Record Store Day Australia 2016 by Tim Dalton

Record Store Day Australia (RSDA) falls on Saturday 16th April this year. It’s the third year that I’ve been asked to be an ambassador, something I’m extremely proud of. Ever since I left school in 1979 at the age of 16, I’ve earned my living working in the music industry in one form or another. Physical formats such as records, tapes and CDs are almost part of me; in many ways they define me and who I am. I live in a house that has a whole room devoted to my music collection; rather metro-sexually I refer to this as the “media” room. This curated musical collection tells the story of my life, which hopefully is still a work in progress. Planning and writing about RSDA has got me reminiscing about the first record that I ever bought and about some of my favourite record stores that I’ve visited over the years. The first record that I ever bought was a 7” vinyl single of Son Of My Father by UK band Chicory Tip. I vividly remember budgeting 37 new pence (70 Australian cents) of my birthday money to buy this record from Shakespeare Records, located inside Paragon railway station in my birth city of Hull. The word ‘Paragon ‘ is an interesting choice here as the word means “a person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality”. The station actually took its name from the street it stands on, Paragon Street, but I still love the way the word is misappropriated.

Shakespear

Back in 1972 there were approximately 39 record stores in Hull city centre serving a population of around 200,000 people. This begs the question why did I choose Shakespeare Records and not Sydney Scarborough, Stardisc, Sheridan’s or one of the large department stores such as Hammonds or Debenhams or any of the other 39 stores? Paragon Station was a fabulous unmodernised Victorian building so much so that it has appeared in numerous feature films and TV shows. One attraction was that Shakespeare Records was a small building, more a pre-fab really, inside another enormous building. Subconsciously it could be the 11 year old me signalling that music and travel would forever be connected in my life.

Originally this record store was called Shakespeare Brothers but in a bid to move with the times in the early 1970’s they dropped the ‘Brothers’ and replaced it with ‘Records’, very hip and groovy. Mid December 1972 and it was a right of passage type day as my Dad drove me to Hull city centre in a tepid blue Vauxhall Viva to make my first ever purchase of what I now know would be many future records. I didn’t know it at the time, but this record is actually a cover of a Giorgio Moroder/Pete Bellotte tune that was released in 1971 under the name Giorgio. The 1972 Chicory Tip version features the very first top ten appearance of a Moog synthesizer in the UK. AIR studio manager Roger Easterby heard the Giorgio original and persuaded Chicory Tip to re-record their version, with additional lyrics added by vocalist Michael Holm, in a weekend. The Chicory Tip version was rush released where it went straight into the top ten and eventually hit number one. AIR’s resident record producer Chris Thomas played the dominating Moog synth part.

Released in February 1972, it took me almost 10 months to get around to purchasing this record. Listening back to this record I can see why I developed my lifelong love and obsession with synth pop. This record has all the DNA of 1980’s synth-pop, such as the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument, which I came to love a decade later. For an 11-year-old kid from a cultural backwater like Hull, this record demonstrates a musical maturity way beyond my tender years.

This visit to Shakespeare Records set me on a course that would see me visit many record stores all over the world for both business and pleasure. Only 16 years after purchasing my first record I’d left school and was working in the music industry, albeit on the very bottom rung of the ladder. Over the next 36 years I was lucky enough to travel the world many times over and visit record stores in just about every major city that I’ve visited. One of the biggest stores I regularly made visits too was Tower Records at 1 Piccadilly Circus, London. This massive 2,300m2 store opened in 1986 and was their European flagship store. London also had the Virgin Megastore on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road and that was also enormous. These enormo-dome type record stores ushered in the ear of the ‘in-store’ performance or as we called them in the USA music business “the shake and howdy”. If someone had told back then that this behemoth of a record store chain would completely disappear off the face of the planet within a few short years (along with all the other major high street retailers) I would have thought them completely insane.

In these big stores a small stage and PA could be incorporated onto the sales floor allowing for acoustic performances. These performances normally coincided with whatever touring band was in town playing at the local venue. The normal schedule would be an in-store early afternoon, sound check late afternoon and show on the evening; we liked to work our acts hard back then. These in-stores would pay a dividend in terms of record sales, through in some ‘specials’ some free nibbles/barrel of beer and significant sales would follow. In-stores are now a common component in the arsenal of engagement tools of the music retailer.

