Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The New York Times Gets It Wrong!

Last Sunday's New York Times featured an article by Nashville writer Ann Patchett [link] on the growing Nashville music scene. I personally found it to be a glib and not particularly inspired piece by a writer that obviously knows very little about the scene and didn't really care to find out.

After establishing her pop cultural credentials – Patchett likes old country (Patsy, J.C. and Hank) and not the "new country" of folks like Carrie Underwood or Faith Hill (overlooking the fact that Patsy was a commercial artist in her day and not an outsider by any stretch of the imagination) – she states that "the coolest music scene today is in Nashville," name-checking clubs like the Mercy (Lounge?), the Basement, the Station Inn and the Bluebird Cafe (hardly the epitome of "alternative" music). She gets pretty flowery, writing that "Nashville in its spare time is making, dare I say it, art — unexpected and darkly fascinating music whose renegade spirit has been learned from everybody and is beholden to no one."

From that point, Patchett rapidly jumps to the conclusion that East Nashville is the nexus of everything that is good about Nashville's "new" music scene, which is more like the old country than the commercial new country, a music they call "Americana." Patchett trots out old faves like Todd Snider and Gillian Welch alongside Louisiana transplants Jeff and Vida and the Old Crow Medicine Show, all so-called examples of the city's "cutting edge." The Reverend loves Snider as much as the next fool, and I have long felt that he is a bona fide genius. I don't know much about the Old Crow folks except that they formed in New York and relocated to Nashville but, like Snider and Welch, they are well accepted as established Americana artists. Yes, the music of all of these folks is infinitely more interesting than much of what Music Row is cranking out these days, but none of them is particularly ground-breaking or news-making these days.

In fact, Patchett's article seems to throw aside much of what is interesting about Nashville music to focus instead on a handful of alt-country styled artists that live and work on the east side. Where is the mention of Tommy Womack? How about Glossary, which has been banging around Murfreesboro every bit as long as Snider has been sitting on his East Nashville porch and drinking beer? Bonepony has a truly unique sound and has toured recently with Shooter Jennings. Will Kimbrough, the Floating Men, Donna Frost...there are a lot of roots-oriented local artists that could have been included in the article to flesh out the argument that Nashville has a thriving, happening non-mainstream, non-country music scene. Don't even get me started on cool rock bands like How I Became The Bomb, the Hot Pipes, the Clutters or funk kings the Dynamites.

So, the New York Times got it wrong, and like last fall's Nashville Scene article or recent articles in the national press that have focused on Paramore or the Kings of Leon, I guess that a comprehensive, all-encompassing article on Nashville's non-country...even on its Americana scene...by nature is going to fail to mention somebody that should be included. That's why I'm writing THE OTHER SIDE OF NASHVILLE, to try and provide credit to all of the great Nashville musical talents that are all-too-often overlooked. I have no doubt I'll overlook somebody, as well....

3 Comments:

Blogger Cris said...

Love the Floating Men shout out! They really are some of Nashville's best. If you don't mind a plug, their new album "Pleasurado!" is Alternative Alternative Rock and not to be missed!

And who doesn't love Tommy Womack?! Good to know someone is paying attention.

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Pleasurado! said...

I am to saying the Reverend is good of liking music. I will be listening with a great joy to The Floating Men. They my number one turn-on.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN to the mention of BONEPONY .. this Yankee would rank them above any and all newcomers of any genre in any city !!

4:09 PM  

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