When I was in my early 20s, I worked for a major concert promoter here in New Jersey. I recall that each time I walked into his office, I would see cartons on the floor, full of the latest LP releases from the record labels of the day. I also recall wishing that someday I could get on the label’s mailing lists so that I would get their new releases every month. As the stacks of CDs threaten to overtake my small space here, I’m reminded of the old adage “be careful what you wish for … “
It’s no secret that music writers get a lot of free CDs from artists, PR firms, and record labels. It’s one of the perks of the job, along with concert tickets, and a free drink now and then. Many jobs have perks. If you work at MacDonald’s, you probably get free fries. If you work at a Wall Street investment bank, you get to rape the taxpayers of this country. If you are the President of the United States, apparently you get to enrich your friends with the sweat of working people.
Despite the fact that I get a lot of music for free, I still get music from the Internet. That’s right, I’ve been known to download a song or two, and if you’re a regular visitor to Popdose, you have too. I believe strongly that the major labels have been ripping off consumers for years, and now the chickens have come home to roost, but I try hard not to download music by hard working independent musicians, unless they invite me to do so. Sometimes that approval is tacit, as most indie bands welcome the promotion that having songs posted at blogs like Popdose can bring. They tend to understand the value of sharing their music more than the majors ever will.
I know the struggle that these artists face all too well. I’ve seen it up close and personal. Living in a van for weeks at a time, on the road away from family and friends too much of the time, trying to scratch out a living when it’s like trying to find water in the desert. If I see an indie band that I like in a club, I make it a point to buy their CD. It’s really the very least I can do.
That, at long last, brings me to the subject of this piece, Columbus, Ohio’s Red Wanting Blue. Last week I had a chance to catch the band at The Saint in Asbury Park. You may recall that I wrote about The Saint last week as the lone holdout in the gentrification of Asbury Park. This was the second time I’ve seen Red Wanting Blue there, and they played another great set. When it ended, I was first online, money in hand, to buy their new CD. Sure, I could easily have told them that I write for Popdose, and they would have duly handed over a copy of their new album, but I wouldn’t have felt right about that.
In any event, the sixth, and finest, Red Wanting Blue album, These Magnificent Miles, is certainly worth your time and hard-earned dollars. The band is led by singer/songwriter Scott Terry, who wrote all of the lyrics for the album, and delivers them in one of the most distinctive and powerful voices in rock. Terry sings with such emotion that you can’t help but realize that these lyrics are not just words on a page. To convey so much emotion, he had to live these songs.
Go away, I’m in too truthful a mood to talk
Lines on the map tangle up when my heart gets lost
Cut me down to size, I believe
Cut me down
Everybody said “it ain’t gonna be easy”
But nobody said “kid, it’s gonna get hard
“Finger in the Air” offers the ultimate hand gesture to those who said it couldn’t happen, and to those who still say it.
“Red Ryder” finds Terry chastising himself, reminding himself of the need to take personal responsibility. It offers one of the most memorable choruses of this, or any, year:
When you gonna hold yourself accountable kid
You’re throwing yourself to the lions again
When you cuttin’ lose the weight you’re carrying
‘Cause you’re sinking to the bottom with it
And hugging that stone won’t make you roll kid
Red Wanting Blue is everything that’s wrong with the music business today. Sounds like a pretty nasty critique, doesn’t it? It’s actually a compliment. What kind of world is it where this band is not on top of the charts? Every deeply felt lyric, every anthemic chorus, every beautiful crafted melody suggests a band that deserves broad success instead of the “magnificent miles” that they’re putting on their minibus.
Do yourself a favor; forget about what’s going on in the corporate boardroom of some major label, where they’re deciding how to market the next pop star. Check out what’s happening on the roads, and in the small clubs of America. And the next time that someone tells you that rock n’ roll is dead, point them toward Columbus, Ohio, and Red Wanting Blue.