The sheer scale of some record stores is breath taking, such as Amoeba Music in LA, which is the world largest independent record store spread over 2,230m2 and holding over 100,000 titles. It’s the sheer variety of independent record stores that I love. Some are genre specific, some location specific but all of them love and know music. Some of my favourites, in no particular order, are: –

  • Aquarius Records in one of my favorite US cities San Francisco. This store has been a fixture of San Francisco’s music scene since 1970, making it one of the longest-running independent record shops in the United States. The store carries a wide range of stock, but is most famous for its extensive selection of psychedelic, metal, and drone music, as one would expect of a San Fran store.
  • Spacehall Records on Zossiener Straße in Berlin, which I first visited in the mid 1980s. You cannot even begin to talk techno or house or dub or any electronic music for that matter without bringing up Berlin’s Spacehall. The beautiful minimalist, modernist design of the store suits its refined, highly stylish musical aesthetic. It’s like a classic 1980’s BMW, stark, functional but never out of style.
  • Rough Trade East is the daddy of UK record shops. London’s Rough Trade East, which opened in 2007, may be the younger brother of Rough Trade West, but is also one of the biggest independents in the UK. The store sells predominantly new stock of vinyl and CDs, racked up across a huge 465m2 sales space, and has a handy cafe at the front. Rough Trade is more than just a shop, it’s also one of the most influential labels in the UK, and has put out influential records by The Smiths, The Fall, The Strokes, Arcade Fire, Belle & Sebastian and more. Rough Trade East also plays host to in-store gigs, film screenings, and talks on film, music and literature. This is more than a record store, it’s an institution and I can’t get enough of the place.

IMG_3839

  • Probe Records, in a city where I lived for over a decade, Liverpool. In a city with such a fine musical pedigree, it takes a lot to stand out and Probe does that. Though it’s moved premises through the years, Liverpool’s Probe Records has been going strong since 1971. Established by legendary Twisted Wheel DJ Roger Eagle and music entrepreneur/producer Geoff Davis, it was more than a record store it, was the epicenter of a movement. Pete Burns of Dead or Alive and Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes to Hollywood have both worked there along with countless other wannabes and rock stars. In the wake of punk, Probe Records became Liverpool’s go-to record shop, attracting clientele from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Lighting Seeds and OMD. The shop launched its own record label Probe Plus in 1981, which has released work by cult Merseyside act Half Man Half Biscuit.
  • Good Vibrations, Belfast. The film Good Vibrations named after the legendary Belfast record store of the same name and released last year, was brilliant. It told the story of local music lover Terri Hooley’s attempt to expand his store into a label that would go on to release DJ John Peel’s favorite record Teenage Kicks by The Undertones in 1979. But the film’s popularity also sparked the store back into life. Now in its 13th incarnation, and proclaiming itself as “Belfast’s poorest record shop”, shoppers can still bump into Hooley, now aged 65, working behind the till. Visit it soon as it has a history of going bust very quickly.
  • I know I’m very biased but my favorite of favorite record stores is Grimey’s in Nashville. Nashville is a town of institutions and Grimey’s is no exception. It’s a store beloved by the city’s residents, and has a sort of hometown family feel about it. I first Mike ‘Grimey’ Grimes when he played guitar with local rock band Bare Jr. who I was working with at the time. Grimey has an uncanny King Midas knack of turning whatever he touches into cool. When I lived there he took over a run down bar, The Slow Bar, in the very un-trendy East part of town and within a few weeks it became Nashville’s coolest, muso bar and late night hangout. It’s exactly the same with his record store. The store has a vast selection of new music, and next door at their “too” (sic) store they have an abundance of “pre-loved” music. They supply their consumers with all formats including CD, vinyl and cassettes. But what really makes them stand out is they do a lot of activities to bring artists into the stores and make them accessible to their patrons. They have many releases and after hour in-stores in ‘The Basement’ located obviously beneath the store. This is a cozy little live music bar to catch a local artist performance while drinking a beer. This is a very special kind of record store that I recommend to anyone that stops in Nashville. This place holds a special place in my heart just because it’s so damn cool. And who knows? Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll visit at the same time as locals like Taylor Swift, Steve Earle, Bobby Bare or Ke$ha.

