Alternative Country Singer-Songwriter Sarah Shook & SXSW 2019

Sarah

Sarah Shook is an artist expertly bridging the worlds of punk grime and honky tonk played on sawdust floors. But it’s her smart, pithy lyrics about love that grip listeners and don’t let go. Jim and Greg chat with country singer-songwriter Sarah Shook about her musical journey, activism, and her latest record, Years. Also, Greg is back from the South By Southwest music conference with a report on some of his new favorite bands.

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Greg’s SXSW 2019 Recap

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The 32nd South By Southwest festival wrapped up last weekend in Austin, Texas. The music industry spring break has long been one of the best places to discover ambitious new bands for record labels, managers, promoters and critics. Jim was sad to miss the event for the first time in 27 years, but was eager to hear what Greg learned while down south.

Greg was happy to report that after years of expansion (the film and tech conferences are in some ways bigger newsmakers now) and over-the-top corporate presence (Doritos vending machine stage, anyone?, the music festival was scaled-back this year. There was less focus on major stars and more emphasis on acts from around the world.

The decline in corporate influence at SXSW could be heard in the keynote address from T. Bone Burnett, the producer of many Coen brothers film soundtracks. He didn’t hold back, claiming that tech companies like Facebook and Google were a threat to our humanity.

To stay human, to survive as a species, we have to wrest our communications out of the control of the lust for power, the avarice, larceny, hubris, deceit, and self-delusion of the heads of Google and Facebook. I am confident that we can do this, Burnett said.

Greg juxtaposed Burnett’s comments against a panel with Nile Rodgers on songwriting as an investment. In that discussion Rodgers’ business partner made a plea to keep streaming platforms like Spotify alive until they can become worldwide platforms despite the low dividends they provide artists now.

Sarah Shook

Sarah Shook is an artist who blends country, punk, and rock to create her own unique sound. Shook, along with her band the Disarmers, released Years in 2018, and it ended up being Greg’s favorite record of the year! Jim and Greg talk to Sarah at Lincoln Hall in Chicago about her bittersweet lyrics, unvarnished sound, and how relationships shaped much of her last record.

Dick Dale

Dick Dale

Innovative guitarist Dick Dale passed away this week at age 81. Dale brought his unique brand of surf guitar to the masses with a series of recordings originally released on his own Deltone Records, later released on Capitol Records alongside The Beach Boys. He was known for folding Middle Eastern flourishes into his style, and for his heavy use of reverb, which influnced artists that came after him like Jimi Hendrix. He was also known for playing loud and hard, utilizing heavy gauge strings to acheive his signature sound, long before metal heads pushed the volume to 11. His style of surf rock was exclipsed by the 1960s British Invasion, but he was able to start touring again in the mid-1990s when the Quentin Tarentino film Pulp Fiction featured his 1962 record, Miserlou, in a pivotal scene. Dale continued touring and playing for the rest of his life.

Andre Williams

Andre

Legendary R&B songwriter, producer and performer Andre Williams, also passed away recently, at the age 82. Andre was born in Alabama, but got his start in 1950s Detroit, where he gained the nickname Mr. Rhythm. He was later also known as the Godfather of Rap, and his slick spoken vocals on the 1956 classic Bacon Fat are evidence of why. Williams went on the work with artists from Stevie Wonder to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but Jim will always remember him for his dapper day-glo suits, and for his 2012 recording called I Gotta Get Shorty Out Of Jail, which was released on indie label Bloodshot Records.

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