Saturday, July 08, 2006

Nashville Music Zines, Part Four (Finis)

As stated previously, Gus Palas had sold the bloated carcass that was The Metro to Radio Lightning to use as a sort of in-house music magazine. Station manager Ned Horton had some great ideas for the rag, and no little amount of vision, but he knew right from jump street that he had to do something about the magazine to make it more professional if he was going to sell it to advertisers. He spent a crapload of money on new Apple computers and all the software needed to make a magazine look nice, and then he went out and found a couple of guys to use all this new gear.

Ned hired Daryl Sanders and Jody Lentz from Athlon Sports. Unlike Gus and, really, even myself, these guys came from a higher level in the publishing biz. Athlon was a mega-bucks company, publishing annual sports guides for S.E.C. and NFL football and such, magazines with glossy color covers and lots of advertising. I knew Daryl briefly from the good old days of Take One Magazine, where he had worked with Thom King before I came along, and he was to take the editorial reigns of The Metro. Jody was an accomplished graphic artist that could make a Mac sing, and his redesign of the rag made it look cool, clean and professional.

Daryl and Jody rounded up a staff, including some very fine writers like Jason Moon Wilkins, Holly Gleason, Brett Ratner, Audese Green, Warren Denney and even my old pal Andy Anderson, as well as the Reverend, to fill up the pages of The Metro each month. Under the new editorial regime, and in keeping with the radio station's eclectic mix of musical genres, the scope of The Metro expanded to include coverage of reggae, world music, jazz, blues and the new "jam band" genre. Sometime in mid-1993, The Metro became Bone Music Magazine and Gus Palas found himself gently pushed out the door.

Initially, the Reverend contributed CD reviews to Bone, and since I was one of the few staffers that was plugged into the Nashville music scene, I got to cover local bands as well. If the '80s offered great local bands like Jason & the Scorchers, Webb Wilder & the Beatnecks, Walk The West, the White Animals and Afrikan Dreamland, the decade to follow would see an explosion of talent. Clockhammer, Max Vague, the Floating Men, Price Jones, Chagall Guevara and many more would also create cool and challenging music during the '90s.

It was Daryl Sanders who officially dubbed me "The Reverend" and began running my byline as Rev. Keith A. Gordon, claiming that since I was always preaching about music, the media, politics and such, and since I was an ordained minister, I should therefore be called "The Reverend." I began writing a column for Bone called "Dancing On The Edge" that covered music, zines, counter-culture and something called "the Internet." It was Bone publisher Ned Horton who declared that "nobody wants to ready about the Internet," and therefore the magazine (and my column) should be sparing in its coverage of the flegling technology.

With Sanders and Lentz at the helm, assisted by people like Kris Whyte (now Whittlesey, editor of All The Rage) and guided by Horton, Bone expanded with regional editions in a number of cities, including Atlanta, which were sponsored by local radio stations. A small four-page insert called T-Bone was produced for The Tennessean newspaper, featuring artist interviews and CD reviews. By 1995, Bone Music Magazine was a bona fide regional phenomena covering the best mainstream and alternative music. Ned even discovered the Internet, and the Reverend was allowed to cut loose with a cover story that year about "music on the Internet."

A year later, however, the bottom fell out for Bone. The zine was losing "affiliates" across the country, reducing the number of editions that were produced (and the income received from those other radio stations). The Internet was providing music news faster than a monthly magazine, and Ned later admitted that he had underestimated the growth in popularity of the 'net as a new media outlet. Neither Ned or the radio station had anything to counter the 'net and it hurt the magazine especially. Then, in May 1996, Horton was asked to resign his position by the station's owners due to a difference in management philosophy. Local businessman David Tune took over as station manager and soon discontinued both Bone magazine and something called Bone-TV that ran one or two shows on a local station. The new Metro/Bone magazine had managed to squeeze out almost four years before falling beneath the reaper's blade.

There haven't really been any significant local music zines that I'm aware of since Bone went belly up ten years ago. The Reverend published sporadic zines such as a resurrected R Squared and R.A.D! (Review And Discussion of Rock & Roll) on a limited basis during the late-90s before launching the Alt.Culture.Guide music webzine in 2000. There was KP's Rock & Read zine, which evolved into Shake Magazine, published by local musician Chris James. The local scene was never Shake's main focus, though, although Chris and writers like Steve Morley wrote about some interesting music. Word has reached the Reverend that there are changes going on at Shake, however, the music magazine undergoing a facelift and a change in editorial direction that includes input from some familiar names in my history of Nashville music zines. Keep informed of the changes at the zine on the upcoming new Shake Magazine web site....