In my now adopted hometown of the last three years of Melbourne I’m totally spoilt for choice. From recollection there are approximately 87 independent records stores, a number that grows each year, in the metropolitan area alone. There are some fine record stores in this city as there probably are in your city/town/suburb of residence. My suggestion is to go out on an adventure and find the one you like. Find the one that stocks the style and genre of music you like in the part of town that appeals to you. I’ll be out and about but it’s doubtful I’ll physically be able to visit every single independent record store in Melbourne on RSDA on 16th April. If you see me in an independent store around Melbourne on Saturday 16th April come up and say “Hi”, I might even show you what I’ve bought.

vinyl

Advertisements

Why I support Record Store Day Australia

Record Store Day Australia (RSDA) takes place today, April 18th  and it is the second consecutive year that I’ve agreed to be an official ambassador. RSDA’s purpose is to celebrate the culture and diversity of the independently owned record store. The day brings together fans, artists, and thousands of independent record stores across the whole of Australia.

Chris Brown, who was an employee of independent CD, DVD, games and book retailer Bull Moose, originated Record Store Day in the USA. The concept was loosely based around the idea that something could be done along the lines of the already successful Free Comic Book Day. Inspiration came from a brainstorming session during a record store owners’ meeting in Baltimore with the result that Record Store Day was officially founded in 2007. It is now celebrated at stores throughout the world, with hundreds of recording and other artists participating in the day by making special appearances, performances, meet and greets with their fans, the holding of art exhibits, and the issuing of special vinyl and CD releases along with other promotional products to mark the occasion. Each store holds their own party for the day, to celebrate the unique individuality of each store, and the place it holds within its community. Although Record Store Day, the actual day, only occurs once a year, RSDA, the organization, provides promotions, marketing, and other opportunities for stores throughout the year, maintaining a website, social media and other means of promulgating its views about the value of independent record stores.

The key word here is ‘independent’. RSDA is about celebrating this word ‘independence’, as in freedom, liberty and self-governance. I am well aware of the advantages of a globalized world economy; indeed I am an English man who now lives in Melbourne, Australia who also lived and worked in the USA. For the whole of my working life I was involved, directly and indirectly, in producing and selling contemporary popular music to a global audience. So it may sound contrary when I pontificate about the virtues of independent retailers. But I believe that it is possible for independent retailers to exist in a globalized economy, adding value and variety to our otherwise standardized lives.

I come from a family of independent retailers, my brother Nick and his wife Annie, are proprietors of the UK’s coolest bicycle shop, East Coast Bicycles and my grandfather ran a shoe repair business all of his life. Our retail spaces are now almost exclusively the preserve of trans national corporations who view the entire planet as one large connected market place. This can work in the consumer’s favor e.g. economies of scale resulting in lower prices and standardization of products across the globe; I’m not anti-globalization per-say. The globalized retailers take care of the generic, standardized, bulk of products but with little deviation resulting in limited choice. Take globalized furniture retailer Ikea as an example, each store throughout the world carries exactly the same lines.

This is where independent retailers come in, no matter what they are selling be it recorded music, groceries, shoes, clothing or bicycles. The independent retailers are the purveyors of choice and very often the arbiters of style and taste. It’s the independents that seek out the bizarre, unusual, sexy, individual, niche, local and personal items that we need in our lives. Granted these ‘desire’ or ‘life style statement’ items may cost a little more but they are the artifacts that become family heirlooms, the items that we cherish, the ones we love, the items with a narrative attached to them. I for one think that’s worth the cash premium.

