Mind-boggling. One wouldn’t think so but trying to pigeonhole your music into the proper genre is maddening. There are too many.
I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Queen, Slade – all the greats, which I considered ‘rock’ bands and, in my ’20’s, after music school, then went through a huge ‘folk’ phase, listening to mostly Donovan but throwing some Nick Drake, Don McLean, Dave Van Ronk, although he may be considered to be a part of the phase of my life in my ’30’s when I went through a ‘blues’ phase, including such notables as Sonny and Brownie, Sonny Rhodes, (whom I met at the King Eddy in Calgary one night), and, of course, many others.
All along the way, Led Zeppelin was really the soundtrack of my life, (thank God for bootlegs – 9 studio albums gets old pretty quick!), but I always listened to the Raspberries, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, the old, middle and new formations, (the middle one, with Bob Welch is the one I consider the best – check out the link to their great songs Come A Little Bit Closer and Future Games). Always listening to rock, folk and blues. I have always thought genres are pretty easy to figure out.
So, when it comes time to releasing an album, you must slot yourself into, first, a main and then a secondary, genre. For my second album, Snow Wonder, it was pretty easy – Christmas – done. For my first album, the easy choice was “Instrumental”, however, that doesn’t tell you too much. It could just as easily be instrumental of the 500 violins, (aaaah Summer Place by Percy Faith and his Orchestra – great tune) or of the The Great Gig in the Sky from Dark Side of the Moon.
I broke down the 12 songs from Slideways into the genres I believe they fall into, excluding the instrumental category:
Downtown – Outta Town – pop, country
Drake/In Flight – adult comtemporary, avant garde, new age
New Horizon – easy listening, blues
Thinking Twice – pop, epic pop, sophisti-pop
Too Bad – blues
Collaboration – pop, adult contemporary
Urban Hop – folk, contemporary
Wyatt Café – blues, ’50’s electric blues
Dey Ha’ T’ Go – blues, blues-rock
Blues Riff in E – blues
Fire – psychedelic rock, stoner
Waterfall – pop, easy listening, folk
If this is accurate, I guess the album would be classified as a blues album since that is the majority category. You would have a hard time convincing any bluesman worth his chops, however, that Urban Hop is a blues song.
Being a spatial, as opposed to a linear, thinker, I find these labels exasperating at best and vexing at worst but I do see the need for them. Some system of organizational flow chart is needed. But, c’mon, how many bloody genres do we need. Check out this link about genres from Wikipedia.
I counted close to 300 and that only includes folk, rock, pop, blues, easy listening headings, It excludes ska, country, electronic, hip hop, jazz, and R and B. Wow.
As I continue to record music, I find myself having an internal debate about what the best way to release the series of songs I am working on. At the moment there are 22 songs in various stages of completion. Some of them are quite clearly blues songs, whether long or short or multi-versioned. Others are nice little pop songs. Some are brooding ballads, (I’ll have a blog about this coming up soon!), while others are more difficult to classify.
I suppose I could fit them all onto one album but that solution creates many issues, the least of which is that if a pop song is released onto a blues album, the listener expecting to hear blues will be miffed because there is a non-blues song on the album, and the pop listener will have a shallower life for not having heard the pop song lost on a blues album.
The solution? A series of singles? Nah. That would involve too much time spent on marketing.
A series of EP’s? This is the direction toward which I am leaning.
That way, I can release three to six songs on a blues EP and they all fit the description, just as all the pop songs will fit on the Pop EP.
Once the songs are complete, you can spend a little time working on all the various components of marketing and playing the songs and then follow it up with another album in short order.
And it is slowly dawning on me that the day of the album is doomed. People will buy songs, usually the hits, and move on so they can create a play-list, the current embodiment of the ’80’s mixed tape. And iTunes even has a “genius’ that will mix it for you so you don’t have to spend too much time bothering with your music. Let a machine do it. Bah!
In the spring of 2012, as I watched the hockey play-offs, there was a Lexus commercial that had this great song as the background music. I did a little research and found out the song was by a North Carolina singer named Kristina Train. I checked out her website, listened to a bunch of her music and ended up buying the whole damn album. She has a great voice.
