Friday, April 21, 2006

Get back in your damn sandbox and stay there!

Lately I have been listening to Alison Krauss' new album Lonely Runs Both Ways on a virtual loop. She has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard, the songs are great, emotional and insightful and Union Station, her backing group can just flat out play.

When I really like a band or an album I read reviews of them, just to get a feel for how the reviewers' tastes coincide with mine. Checking one such site, All Music Guide, I was really blown away at the way the critic bends over backwards to find a box he can cram Alison Krauss' music into.

Here's what the critic had to say:

While they have in some part grown away from their earthy, rollicking bluegrass roots, they've been able to craft a really polished and honest-sounding brand of mid-American adult contemporary that never dips into the schlockiness of mainstream AC or the formula-driven sound of young country.

Got that? Its not bluegrass, its not adult contemporary and its not country.

So, since he's apparently not really sure what it is, why does he need to give three examples of what its not? Especially on a site where you click a button and HEAR IT.

That's right ladies and gentleman, with a push of a button, you can hear the music the critic is going to such lengths to sketch a border around.

I understand radio stations need to put music into little boxes so they can target a demographic and sell advertising. Just one of those things you have to do in a commercial society.

But why exactly is it that the rest of the world decided that was the way everything had to be? You record in Nashville and therefore you're a country act.

Can anyone tell me what form of music "Grunge" is? Remember Grunge? That was all those bands from Seattle who sound nothing alike. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden. These bands have one thing in common: where they got signed. And sometimes not even that.

Back to the Alison Krauss review, its like the reviewer had to show his "due diligence" to show the reader that he tried, he really tried put them in a traditional "box" of popular music to the reader.

I realize this is a tendency people have, even very smart people. In college I had professors who loved to sort Shakespeare into his comedies, his tragedies, his histories, his tragicomedies, his cometragedies and his historiocomedies.

I never understood this need. Especially not now, not on a site like All Music Guide, where, with the wonders of modern technology, you can push a button and decide if music is for you.


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