Son Of Tune Du Jour
Mississipi Fred McDowell with his wife, Anni Mae.
I’m relaunching Tune Du Jour today with a slightly different mission statement. The song-a-day format would be sustainable to someone who had nothing else to do but that’s not me — I have quite a few other things need tending. So the new TDJ will be more like other blogs, essays posted when they emerge from the misty funk of my cranium. I will also add songs from time to time, but at a slower, saner pace. No schedule for now, just an outlet for stray thoughts I feel the need to share.
Today I have good news and bad news. Let’s start bad and end on a positive note. I was in the spin room at the health club I just joined the other day. Usually it’s just me and the stationary bikes, but this day a small group that is training for something too difficult to imagine was in there, about five women and one guy. I usually listen to NRBQ, The Staple Singers or Randy Newman on my iPod when I pedal. This is not your standard jazzercise soundtrack and that point was driven home when the others in the room commandeered the stereo system. It started well. Amy Winehouse’s Rehab the some early Prince I didn’t know. No complaints form me, I was thinking what great taste they had in music. Then we went completely off the tracks. I wish I could say I knew the name of any of the auto-tuned monstrosities that came next, but I didn’t. All I know was they were all born somewhere on a continuum between American Idol, Greed, I mean Glee!… and whatever modern system has replaced payola. My mood went south quickly and I left at the end in a dejected snit. If music had been food that day, I was force fed about six Happy Meals followed by a couple apple pies washed down with a Big Gulp. I won’t dwell on this because, there is good news.
The Alan Lomax Collection, an archive of American music as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon is set to arrive online, mostly free and streamable. Greil Marcus called this stuff the “old weird America.” Weird is good, by the way, and old is sounding pretty fresh in these tracks. If you haven’t ever heard Mississippi Fred McDowell (and you won’t on Glee) treat yourself to one of the great lost artists. Everyone from The Stones, to Bonnie Raitt and The White Stripes recorded his songs. Take that experience of finding someone great you had never heard of before and multiply it by say, a couple hundred. That’s what you can expect when this thing is up ad running. Alan Lomax is, after all, the guy who discovered Woody Guthrie. But he didn’t rest on his laurels after that, he just kept going and going, like the Energizer Bunny.
All of this is set to go online in the next month, so there’s no need, unless you are stuck in the spin room with a group of pedalling androids, to ever listen to threadbare, commercially conceived, market-driven pop music. Read all about it here then treat yourself to a gourmet meal of regional genius that will make you swear off Big Macs.
© 2012 John Sieger