If this is out of step with modern sensibility, then to Hell with modern sensibility. I bought the whole album of someone who, half an hour previously, I had never heard of and I loved it. And this is what I usually do. I would rather listen to great but obscure music. I suppose that is what I record too. Too bad most people never hear it.
I must have played a ‘G’ chord on my guitar thousands of times. It is my preferred key on the guitar because, as a soloist, it is very versatile. On my current set list, shown below, no fewer than 11 of the guitar songs are in G.
I was in a duet about 10 years ago called the Dirty Ol’ Buskers. I played guitar, harmonica and the kazoo, (specifically for a cover of the Ringo version of ‘You’re Sixteen’) and my partner, Rob White, played a set of drums one might find a busker playing. A real simple set and he stood while playing. It was a great set-up. We both sang.
I will take a minute to explain what a G chord is to you non guitar players as it is relevant to what I will explain later. A guitar has six strings, (duh?!?) and to form a G chord, at least the way I do it, is to press down the 6th string at the 3rd fret, (bass) with your second finger, mute the 5th string, press down the 3rd fret of the first string with your 3rd finger and strum. The key is that strings 4, 3 and 2 are left open and ring out once you strum until you stop them. Great chord!
Two of the songs we did were Squeezebox by the Who and Rave On by Buddy Holly. We played both songs in G and the reasoning was thus: Both songs involve a simple boogie pattern over a shuffle beat and it sounds good with the full G chord but the real magic is that, when it came time to do some sort of guitar solo, I would get my two fingers in the position described above and start flying around the fret board, hitting chords at frets 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 15, 20. The beauty of this is that you are actually playing a solo, whether you are focusing your strum on the high notes or the low notes, and those three open strings I mentioned just continue to ring out, basically acting like a rhythm guitarist.
So, we had two singers singing in harmony, one set o’ drums and one guitar acting like two guitars, essentially a five piece group. It was an effective way of filling out the sound.
I have G on my mind because I was sitting down to do a little work on the guitar the other day and, after tuning up, struck a G chord. It was another of those strange aural phenomena I wrote about earlier, (see Barely Audible Music). When I struck the G chord, this one note really stood out. So, rather than doing what I had set out to do, I decided to spend a few minutes chasing this sound that just came out of my guitar. What resulted was a finger picking song that, with a little more development, is now being worked up with the working title ‘Quirky Riff in G’. (I dunno if I will stick with that title?)
And this song just emerged from a chord that I had played thousands of times.
It is a wondrous instrument.
This is my current set list, (songs in bold are piano, italics are in G.)
I Threw it All Away – Dylan
Victory – Code Sail Away – Neil Young
Deliver Your Children – McCartney
One Too Many Mornings – Dylan All Things Must Pass – George Harrison
The Way – Fastball Shooting Star – Dylan
River of Tears – Ian Hunter
Yesterday’s Love – Code
The Crystal Ship – Doors
Flowers and Dust – Code
High Flying Bird – E John
Don’t Think Twice – Dylan
The Weight – The Band
Always on My Mind – Elvis
Richard Cory – McCartney New Orleans – Arlo Guthrie
Most of the Time – Dylan You’re So Square – Elvis/Queen I’m Wandering – Kristina Train
Louisiana – Randy Newman
Let It Be – Beatles
Desperado – Eagles
Skyline Pigeon – E John
Downtown Train – Rod Stewart
Sweet Painted Lady – E John
Make You Feel My Love – Dylan
You Stepped into My Dreams – Ian Hunter
The Man You Wanted – Code
Walk a Thin Line – Fleetwood MacLove Minus Zero/No Limit – Dylan
Out on the Weekend – Neil Young Who’ll Stop the Rain – CCR
Standing on a Rock – Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Catch The Wind – Donovan
Say it Ain’t So, Joe – Murray Head I Shall Be Released – Dylan
Here, There and Everywhere – Beatles
Come a Little Bit Closer – Fleetwood Mac I’ve Just Seen a Face – Beatles
There’s a Kind of Hush – Herman’s Hermits