Go into any independent retailer of whatever variety and you will invariably find the owner serving you as opposed to some minimum wage earning, polo shirted/fleece wearing robo-drone who has no interest in the artifact that you wish to purchase. With an independent you are getting the attention of an expert/enthusiast, someone who has invested countless hours in researching their stock line, they can point out the almost indistinguishable differences on what appears to be similar products. At my favorite record store I spend many hours of my Saturday afternoons flicking through the racks. More often than not the owner, Buddy, comes over and strikes up a conversation with me and discusses music, records, artists and gigs. He’s not ‘upselling’ rather he is genuinely interested in my musical taste and me. Try this approach in a giant, on-line, globalized music retail environment it’s not the same. Reading the ‘customer reviews’ is useful but its not like being there. My local store plays loud music on a great sounding system with the piece that they are playing highlighted on a plinth with “Currently Playing”. OK, this is upselling but its upselling of the kind caring type, the type I like. You can buy wine at the supermarket but isn’t it much better to chat with the independent retailer who can describe the characteristics of that particular wine and what dish it is best served with?

RSDA is motived around a single day, 18th April this year. This is the day when we celebrate the independent music retailer. Bands, acts and artists release special limited runs of ‘product’ and often perform in store with a real party atmosphere. There is a misconception that RSDA is about vinyl sales, its not. RSDA is format agnostic, buy whatever you like on whatever format you like, but buy it from a independent retailer. This is a use it or loose it deal. If people don’t support local independent retailers they will disappear. Indeed with the ‘long tail’ online globalized retailers increasingly colonizing our leisure space it’s becoming even harder for independents to keep the lights on. At the most basic level, when you buy local more money stays in the community.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF), an independent economic think tank based in London, compared what happens when people buy produce at a supermarket vs. a local farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA) program. This research found that twice the money stayed in the community when folks bought locally. “That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive,” says author and NEF researcher David Boyle. The local producer/retailer also adds creative elements that make either the product or materials used more appropriate to the location. For example in my adopted home city of Melbourne, RSDA will see local stores offering up some superb one off recordings of local bands.

Another argument for buying locally and independently is that it enhances the ‘velocity’ of money, or circulation speed, in the area. The idea is that if currency circulates more quickly, the money passes through more hands, a greater number of people benefit from the money and what it has purchased for them. “If you’re buying local and not at a chain or branch store, chances are that store is not making a huge profit,” says David Morris, Vice President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit economic research and development organization based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. “That means more goes into input costs such as supplies and upkeep, printing, advertising, paying employees, which puts that money right back into the local community.

By shopping at the independent record store, instead of the global online retailer, you can keep your community from becoming a ‘clone town’, where the Main Street now looks like every other Main Street in the world with the same fast-food and retail chains. This is a compelling argument for supporting RSDA and its fun too. Save some cash and get into those independent record stores today the 18th April and spend, spend, spend. Not only will it give you a smug good all over glow feel but you will also have some music in a tactile format that will stay with you for the rest of your life. That’s why I support Record Store Day Australia.

Record Store Day 2015

Record Store Day Australia (RSDA) falls on the 18th April this year and it’s the second year that I (Tim Dalton) am an ambassador, something I’m quite proud of. Planning for RSDA has got me reminiscing about the first record that I ever bought and about some of my favourite record stores that I’ve visited. The first record that I ever bought was a 7” vinyl single of Son Of My Father by UK band Chicory Tip. I vividly remember saving all of my birthday money to buy this record from Shakespeare Records, located inside Paragon railway station in my birth city of Hull. The word ‘Paragon ‘ is an interesting choice here as the word means “a person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality”. The station actually took its name from the street it stands on, Paragon Street, but still the use of this word is misappropriated.

Back in 1972 there were approximately 39 record stores in Hull city centre serving a population of around 200,000. This begs the question why Shakespeare Records and not Sydney Scarborough, Stardisc, Sheridan’s or one of the large department stores such as Hammonds or Debenhams or any of the other 39 stores I could have chosen? Paragon Station was a fabulous unmodernised Victorian building so much so that it has appeared in numerous feature films and TV shows. One attraction was that Shakespeare Records was a small building, more a pre-fab really, inside another enormous building. Subconsciously it could be the 11 year old me signalling that music and travel would be forever connected in my life.

