The Artist: Jonah Tolchin, a 21-year-old indie artist based in Maine. The Song: “21st Century Girl,” the first single from Tolchin’s upcoming album, due in July from Yep Roc. Fun Fact: Jonah can be heard on the recent Jason Molina tribute album. His upcoming debut includes guest appearances from John McCauley from Deer Tick and Willie Nelson’s harmonica player Mickey Raphael. Songwriter Says: “21st Century Girl is the only song I’ve ever written on the piano… It came to me at Dirt Floor Studio in Chester, Connecticut,” says Tolchin. “For me, this song is about waking up out of the monotony of everyday life, and becoming aware of the present moment. In the current age of humankind, these gaps of presence do not happen often enough.”
Video Premiere: Bruce Sudano, “Things Are Changing”
The Artist: Journeyman musician Bruce Sudanoof the band Brooklyn Dreams. The Video: “Things Are Changing,” from his latest album With Angels on a Carousel. Did You Know?: Sudano was married to the late, iconic disco queen Donna Summer. Songwriter Says: “Often in life we get lulled into the sameness of things,” Sudano says, “but in truth change is constant and ongoing without recognition, until that sudden moment when the change is so emphatic that it grabs you by the ears and overpowers your soul. It’s only then, in spite of all our plans, that we’re awakened to the reality of how little control we actually possess. Hence, this song and video.”
Book Review: The Band: Pioneers of Americana Music
The Band: Pioneers of Americana Music By Craig Harris (Rowman & Littlefield)
When The Band released its debut album, Music From Big Pink, in 1968, their impact on other musicians was huge. Musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and The Grateful Dead took notice and started returning to a more roots-oriented sound.
What The Band did was meld rock and roll, blues, R&B, gospel, traditional country and honky tonk, turn it inside out, and create a sound that was totally their own.
All were accomplished musicians, with three really good and very different singers. Onstage they were incredibly precise and one of the few groups that could duplicate what they did in the studio. Their concerts were no-nonsense affairs. It was all about the music.
Eyes On The Prize: How Rodney Crowell Met His Co-Writer
It’s hard to break through as a non-performing songwriter in the music business. Many try. They come to Nashville with a battered guitar and a suitcase full of lyrics and toil in oblivion for years. They play songwriter rounds, honky-tonks, and doggedly pursue the reps of publishing companies, often times to no avail.
Most never land the elusive publishing deal, or even a single cut on anyone’s album, for that matter. Getting noticed in Nashville is more often a matter of luck than talent, a feat akin to winning the lottery. Money talks, and talent and hard work often go unnoticed. It’s even more difficult to break through when you’re living outside of Nashville, and trying to parachute your songs into Music City.
The Artist: LA singer-songwriter Patrick Park The Song: “Dust and Mud,” from his new LP Love Like Swords, out April 22. Fun Fact: Park was a part of series of YouTube videos called the “Subway Sessions” where he performed in NYC subways. Songwriter Says: “This is one of my favorite songs on the new record, and one of my favorite songs to play live,” Park says. “I like playing it because every time I do it’s like a little reminder for me to just let shit go. I remember I was driving around Los Angeles one day, and (this is not uncommon), I watched these two guys get out of their cars and start screaming at each other. There was no accident or contact between their cars or anything, but they obviously both perceived that some injustice had been wrought against them by the other. I was watching this and it just kind of hit me that their anger and frustration toward one another, actually had absolutely nothing to do the situation they were in, or with each other.
The Artist: Chicago-based folk/pop songwriter Sad Brad Smith The Song: New single “Magic,” a mysterious tune about someone having “magic in his mind.” Fun Fact: Smith is best known for his song “Help Yourself,” which was used in the movie Up in the Air. Songwriter Says: “Magic takes the form of a story song, but remains incomplete,” Smith says. “The ending has been removed, or smudged. It is about managing our expectations in a world that is other than the one we wished for, a world where magic exists, but only in the mind. Can we accept the world knowing that it has zero interest in fulfilling what we once thought had been promised to us?”
Suppose you’re a songwriter of some renown, and you wake up on a Monday morning with an ugly realization slapping you in the face like a bucket of ice water: You’ve got a meeting with a studio exec on Friday, and you have to work up a group of songs for a new film score. You don’t need justone idea, you need a passel of them. And they better be good—your career and a million bucks are riding on it. Unfortunately, you’ve spent the last three weeks partying in Malibu, signing autographs in Nashville, and emptying out shoeboxes of receipts on the living room floor, because the Taxman is at the door. Your brain feels like a soggy sponge, and your body is a house of pain. Then the panic begins to set in.
Sound familiar? Well, the part about soggy Monday morning brain, maybe. And the impending arrival of April 15thdoes tend to sharpen one’s awareness of the competition between “real” life and the creative life. It ain’t pretty, either: The former is always trying to drown the latter, while Time—that stealthy thief—is not on your side and keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.
Behind The Song: Bruce Springsteen, “Born In The U.S.A.”
We’re 30 years burning down the road from Bruce Springsteen’s most complex anthem. The title track and emotional centerpiece of an album that catapulted The Boss to levels of superstardom that few rock stars have ever witnessed, “Born In The U.S.A.” is still as captivating and elusive as ever, pulling the listener in several seemingly conflicting directions with its combination of rousing music and piercing lyrics.
Even after so much time has passed since its release, the song is still a hard one to wrangle into a simple interpretation. Are we meant to focus on the lyrics and their searing castigation of the way that America treated its Vietnam veterans upon their return from the war? Or is the music supposed to carry the load, spurring us to put our hands over our hearts and salute Old Glory?
Boom Forest, the project led by John Paul Roney, tells us “what living’s about” in this acoustic performance of “Shadow Of Doubt.” Shot and edited by Neal Dahlgren, the video finds Roney teaming up with members of fellow Wisconsin bands Phox and Foreign Fields. Roney says the song is “a small stand against the gloom of isolation, technology and age obsession that permeates the modern life.” It serves as a hopeful ending to Boom Forest’s self-titled album, and this live version brings added life to a song that radiates hope.