Generic, boring bluegrass vs. The Rainmakers   Leave a comment


So I have no energy to do ‘real’ work- the kind I make my living at- tonight, so I figure I’ll listen to one of the many CDs I have piled up on the shelf waiting to review. I won’t name the band- hell, Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain- and it is excruciating. The most unimaginative and bland presentation of bluegrass this side of Alecia Nugent. Horrible. I’m sure she is a nice lady, and a good mother, and maybe even a fine singer- but this is the sort of bluegrass that makes me hate my favourite music. Nothing memorable about it with every song blurring into the next…and half of it has no business calling itself bluegrass.
Maybe on another night, in another week, my reaction wouldn’t be nearly so visceral. But I’ve had it up to there with spending my time with music that invokes nothing positive to my listening and- ultimately- life. Sorry, Carrie- this one was the straw…
 
And as I’m inflicting this schlock on myself, I start thinking that I haven’t listened to a bluegrass album in weeks- all the way through, I mean- and I start reflecting on what I’ve been listening to instead and why I’ve been avoiding the ‘grass. And I think it is because it (generalizing like you wouldn’t believe) is so often forgettable and bland. Little personality, colour by numbers songwriting, unimaginative arrangements…everyone trying to sound like the Grascals, Rhonda, and Mountain Heart…all of whom are fine- in moderation- but whose imitators are less interesting than a Jackson Browne album cover.
 
And, as all of these thoughts go through my head a couple hours ago, my eyes come to rest on the (several) stacks of albums I’ve spread around my home office over the last weeks, hauled up from the basement while doing some fall cleaning. (Hmmm, fall cleaning, and I pull more things out. There is a study there, perhaps.)  A complete set of Sparks through to the nineties, some Three Dog Night, Nils Lofgren, Marianne Faithful, Lou Reed, Gary Numan, and others and I realize I’ve been listening to ‘old’ music of the ‘rock’ variety a lot more than usual of late- including things I’m downloading. Not things I know note for note- The Who, Bruce, Otis, and Bauhaus, and such- but things I haven’t really listened to too closely. I’ve been having a blast with Smokie, Suzi, the Monkees (I never realized how many of the hits Dolenz sang) and Sparks…and then I saw the Rainmaker’s  (Mercury) self-titled album from 1986.
 
I hadn’t listened to The Rainmakers in probably 10 years, maybe more. All I could remember before playing it tonight  was two songs- “Downstream” and “Let My People Go-Go”- and that I liked the album a lot when I was in university the first time. “Downstream” has remained in my cognitive jukebox for twenty-two years, and it isn’t going nowhere.
 
So I put it on and start sorting socks. I’m on my second listen through as I write this. What a brilliant album- I wish I had known then what I know now- I would have appreciated the whole album as much as I did the songs I considered the ‘hits.’ “Doomsville” and “Government Cheese” sort of ring appropriate given the current climate. “Information” reveals a whole lot about the Great Big Sea sound- something I’d never noticed before- and why would I having not dusted this one off in forever. It’s rock, it’s country, it’s both, and yet it’s neither.
 
I likely listened to this album slightly less than any Jason album from and during the first great alt.country scare- which, of course, wasn’t called that- I think we might have called it ‘roots rock’ at the time, but who remembers-  but I’m sure enjoying it tonight. And it sure has more personality than much of the bluegrass I’m going to have to force myself to listen to this week.
 
That’s my listening recommendation for the week. The Rainmakers.
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