Monday, July 03, 2006

Band List Posted

As promised, I've posted a complete list of all the bands that I'm including in "The Other Side Of Nashville" project. Over the weekend, the Reverend met with musician/producer Greg Walker and one of the new friends that the project has brought us, Holly Duncan, who lent us a large stack of zines, photos and other cool stuff to use in the book. A handful of new bands were discovered among the flotsam and jetsam that the project has been gathering, and they have been added to the "official" list:

ELEVEN 59, ROBB HOUSTON
PARAMORE, PRIVATE LIVES, WHYTE LACE

As before, you can contact the Reverend by email at rev.gordon (at) gmail.com if you have any information on any of the bands included on the list. We're looking for recordings, the names of band members, local music zines...anything, really, that ties into the project, full details of which can be found on "The Other Side Of Nashville" page. Keep those emails coming!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bonepony "Feeling It" CD Review

BONEPONY
Feeling It
(Super Duper Recordings)
It should come as no surprise that Feeling It , Bonepony’s fourth studio album, should open with a song like “Home.” Although the band’s roster has shuffled a bit through the years, revolving around frontman Scott Johnson, the current line-up of Johnson, Nicolas Nguyen and Kenny Wright represents decades of experience and tens of thousands of miles on the road. Grizzled veterans of countless local and regional bands, the trio has earned every right to be tired, fed up with the music business and worn down by the rigors of the road. Yet “Home,” at once both spry and weary, is a celebration of both those left behind and the brotherhood of the road, “singing in a traveling band.” The song offers the usual mixed genres of Bonepony’s sound, an overall bluesy feel complimented by a bluegrassy stomp and strum.

Concerned with relationships – with family, with friends, with fans – Feeling It is an affirmation of the band’s faith in the power of music. Relationships are hard to manage when you spend 100+ nights a year on the road, and the value of a family waiting for you increases with every mile traveled. Several songs here touch upon the subject, dissecting it from different perspectives. The guys are clearly reconciling the wanderlust of their chosen profession with the need for roots and romance. Whether directly addressing the issue, as with the Southern-fried funk of “She’s My Religion” or the mournful, high lonesome sound of “Colour Blue,” or indirectly, as with “Good News,” the question rises to the forefront of the album. The wonderful “Something Good” is classic Bonepony, sparse acoustic instrumentation matched with infectious vocal harmonies in the creation of a complex love letter that would translate well to both rock and country radio (if the medium wasn’t run by idiots).

The high point, in my mind, of Feeling It is the defiant “Farewell,” a recommitment to the muse that calls all three bandmembers, a casting off of the ghosts of the past and the negative energy that would drag them down. Sung by Johnson with a deliberate hesitancy, the song brings the album full circle, where all roads lead back home. It jumps directly into the triumphant title song, the band finally succumbing to the siren of the stage, balancing family and fans with the magic of the music. It’s only appropriate that the album closes with “Park City Jam,” a brief yet energetic reprise of “Home” with whoops and hollers and handclaps that punctuate the joy and jubilation that is the root of Feeling It .

Bonepony’s music, for those unfamiliar with the band, is an eclectic mix of rock, country, folk, blues and bluegrass. It’s a sound as old as the Appalachian Mountains and as alien to today’s trend-driven, focus-group-created-frankenrock as you could possibly be. This is music for the heart and soul, not for corporate marketing. Bonepony’s sound translates well to the stage, where the acoustic instrumentation and the band’s dynamic performances can spark a fire hotter than a Delta roadhouse on a Saturday night. With no disrespect to former fiddle player Tramp, the addition of multi-instrumentalist Kenny Wright to the trio was a smart move, widening the band’s capabilities even as they strip these songs down to the basics. Feeling It will both satisfy longtime fans and earn the band new fans, the album’s honesty and energy an antidote to the restless dissatisfaction felt by many music lovers. If you’re looking for something new and exciting, look no further than Bonepony. (Copyright Rev. Keith A. Gordon, reprinted courtesy of Alt.Culture.Guide™ webzine)