Originally this record store was called Shakespeare Brothers but in a bid to move with the times in the early 1970’s they dropped the ‘Brothers’ and replaced it with ‘Records’. Mid December 1972 and it was a right of passage type day as my Dad drove me to Hull city centre in a tepid blue Vauxhall Viva to make my first ever purchase of many future records. I didn’t know it at the time, but this record is actually a cover of a Giorgio Moroder/Pete Bellotte tune that was released in 1971 under the name Giorgio. The 1972 Chicory Tip version features the very first top ten appearance of a Moog synthesizer in the UK. AIR studio manager Roger Easterby heard the Giorgio original and persuaded Chicory Tip to re-recorded their version, with additional lyrics added by vocalist Michael Holm, in a weekend. The Chicory Tip version was rush released where it went straight into the top ten and eventually hit number one. AIR’s resident record producer Chris Thomas played the dominating Moog synth part.

Released in February 1972, it took me almost 10 months to get around to purchasing this record. Listening back to this record I can see why I developed my lifelong love of synth pop. This record has all the DNA of 1980’s synth-pop, such as the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument, which I came to love a decade later. For an 11-year-old kid from a cultural backwater like Hull, this record demonstrates a musical maturity way beyond my tender years.

This visit to Shakespeare Records set me on a course that would see me visit many record stores all over the world for both business and pleasure. Only 16 years after purchasing my first record I’d left school and was working in the music industry, albeit on the very bottom rung of the ladder. Over the next 34 years I was lucky enough to travel the world many times over and visit record stores in just about every city that I’ve visited. One of the biggest stores I regularly made visits too was Tower Records at 1 Piccadilly Circus, London. This massive 2,300 m2 store opened in 1986 and was their European flagship store. London also had the Virgin Megastore on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road and that was also enormous. These enrmo-dome type record stores ushered in the ear of the ‘in-store’ performance or as we called them in the USA ‘the shake and howdy’.

In these big stores a small stage and PA could be incorporated onto the sales floor allowing for acoustic performances. These performances normally coincided with whatever touring band was in town playing at the local venue. The normal schedule would be an in-store early afternoon, sound check late afternoon and show on the evening; we liked to work our acts hard back then. These in-stores would pay a dividend in terms of record sales, through in some ‘specials’ some free nibbles/barrel of beer and significant sales would follow. In-stores are now a common component in the arsenal of engagement tools of the music retailer.

Though the sheer scale of some record stores is breath taking, such as Amoeba Music in LA, which is the world largest independent record store spread over 2,230m2 and holding over 100,000 titles. It’s the sheer variety of independent record stores that I love. Some are genre specific, some location specific but all of them love and know music. Some of my favourites, in no particular order, are: –

