Songs We Said Goodbye To (2012)
John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light “Same Scar” from Beautiful Empty (2011)
Chimney Choir “ace of spades” from (ladder) (2012)
(N) The Epilogues “The Shadow King” from Cinematics (2012)
(D) Jonny Barber and the Rhythm Razors “Mystery Train” from Golden Plates (2012)
(N) Chris Thompson & the Coral Creek String Band “Traffic” from Forty Years (2012)
J. Miller Band “The Reasons” from The Road to Elvado (2012)
(D) Chris Malley and Bob Schlesinger “Split Shot” from Split Shot (2012)

The Colorado Sound V4 EP33 Sept 1-7 2012

First things first:  Make sure you check out News Notes & Spins – under the charts category … for the Aug Top 40 and more …

Thanks to Andy Rok for making sure I got new Bop Skizzum music to debut exclusively this week.  Much love to those folks – the new material sounds great.   Also new this week – The Yawpers debut full length.   I just received and am looking forward to some other new releases breaking on the show next week – including one from a relatively new artist on the scene who has the support of an all-star lineup of support from some of the the top bands in the state:  Keith Moseley, Bill Nershi and Kyle Hollingsworth (The String Cheese Incident), Chris Misner and Tyler Grant (Grant Farm & Drew Emmitt Band), Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon & Emmitt Nershi Band), Chris Thompson and Stef Briggs (Coral Creek), Joe Lessard (Head for the Hills), and Liza Oxnard (Kyle Hollingsworth Band, Motet) …and new music from a band that Westword’s Dave Herrera had in his HEAVY ROTATION last week – The Royal. 

The Playlist

(D) = album debut on show
(N) = new track from previously debuted album

John Denver “Paradise” from Rocky Mountain High (1972)
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “Mr. Bojangles” from Mr. Bojangles (1970)
Rick Roberts “Glad to be Goin’” from She Is A Song (1973)
Joe Cocker “One Word (Peace)” from Hymn For My Soul (2008)
(D) John Oates Band “Sittin’ On Top of the World” from The Bluesville Sessions (2012)
(N) Chris Daniels “Wildcat” from Better Days (2012)
(N) Ending People “Amazing Grace” from Fill Your Lungs (2012)
Bad Weather California “When You Smile” from Sunkissed (2012)
(D) Bop Skizzum “Leave It At the Door” from Coloradical (2012)
The Knew “Old and Young” from Man Monster (2012)
El Toro de la Muerte “Things In My Head” from Dancer These Days (2011)
Katie Herzig “Best Day of Your Life” from The Waking Sleep (2011)
Jill Sobule “Cinnamon Park” from Underground Victorious (2004)
Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra “You Don’t Know What Love Is” from Sharks And Manatees (2012)
String Cheese Incident “Outside and Inside” from Outside Inside (2001)
Achille Lauro “Lightning” from Flight or Flight (2012)
(D) The Yawpers “All Night Long” from Capon Crusade (2012)
Reed Foehl “River Song” from Stoned Beautiful (2007)
Churchill “Change” from Change EP (2012)
Grant Farm “The Nine Pound Hammer” from Grant Farm (2012)
Leftover Salmon “Gulf of Mexico” from Aquatic Hitchhiker (2012)
(N) Jeff Brinkman “Don’t Bring Me Down” from Strange (2012)
Coles Whalen “Paper Airplane” from I Wrote This for You (2012)
The Apples in Stereo “No One In The World” from Travellers in Space and Time (2010)
(N) SHEL “The Battle of Evermore” from SHEL (2012)
The Monocles “The Spider & the Fly” from The Spider & the Fly (1966)
Adam Revell & Essence Rider “Quintessence” from Triple Leaf (2010)