Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Country Music -- Scholar Bill Malone gets award and discusses his work

 Bill Malone speaks at the International Conference on Country Music, Nashville, 2008. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Bill Malone, the author of the seminal resource "Country Music USA" discusses his work as a historian of country music. Malone was this year’s recipient of the Charlie Poole Music Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.
Malone completed his studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He was studying history and said his work was controversial at the time. “While I was doing this, I really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “Nobody was doing anything like this at the time. There were very few studies in popular culture, and history was one of the most conservative disciplines. Country music was also commercial, and commercial was a bad word in academia.”Scholars believed the only music worth studying and preserving was the music done in homes and churches with no commercial intent, Malone told the audience. He also said he wanted to prove through his work that old records that came out in the 1920s and 1930s were repositories of folklore and worth preserving and studying.
Read full article here
Malone was joined in his discussion by musician and music historian Henry Sapoznik. Though Sapoznik may be best know for his pioneering work in klezmer music, he is also an expert on bluegrass and country. He is Vice President of Piedmont Folk Legacies the organization that runs the annual Charlie Poole Music Festival and the forthcoming National Banjo Museum and Center in Eden, North Carolina. He is a four time Grammy award nominee, his first in 1990 for “Partisans of Vilna” the first Yiddish recording to be nominated for a Grammy, two for his 2005 production of "You Ain't Talkin' To Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of American Country Music" for Sony Columbia/Legacy and again in 2008 for his co-production of the 3 CD anthology "People Take Warning! Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs 1913-1938." His most recent CD anthology “Ernest Stoneman: The Unsung Father of Country Music” was nominated for a 2009 Grammy for Best Historical Notes.

Sapoznik recently was artist in residence at the University of Wisconsin and will take up a position there next year as director of the new Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Country-Bluegrass Divide

The Wall Street Journal runs a thoughtful piece by Barry Mazor about country music and bluegrass crossover.

For years, successful bluegrass acts have expected to play their own well-traveled if relatively isolated circuit of festivals, arts centers, and regional events and fairs. For its first decade—well into the 1950s—the genre was simply a charged-up kind of country string-band music, likely to be seen and heard wherever country was. Early stars—Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, the Osborne Brothers and Mac Wiseman among them—were regularly seen on country package tours and had hits on the country charts. Now the Grascals and Diercks Bentley, two acts with CDs released this spring, are again venturing across the bluegrass-country divide.
One artifact of bluegrass's formative years is the charging yet plaintive "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome," co-written by bluegrass originator Monroe and country icon Hank Williams. A potent new version of that 1949 number appears on "The Famous Lefty Flynn's," recently released by bluegrass stalwarts the Grascals. It features both regulation bluegrass instrumentation and harmonies, as well as honky-tonk steel guitar by the great Lloyd Green and a lead vocal by Hank Williams Jr. The musical integration is unmistakable. The Grascals have opened for Mr. Williams before tens of thousands of people in arena-size venues, tangible evidence that if bluegrass and the more tradition-minded side of mainstream country are not precisely going steady in 2010, they're clearly dating again.

Read more HERE

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Asia -- The Unpopularity of Country Music in the Philippines

I came across a very interesting, long blog post about how and why country music has not attained popularity in the Philippines....

it is not a lack of enjoyment of country music but awareness in the music-listening younger generation of the Philippines, who do love their Taylor Swift but are unaware that she actually does two versions of her songs—the original country version, complete with “ twangs “and banjos, and a radio-friendly pop version.  We won’t argue which version is better but we will point out that the original was 100% country. A catchy melody and identifiable lyrics lures you in no matter what genre, generation, or continent.

Enter a new artist with a familiar face—Miles Poblete or as she is simply known online worldwide, Miles. Miles was the much-publicized winner of the prestigious Metro Pop star search competition in 1999. She was also a GMA mainstay from 2001-2003, a very visible personality on popular weekend variety show “S.O.P” and youth-targeted “Click Barkada.”
However, during the time of her launch, like most of us entering Freshmen year in college and even surviving through the Sophomore year, unsure of our major, Miles only knew she loved singing but did not know what her true place in the Philippine Music industry was…yet. Of course, between 1999 and 2010, Miles did leave Philippine show business to pursue her studies, even earning a B.S in Tourism from University of Santo Tomas.

Read full post HERE

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Zealand -- Gore Country Music Festival

This a geographical stretch, but here's news of a country and western music festival on New Zealand's south island, the Gore Country Music Festival. According to the article on the 3news web site.
Gore has long been New Zealand's home of country music. Today’s crowds were not disappointed by the talent on display, despite the shortage of genuine looking cowboys.
          Read full article

The Festival web site notes that since 1976 the event has culminated in the New Zealand Gold Guitars award:
This event attracts artists from around the world and continues to grow in stature and popularity. Audience levels reach over 5,000 and the entries in all sections and events total 700 competitors. Visitors to Gore leave with fond memories of the ‘Southern Hospitality’ and along with the locals, just soak up the Country Music atmosphere.
The festival begins on Monday prior to the weekend with a walk up concert and the week continues with inductions into the Hands of Fame, Songwriting and the NZ Country Music Awards for the RIANZ Best Country Album and APRA Best Country Song finals.
The NZ Gold Guitar Awards are held annually on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Queen’s Birthday Weekend. Each day auditions are held in two venues. At the auditions judges choose finalists in the various sections. The Junior and Intermediate finals are held on Saturday night and the senior final night is Sunday. The 40 Plus finals are held prior to the Professional Artists Showcase concert on Sunday afternoon at the end of the auditions.
The New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards are open for artists who have not recorded a product for sale. Contestants may enter as an individual, in a duet and/or as part of a group. Contestants compete in either the junior, intermediate, senior or 40 Plus sections, depending on their age. There are a variety of sections, including male and female solo, gospel, traditional, country rock, duet, yodeling, vocal group, group NZ composition and instrumental.