New in music

Matthew Ehrenclou:

You’ve heard that 70 percent of music streamed/purchased today is older music with bands like The Police and Creedence Clearwater being some of the most popular.

Just this morning a guy in his 20’s shared with me that he and his girlfriend went to a hip-hop show in Los Angeles last weekend and in the middle of it, she turned to him and said, “Do you want to go see a rock band, like with real musicians?” As he reviewed my exercises to rehab my fractured ankle, I asked him how old she was. He shared, “25.”

I found it interesting that a couple in their mid-twenties were bored with hip hop and the lack of musicians present on stage and opted instead to go to a club where real musicians played rock.

In two recent articles about the demise of great modern music Forget the Apocalypse, Let’s Talk About What Happened to Music by Umair Haque and Why Music Has Lost Its Charms by Howard Tullman, both writers claim that older music is far superior to anything new. Not just because the sound of analogue is better than compressed digital, but because (they say) today’s music doesn’t have the soul of the 60s and 70s.

Haque writes that “Modern music sucks.” He’s talking about pop music. Tell us something we don’t know. Mechanical and soulless, pop and hip-hop are largely created by computers rather than real musicians and real instruments. The articles mentioned above wax on about the richness of the 60s and 70s music, claiming that Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, Otis Redding and the Eagles still have the corner market on storytelling/songwriting in music.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all of those artists and bands, but these two article writers are missing the point.

There’s an overwhelming amount of outstanding new music that doesn’t suck. You just have to know where to look.

Just because commercial radio is pandering to fans of pop, hip-hop and pop-country, it doesn’t mean there’s a dearth of great music that rivals the greats of the 60s and 70s. There’s plenty of it with insightful and top-quality songwriting, exquisite musicianship and vocals, and music that’s created and performed by real musicians.

Are most people just not aware of Blackberry Smoke, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Larkin Poe, Samantha Fish, Marcus King, Beth Hart, Eric Gales, Rival Sons, Dirty Honey, Gary Clark Jr, Keb’ Mo’, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd? Or are they not bothering to try something new, perhaps unfamiliar, prioritizing their music libraries that feature James Taylor, Carol King, Joni Mitchel, The Who, Jethro Tull, The Beatles and others, over the discovery of new music?

It’s really not fair to the newer rock, blues and roots musicians of today. And I’m not talking about rehashings of Robert Johnson or Van Halen. I’m talking about innovative, soulful, young artists and bands who are releasing a truckload of music on their own without the backing of major record labels. Some have their own labels and others are on indie labels. Some go it alone.

The major record labels no longer have imagination or foresight and instead focus on what’s already working now for pop, hip-hop, rap, and certain pop-country artists. They’re all looking for the new Taylor Swift, the new whatever, because they’re out to make money and are mostly concerned with streaming numbers, algorithms and money made from anything but the music itself.

Give me a break.

To the 70 percent of music consumers who’d rather listen to The Police or Creedence Clearwater than trying out some of the newer bands, you must be in the dark about blues/rock, rock and roots music that’s currently being released by highly talented artists. If you weren’t, you’d be flocking to their concerts, diving into their new releases, singles, videos, and buying their merch.

Take Larkin Poe for example. Two young roots/rock multi-instrumentalists, vocalists and songwriters who have created a unique sound and have followed their vision, stayed committed to it. This sister duo, in my opinion, goes neck and neck with most popular rock or roots/rock artists/bands of the 60s or 70s. Talk about soulful. Have a listen here and tell me you aren’t captivated by their vocals, talents on guitars, lap steel and their song.

There’s hundreds of outstanding current blues/blues-rock, rock and roots musicians releasing music today that have the soul, songwriting talents, and musical gifts of those who rose to fame in previous decades. They’re just different. And your music libraries should be packed with their music, right alongside some of your favorites from the past.

Take 22-year-old Grammy winner Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. He’s not just blues but a blend of blues-rock, roots, jazz, and funky grooves. His superb guitar cops are blended with some of the richest, most soulful vocals you’ll hear today. Just because you didn’t see him perform on the 2022 Grammy Awards TV broadcast on CBS doesn’t mean sh*t. Listen Here 

And you don’t have to be ancient to love and appreciate his music. Or for that matter the music of Eric Gales , Joanne Shaw Taylor , Marcus King , Davy Knowles , Shemekia CopelandCarolyn Wonderland , Tinsley Ellis , Naked Gypsy Queens and Dirty Honey . You just have to be willing to take the risk and listen. And of course, know where to look.

How about Fantastic Negrito, an innovator if I ever saw one. He’s a multi Grammy winner too.

Speaking of risk, it seems to be challenging for a lot of people to try new rock, blues-rock and roots music. Perhaps they can’t get beyond their love and appreciation for music from the 60s and 70s. Maybe some grew up in that time period and the music is familiar and brings back good memories. But according to the stats, 46 percent of listeners of older music are between 35 and 44, 62 percent are between 45 and 54. And I get the love of Hendrix, The Who, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, and more.

But there’s more to love.

For many, it seems, it’s difficult to disengage from revering the past greats when you’re looking for new, soulful, beautifully done modern rock, blues and roots music. There’s similar musical elements in the newer music as in the older and maybe they’re compared.

Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on regarding Joe Bonamassa, his music isn’t just about virtuoso guitar playing at top speed. He’s a highly talented songwriter but you have to listen to an album like Redemption or his latest release Time Clocks to find out.

I can tell you from personal experience from running Rock & Blues Muse and an associated online group of 9,000 that many people come to us to discover new, great music with heart and soul, with similar qualities of older music but with a fresh, individual spin.

Spotify’s algorithms cannot replace a respected friend or family member’s enthusiasm for a new single or album that makes you feel something.
It can’t share music with information about the artist/band and doesn’t come with a real human being’s personal recommendation.

Tell me where I’m wrong here.

Perhaps part of why certain music fans are stuck in the trenches of older music and its magical quality, is the nature of the time it was released and the personal associations with the decade’s sense of freedom and breaking of norms and rules that went along with it. Maybe good values too.

I’ve got good news for you. That culture of soulful, new music is alive and well today. Right now. At your fingertips. It’s a much smaller culture, a narrower market, but it’s there. And it’s not just on SiriusXM Bluesville either.

The artists and bands who are creating this music are touring, performing, recording, putting on thrilling live shows, albeit in smaller venues than in previous times. But they’re there.

You just have to look and have an open mind. These artists are not retreads either of artists like The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Joni Mitchell, CSNY and more.

My opinions don’t mean that articles mentioned above are wrong. They have viable and credible information about what’s happening in the music industry, valid views about the soullessness of pop, hip-hop and rap with inane lyrics about booties, guns, and videos featuring female artists humping the floors and dancing as if on stripper poles.

I’m suggesting that they’re missing something–the new modern blues, blues-rock, rock and roots music revolution with real music and real musicians. Maybe revolution is too strong of a word but there’s no secret door to which only a select few have the key. It’s right under your nose. And it’s fresh. This isn’t the blues of yesteryear. There’s a whole new world of blues, blues/rock and roots music that embodies several genres.

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