  • Aquarius Records in one of my favorite US cities San Francisco. This store has been a fixture of San Francisco’s music scene since 1970, making it one of the longest-running independent record shops in the United States. The store carries a wide range of stock, but is most famous for its extensive selection of psychedelic, metal, and drone music, as one would expect of a San Fran store.
  • Spacehall Records on Zossiener Straße in Berlin, which I first visited in the late 1980s. You cannot even begin to talk techno or house or dub or any electronic music for that matter without bringing up Berlin’s Spacehall. The beautiful minimalist, modernist design of the store suits its refined, highly stylish musical aesthetic. It’s like a classic 1980’s BMW, never out of style.
  • Rough Trade East is the daddy of UK record shops. London’s Rough Trade East, which opened in 2007, may be the younger brother of Rough Trade West, but is also one of the biggest independents in the UK. The store sells predominantly new stock of vinyl and CDs, racked up across a huge 465m2 sales space, and has a handy cafe at the front. Rough Trade is more than just a shop, it’s also one of the most influential labels in the UK, and has put out influential records by The Smiths, The Fall, The Strokes, Arcade Fire, Belle & Sebastian and more. Rough Trade East also plays host to in-store gigs, film screenings, and talks on film, music and literature. This is more than a record store, it’s an institution.
  • Probe Records in a city where I lived for over a decade, Liverpool. In a city with such a fine musical pedigree, it takes a lot to stand out and Probe does that. Though it’s moved premises through the years, Liverpool’s Probe Records has been going strong since 1971. Established by legendary Twisted Wheel DJ Roger Eagle and music entrepreneur/producer Geoff Davis, it was more than a record store it, was the center of a movement. Pete Burns of Dead or Alive and Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes to Hollywood have both worked there. In the wake of punk, Probe Records became Liverpool’s go-to record shop, attracting clientele from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Lighting Seeds and OMD. The shop launched its own record label Probe Plus in 1981, which has released work by cult Merseyside act Half Man Half Biscuit.
  • Good Vibrations, Belfast. The film Good Vibrations named after the legendary Belfast record store of the same name and released last year, was brilliant. It told the story of local music lover Terri Hooley’s attempt to expand his store into a label that would go on to release DJ John Peel’s favorite record Teenage Kicks by The Undertones in 1979. But the film’s popularity also sparked the store back into life. Now in its 13th incarnation, and proclaiming itself as “Belfast’s poorest record shop”, shoppers can still bump into Hooley, now aged 65, working behind the till. Visit it soon as it has a history of going bust very quickly.
  • I know I’m very biased but my favorite of favorite record stores is Grimey’s of Nashville. Nashville is a town of institutions and Grimey’s is no exception. It’s a store beloved by the city’s residents, and has a sort of hometown family feel. I first Mike ‘Grimey’ Grimes when he played guitar with local rock band Bare Jr. who I was working with at the time. Grimey has an uncanny King Midas knack of turning whatever he touches into cool. When I lived there he took over a run down bar, The Slow Bar, in the very un-trendy East part of town and within a few weeks it became Nashville’s coolest, muso bar and hangout. It’s the same with his record store. They have a vast selection of new music, and next door at their “too” store they have an abundance of “pre-loved” music. They supply their consumers with all formats including CD, vinyl and cassettes. But what really makes them stand out is they do a lot of activities to bring artists into the stores and make them accessible to their patrons. They have many releases and after hour in-stores in “The Basement” located obviously beneath the store. This is a cozy little live music bar to catch a local artist performance while drinking a beer. This is a very special kind of record store that I recommend to anyone that stops in Nashville. This place holds a special place in my heart just because it’s so damn cool. And who knows? Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll visit at the same time as locals like Taylor Swift, Steve Earle or Ke$ha.

In my now adopted hometown of Melbourne I’m totally spoilt for choice. There are some fine record stores in this city and my suggestion is to go out and find the one you like. The one that stocks the style and genre of music you like in the part of town that appeals to you. Personally I’ll be down at Basement Discs in the Laneways on RSDA on 18th April, see you down there?

Album Rescue Series: Iris DeMent ‘Infamous Angel’

A few years ago I was driving from Liverpool in the North West of the UK down to Ealing in West London to visit my son and his wife. As is normal when you drop off the M40 motorway onto the A40 ‘Western Avenue’ the traffic comes to a complete standstill. No need to be angry as these natural pauses in life can be a good thing, a time to reflect. Its not often I turn the radio on but on this very rare occasion I did and I fell into the middle of ‘Let The Mystery Be’ by Iris DeMent. My inner voice screams “Who is that singing?,” and as the song comes to the end DJ Stuart Maconie back announces, “That’s Iris Dement and Let The Mystery be from the great lost country album Infamous Angel“.

How come I don’t know about this album, given that I use to live in Nashville? This is my lucky day I have just become DeMented. I rush into my son’s house and garble a greeting whilst also requesting the directions to the local record store. Within one hour of first hearing Iris DeMent on the radio I’m at Sounds Original, 169 South Ealing Road and I own a second hand, or pre-loved, copy of Infamous Angel for the sum of £5.00 ($9.00). My life is temporarily complete.

This is a remarkable debut record, released by Warner Brother in 1992. Its one of those recording that makes you sit back in awe. Infamous Angel was Iris DeMent first release at the age of 31; she didn’t start writing music until she was 25, a classic late bloomer. I’m guessing the production work by Jim Rooney contributes much to this recording. Rooney was a pioneer in the genre that would be come Americana working with artists such as Hal Ketchum, Nanci Griffiths, Bonnie Raitt, Townes Van Zandt and John Prine (who, not surprisingly, is one of DeMent’s biggest champions). Rooney works perfectly with DeMent on exposing her gift for poignant, confessional songwriting and a voice that makes raw beauty seem like a brand new thing. DeMent invokes the elemental magic of the Carter Family while sounding as fresh and modern. So what’s the problem here, why does the album need a rescue?

