Thursday, July 16, 2009

Know Your Know-It-All

It's been five weeks and the feedback cards and letters have been voluminous. As most of them seem to comprise music blogger-cred litmus tests, I thought I'd trot out a sampling and answer 'em:

Q. Dear Veronica: What is the greatest piece of music ever written?
A. Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Q. What musical instrument would you gladly live out the rest of your life without ever hearing again?
A. The cowbell. I don't know of its origins as percussive embellishment, but I'll just bet PDQ Bach was behind it. (It should be noted, however, that Talking Heads' 'Crosseyed and Painless' is the exception that proves the rule.)

Q. Pull a random 45 out of your collection. What is it and why do you have it?
A. 'Into the Mystic' by Johnny Rivers. I have it because I like it (of course) but also because I have never found the single edit of the track on CD. This would make for a fun Q&A segment on its own ('What songs sound better to you in their 'edited for radio' form than in their original cut?'), but let's travel in a different direction:
Everyone has their musical guilty pleasures. I have dozens; I can still happily listen to Karen Carpenter, 'My Fair Lady,' and all six sides of 'Yessongs' (that's 272MB at 256kbps VBR for some). But what of the other side of the coin? What seemingly universally loved artists have you never taken a shine to?
My number one example is Van Morrison. Sacrilege, yes. In different times I'd have had my skin flayed for such an admission. I won't go into the whys and wherefores; it's a matter of taste and my apparent lack of same. Let's just say I've been waiting 40 years for him to make 'Astral Weeks' again.
But this doesn't mean the man can't write a great song. 'Into the Mystic' is a beauty. And I love what Johnny Rivers did with it.

Q. What do you find the most challenging aspect of music exploration in the age of the Internet?
A. Some labels and artists seem to require a goodly bit of hoop-jumping from their potential listeners. I am a big believer in one-stop shopping; I have my list of wanna-hears and want to find as many as possible without site-hopping. This was Tower Records' calling card for awhile; they were as close as one could get back in the days when a retailer could squeeze most of recorded musical history within the walls of one building.
I beat the drum for on-demand streaming services. It is simply the easiest way to audition music. But I know if I'm reading reviews and, say, a Drag City label release looks interesting, I'll have to pass it by because it won't be there. It's not laziness on my part; I consider myself pretty intrepid. But there is SO MUCH good new music to be found that I can readily cut bait on some.
There is no right or wrong here. Drag City has its philosophy. I have mine: I'm a speed-dater. At the outset it's all about triage.

Q. Who is your favorite living male vocalist?
A. Toss-up. Sometimes I'd say Mark Lanegan. Since the end of his Screaming Trees days I have purchased every solo and collaboration release of his, and I have never been disappointed.
But today I'll go with David Eugene Edwards, formerly of 16 Horsepower and now fronting Woven Hand. If you aren't familiar, his is a country Gothic sound. I'm out of my depth the moment I touch on any matters spiritual, but he seems to have a Pentecostal, Old Testament vibe. A precursor might be some of the Violent Femmes' more Appalachian-themed folk music. Nick Cave lovers: take note.
Here we have Edwards and Woven Hand performing 'Your Russia.' 


The Minneapolis Kid said...


If you like Into the Mystic by Johnny Rivers, you should listen to Johnny's version of Van's song, Songwriter, off his 2004 cd, Reinvention Highway.

Rivers would be a great act to have play the Cedar!

Gin Soaked Bar Room Queen, Memphis said...

How about making a cowbell rule exception for the Stones' Honky Tonk Women?