Sunday, January 4, 2015

Thank God I'm a Country Boy

Is there anything better than streaming music?  Many years ago, I read a quote from Steve Jobs, “people want to own their own music, not rent it.”   It was a quote that stuck with me.  At the time I heard it I was still buying from iTunes, which in of itself was arguably still archaic.  I say that because I knew many people who had been downloading free music for a decade already, though I never did so myself (as someone who hoped people would find value in my words, downloading music that was ultimately pirated in my mind was wrong). 

But when I look back on Steve Jobs quote today I wonder if there wasn’t some truth to his statement.  There are a handful of identifiers that exist in our lives that say a little something about who we are, like the kind of car we drive, the shoes we may wear (BTW I could do a whole blog on shoes—I was once a huge shoe guy, but no longer see the importance considering my flip I may be an expert in this field, probably the only one, last tidbit here fellas, women always look at men’s shoes!) and last our music collections!   The music you owned said a little about who you were and in some small, but perhaps strange way, you were proud of it.

Who doesn’t remember the CD tower?  I think I was gifted a half of dozen in a six year period.  Some swiveled, some were small or curved like a snake and were obnoxiously large, acting like a small skyscraper in your six hundred square foot apartment.  It was a piece of useless furniture for that matter—a conversation starter at a party or in your dorm room as friends perused it. 

What has streaming music done for those who subscribe to it?   Well for me it has opened up a world of musical acts that I never knew existed.  Add Band of Horses as a new station on your Pandora and get introduced to Damien Jurado, an indie folk/rock solo act from Seattle, Washington.  It could be argued that even just five years ago I never would have found Damien Jurado unless I happened to stumble into a basement bar in Seattle which doubled as an underground music scene.  And while that level of accessibility that streaming music has provided is a wonderful thing for both the listener and the artist it inherently provides for some sort of detachment.  I didn’t discover Damion Jurado, but rather Jurado found me.   Before, there was something “claim staking” about tripping over a band (ten years ago) that none of your friends knew about, and if that band makes it big (radio time), you were music genius.  An example that comes to mind for me is 1994 in Cancun, Mexico, a buddy of mine Brendan Toner, introduces me to The Dave Matthews Band—enough said.  Brendan owned that one.  DMB had been recording music for three years already (1991 debut) but in relative mainstream obscurity.   You might be asking, who cares?  What’s so important about how you find a particular band or even genre?  And to that end I think you’re correct, but streaming music is just one more way in which technology has changed who we are and how we do things.  Back in the day, going to the record store was an event you thought about all week.  You would read about that upcoming release in Rolling Stone or hear about it on the radio and save up your money all week or month to buy that CD (or vinyl for those of you forty-five and older), and you couldn’t wait to get home and play it (fumbling with the ceramic packaging that took forever to get a grip on). 

There is something to be said for the loss of excitement in our lives as technology continues to burgeon.  For kids today I guess it’s the anticipation of that new x-box game they are waiting on.  It may be the excitement their feeling in the car on the way to Target or waiting by the front door for the mailman to deliver that Amazon package.  But isn’t something lost with it being a video game and not a record album or CD cover?  Growing up, specifically my teenage years, my music collection rarely varied.  Scrub my CD tower (any one of them) and you’d find a steady collection of Rock with some old school Heavy Metal.

I think Steve Jobs comment may have been a product of his age and generation.  For someone as technologically savvy and cutting edge as he was, could it be perhaps, his music collection was in part a statement about who he was as a person?  Was that trip to the music store an event he never forgot?  Tough to say without asking him, but I would guess at some point Mr. Jobs (like many of us) held tightly onto a record album waiting in line to buy it eagerly thinking about hearing that first cut or replaying his favorite song a dozen times before someone in the house screamed “enough already.”

For me, music has always been a driving force of my writing.  It’s no secret (for anyone that has read Fantastik) that I’m a huge Springsteen fan and wrote most of the book while listening to many of his classics.   But beyond the loss of nostalgia that an old record album or CD cover can bring out in us, I am thankful for streaming music if for no other reason than reconnecting me with some part of my childhood that I had forgotten about. 

I would not categorize my parents as music heads by any stretch.  They were both born in 1939 and were a product of the 50’s…even Elvis and the Beatles were a touch after their time.  Further, if I had to categorize their music tastes I would say it was classical, jazz and big band (Lawrence Welk was on every Friday night), however both of them had a unique and rather curious fondness for country music and in the 1970’s, which was a part of my childhood years, country music was at its absolute best.  In my mind the 70’s was the Golden era of country; acts like Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and John Denver to name a few.  There was a box of eight tracks in the built in’s in the family room and every one of those acts, along with a few more, were in that box.  I have good memories of hearing John Denver playing on a bright sunny Saturday afternoon in the spring time.  A happy, hopeful time…his words said as much. 

I reconnected with country several years ago (the country I knew well, 1970 acts) and thanks to streaming music I have been introduced to a slew of other artists I had never listened to before, acts like Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr, Merle Haggard and Charlie Pride. 

Streaming /digital music, for all it has changed (or taken away) from the way I perceive music, it has put back in an immeasurable way.  I can be in my office writing, listening to the John Denver station on Pandora and instantly be taken back to any number of Saturday afternoon’s thirty years ago and recall the moment, Sunshine on my Shoulders filling the house as we did our chores, read a book or just sat around.

It was my parent’s music collection, not mine, and while my music tastes still vary and seems to expand with every year that passes, I often find myself listening to that golden era of country more than any other genre of music.  Hard to say whether I ever would have downloaded/bought that John Denver album from iTunes a few years back, let alone Waylon Jennings, but my guess is no.       

Bumper sticker of the month:  Wag More, Bark Less…thanks maroon Prius, wise words!

Great song I forgot about and fun to sing in the car—Dance the Night Way, Van Halen

Whiskey tasting…I couldn’t write my first one without choosing Jack Daniels Old No. 7.  My first introduction to Jack Daniels was as a teenager when we’d raid my parents liquor cabinet, careful only to drink whatever wasn’t drank.  By and large I’ve always drank vodka, however I would tend to switch it up from time to time with bourbon—at some point I fell from bourbon to whiskey, particularly JD. 

Much like its iconic bottle; square jug with black and white label, its origins are distinctively American.   The stories of young Jasper Newton Daniel and the beginnings of his whiskey empire vary, even the home website provides little background, however I tend to lean towards the one that reads like a Mark Twain novel—young teenager orphaned by the death of his father in the Civil War, meets up with a lay preacher named Dan Call who distills whiskey out the back of his general store.  Call decides to pick up a rifle and fight in the Civil War, leaving young Jack and a slave named Nearest Green to tend to the whiskey.   Jack learns the art of whiskey making from Nearest Green, an old slave hand of Dan Call…are you kidding me?  What a story and as far as it’s taste?  Sorry, I know my limits and a whiskey sommelier I am not, but I do know it tastes better the more you drink it!  In three words…toasty, spicy and sweet.

Born this month (in American Literature) Edgar Allen Poe, January 19th, 1809.  His significance not only in American literature but literature’s galaxy?  He is credited with writing the first detective story as now known to the free reading world.  Wow!  Think about that.  And the stories title? The Murders in the Rue Morgue.  Not only did Poe write the first detective story, he nailed the title!