Maybe the problem is the release date of the album. 1992 is when the Americana boom starts. To a large extent this genre inflicted irreparable and unwarranted damage to Infamous Angel and sent it spiraling into obscurity. The music business was happy to create a niche for the country music’s most fiscally dependable demographic e.g. the white, male Baby Boomers (me). In the early 1990s, radio programmers coined a new, related usage: “Americana” which became a nickname for the weather-beaten, rural-sounding music that bands like Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo were making. It was warm, twangy stuff, full of finger-plucked guitars and gnarled voices like car wheels on a gravel road.

Americana was like a John Ford Western film full of huge landscapes, grand narratives and all American heroes with a grandiose swagger. Along the way, a handful of artistic traditions founded in rebellion, such as the blues, Appalachian folk, outlaw country, etc. got elided into the relatively conservative format that is Americana. In her book It Still Moves: lost songs, lost highways and the search for the next American music (1992), Amanda Petrusich hits the nail on the head when she states: “It sometimes seems like the Delta’s legacy is most present in modern hip-hop” rather than Americana “where its basic tenets are still being perpetuated, even if the form has altered dramatically”. Time was when working-class heroes really were “something to be”. Most critics, including me, suspect that Shania Twain and Garth Brooks are as unlikely to outsell the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers 50 years from then. Someone will one day write a book setting forth clearly why the stars and the technology aligned between 1927 and 1967 to produce a flood of sublime popular music, and why this flow began to evaporate in the subsequent 40 years. I feel for Petrusich here, for she shows us with nods and winks that she agrees with this proposition.

Artists like Iris DeMent aren’t supposed to exist anymore in this post Americana cynical world. She sings un-ironically about her family, forgiveness, and other real-life mysteries. DeMent is accompanied on this great debut by little more than acoustic guitar, upright bass, piano, and an occasional fiddle. This album’s concerns are largely family and tradition, and many of these songs deal with memories of her life and loves. This album explores various themes such as religious skepticism, small-town life, and human frailty. The Carter Family influence is revealed in a spirited cover of the classic Fifty Miles of Elbow Room as well as Mama’s Opry, a tribute to her mother, who also sings lead on Higher Ground. These are all wonderful songs, but DeMent’s greater talent is the ballad. She delivers an astonishing display of balladry on this album, including When Love Was Young, Sweet Forgiveness and After You’re Gone, a tribute to her dying father that is so profoundly affecting that I am often rendered nearly helpless and close to tears listening to it.

The critics of this album believe that it does not address the big issues in life, the grand narratives. I would completely contest this; have a listen to Let The Mystery Be. A track that is almost beyond existential comprehension as it addresses the ending of our own life with what might or might not happen. When I finish listening to this record I feel incredibly somber but refreshed by DeMent’s charming, almost naïve, outlook on life. That naïveté isn’t an act either, DeMent claims in her liner notes that she’s never thought of herself as a great singer. She couldn’t be more wrong, and listeners can thank heaven that she changed her mind, for this is an album to be cherished and played as long as one has life to listen.

Should you buy this record on Record Store Day Australia? Indeed yes, you should and don’t even bother looking at the sticker price. When you own this record become evangelical and share it with anyone you can!

infamous

Record Store Day Australia 2015

Dalton Koss HQ is excited to announce that Tim Dalton, (#DKHQ’s Partner), is Record Store Day Australia 2015 Blogger and Outreach Communicator. Record Store Day Australia will take place on the 18th April 2015.

With over 35 years international rock n’ roll industry and academic experience, Tim will be revising records, exciting us with his rock n’ roll stories and above all, telling us why it is so important to support the record and music industry.

For more information about Record Store Day Australia 2015, please click here:

http://www.recordstoreday.com.au/tim-dalton-is-back-on-the-team/

Tim Dalton, Record Store Day Australia 2015 Blogger and Outreach Communicator
Tim Dalton, Record Store Day Australia 2015 Blogger and Outreach Communicator