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July 2014 Newsletter

Monday, June 16, 2014

July 2014 Newsletter

Robert Johnson

We have met my goal of $20,000 and exceeded it by $3,000...and counting! Thanks to everyone who's donated thus far. The campaign ends THIS Thursday June 26th (at 6:25 PM EDT), so there is still time to make your pledge. Sure, I met my goal, but believe it or not, what I asked for was an extremely conservative estimate of what it costs to manufacture, release and promote a new record.

If we raise more, I can do more to take this conversation about Bill and his music to an even larger audience. I'd work with a radio promoter who used to work Bill's records and knows how to connect with his audience. I'd make a cool stop-motion puppet animation video to one of Bill's songs, something that boomers and hipsters alike will find engaging. There are 5,000 people on this list, and 360 have donated thus far. If even half the list kicked in $10 to buy a digital download of MILLTOWNS, I'd raise about $50,000. I'm not even sending the Girl Scouts or Hare Krishnas to your door. I'm just suggesting that if you like my music, you could help me make more of it simply by buying it.



My favorite radio station happens to be right here in my own Boston backyard. I say this not because they have been big supporters of my music right from the beginning. Truthfully, they recently earned this title when I began to hear blues artists in their regular rotation. Most stations relegate the genre to some weekly nighttime show, when it's easy to miss and only real hardcore fans tend to tune in. I love that when I turn on my favorite station, I might hear Howlin' Wolf sandwiched in between Suzanne Vega and, ahem, me.

At a recent station visit I mentioned just how much I appreciated the addition of blues, and one person confided in me that some listeners have called in to express their disapproval. This shocked me--who does this? I can't imagine a younger person calling a radio station, for any reason. And many of the blues greats were "rediscovered" in the 60's and programmed into folk festivals to great acclaim alongside Baez and Dylan, when many more "seasoned" listeners were likely festivalgoers themselves.

It sounds academic to assert that the blues is a treasured part of our national heritage (it is). It's more instructive to consider where much of our favorite music would be without it. No John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton or Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats? Then no Bill Haley or Elvis Presley. It's difficult to imagine Little Richard or Chuck Berry without the blues. And without any of those artists...no Beatles, Stones or what followed. Without the blues there is Jimmie Rodgers or Hank Williams, so kiss country music goodbye. Without Leadbelly there is no Woody, hence no singer/songwriters like Dylan and, well, all the rest of us. Taking the blues out of the equation is like throwing away your spine: all you can do is sit there in a useless puddle.

I found the blues in high school, through classic rock like the Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton. Without their versions of blues getting played on the radio, I wouldn't have known to go digging for B.B. King or Robert Johnson. But once I was aware of those blues trailblazers, I started seeing evidence of their influence everywhere. In the early 90s, I was getting into the new crop of the modern folksingers, and even Bill Morrissey's new record had a song called "Robert Johnson" on it. I feel lucky to have realized at a tender age that nothing I love would be the same without the blues. But I had to be exposed to the genre in order to learn this valuable lesson.

So to anyone who would rather not have to sit through a staticky version of Johnson's "32-20 Blues" to get to "Luka," or endure the scarifying vocal of Howlin' Wolf singing "I Asked Her For Water (And She Gave Me Gasoline)" to hear one of my songs, I say...tough! Think of the blues as the equivalent of a musical vaccination program. You don't have to love it, but it works best when everyone's subjected to it, and we are healthier and stronger as a population for our exposure. So next time John Lee Hooker comes on the radio, don't call to complain. Take your medicine.

MP3 of the MONTH: In keeping with this month's twin themes of the blues and Bill Morrissey, I figured the perfect song to do would be "Robert Johnson," off of Bill's Inside album. I wanted to do this one for Milltowns, but never got around to it. I've posted a little acoustic basement demo to my Bandcamp page and it's available for FREE for the month of July. Enjoy!


Sun June 29 - Eddie's Attic, Decatur GA - 7 pm
I know this show isn't technically in July, but since I don't have many others and I don't get down South much I figured it was worth another mention. I'll be opening for and accompanying my good friend Lori McKenna. Always a great time and I'm sure she'll have a bazillion new songs to play for you.

Sun July 13 - Green River Festival, Greenfield MA - 3:25 pm
This is my favorite music festival. Laid back, manageable, but with an unusually high caliber of music for its size. We'll share our day with Josh Ritter, Dave & Phil Alvin, Hurray For The Riff Raff, The Deadly Gentlemen and many other great acts. Barnstar! hasn't played a gig since January and we ain't rehearsing for this one. We're just gonna tear the place down!

No other sideman gigs scheduled this month, but you never know where I'll pop up.

Aug 24 - Rock and Blues Cruise, Boston Harbor, Boston MA (Barnstar! gig)
September and beyond - the start of the MILLTOWNS tour, stay tuned for dates to be announced


updated 1 month ago