Stay With Me, Go Places

A couple people have asked me about the comments from “STEPH” in the comment fields for the last few days. Rest assured, those are not from my wife. It’s not really her style to ask questions like “how old are you?” and accuse me of trying to sound intelligent (sorry, it’ll never happen again). The “Steph” leaving the comments was somebody from Wyoming, according to WordPress’s IP lookup. If my wife Steph has any questions, she usually asks them in person, since we live together and all.

So, in the space of two months, two magazines I subscribe to have gone belly up. Harp and No Depression, two music magazines that I relied on heavily at various points in the last ten years, ceased publishing recently for a variety of reasons that don’t need to be explored here. Let it be said that my appreciation for these mags can only be described as overwhelming for a) packing issues with very good writing and b) being such a rich source for new discoveries. Two of my recent favorites, Johnny Society and Kelley Stoltz, were both Harp discoveries. These days most of my discoveries are found online (Hype Machine, Last.FM, LargeHeartedBoy, etc) anyway, so I can’t say I’m terribly surprised by any of this. Just sad.

Harp appears to have stopped cold, but No Depression will soldier on via the web, although it remains to be seen how they’ll go about doing this. Knowing full-well that that group of music fans are a very tight knit community, my approach would be to try and create and expand a niche social network. An ILike or Last.FM, with focus on the genre. Back in 1994 when I signed on to AOL (yikes) and found a discussion board dedicated to Uncle Tupelo (are you KIDDING ME, I thought!) – I was floored. Not only was it my first true exposure to how incredible the internet was and how small the world would be getting, but it was amazing to discover and meet new friends over the next couple of years from around the country who had the same crazy taste in music that I did! That was a 100% text-based message board. With the greatly expanding pipes of the internet, the opportunities for building a beautiful experience are ample.

No Depression’s opportunity is to create that feeling we all had in 1994 again, version 2.0. Given I’ve been working in the internet space for 9+ years now, I spoke with them last month and gave them some of my thoughts. It’s not all that important to me that they take the advice, it’s just important to me that these communities continue to flourish and prosper. They gave me a lot and I wish them well.

In Another Week, I’ve Got It

When I was a record business dork in the 1990’s, I had a little gig on the side. I really had no choice, given the salary of a record business dork at a predominantly bluegrass record label. So to make a little extra scratch so I could buy things like, oh, food, I did some freelance music writing. Now, I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I am my own very worst critic when it comes to writing. I pretty much think my writing is average at best. But I could string together cohesive album reviews and I did so for several publications – Philadelphia Weekly and No Depression, to name a couple. Each review, depending on verbiage, got me about $25-50.

I was also the “Music Guy” for Digital City Boston, which was owned by AOL at the time, I think. That gig paid me $100 per week! For writing just one weekly opinion column! You may know the name Bill Simmons, who has gained quite a national following over at ESPN. Well, he was the “Sports Guy” at the same place back then. We even talked about switching roles once or twice for a week.

I did some longer pieces, most notably for No Depression, but when we started Tar Hut, there was an obvious conflict of interest, so I stopped writing for them (but continued for Philly Weekly) and I really haven’t done anything since about 1999. Until this weekend! I had mentioned to friend and No Depression owner Peter Blackstock that I had loved The Whigs first album and that I wanted a crack at writing the review for their 2nd when it came out. I got it in the mail this week and I’ve been listening to it quite a bit.

For those of you who haven’t heard me consistently repeat myself about The Whigs, they are a 3-piece from Athens, GA whose debut album, called “Give ’em All A Big Fat Lip,” may be my favorite debut of the decade. They’ve got a great singer, great songs and are just adventurous enough to separate them from the mass of garbage out there today. So I was pretty psyched when I got the package in the mail this week. I’ll post the review here when the issue hits newsstands, but for now I have to give you a taste of their new record. This is the positively anthemic “Right Hand On My Heart.” They opened with this when I saw them back in the spring and it blew my doors off. Glad the recorded version came out so well: