First Annual Review: What Did We Find?

Just about this time one year ago, I launched “Finding Classic Cowjazz R&B” to in a sense formalize and communicate something I’ve been doing for years – looking for great performances by well known and unknown musicians of today and yesterday who perform classic forms of country, R&B/Soul, folk, and the not easily classified brand of music purveyed by Texas born or bred singers and songwriters called Cowjazz, a term handed down from an unknown original source by Jerry Jeff Walker. I’ve had a great time, but the question of the day is, what did we find?

“The proof of the pudding is in the tasting” as the old saying goes. Thus I’ve taken a break from searching to spend some time listening – to hear again what we’ve found. I’ve posted on ninety-one albums plus two or three playlists and “appreciations” for five stellar artists who’ve left the stage through death or disability. That’s roughly 1500 tunes, a heck of a catalog, if I do say so.  And after “tasting” it again, I have to say that most of it is damn good.

I’ve said on several occasions that this blog’s purpose is not to review new albums in the normal sense of that task. Still in our search for Classic CowjazzR&B, we certainly hear and write about many new albums and artists as well as mine the vaults for gems from the past. I was, therefore, proud to see a number of artists and recordings we discussed among those nominated for Americana Awards. These are the nominated musicians, albums and songs we’ve covered to date by category:

Album of the Year
Chris Stapleton – Traveller
Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day

Artist of the Year
Chris Stapleton
Bonnie Raitt

Duo/Group of the Year
Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris
Lake Street Dive
Tedeschi Trucks Band

Emerging Artist of the Year
Margo Price
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Song of the Year
“S.O.B.” – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
“Hands of Time” – Margo Price

Instrumentalist of the Year
Cindy Cashdollar – featured in video of Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women performing “Boss of the Blues”

Of course the biggest winner already in the country category has been Chris Stapleton. I wrote about his album Traveller in my inaugural post last June. I really expected big things for the album and its leadoff single “Tennessee Whiskey.” For awhile, however, they languished in the nether regions of the charts, primarily because they received very little radio play other than on Sirius/XM’s Outlaw Country. Regardless, Chris, the album and the song swept the CMA Awards in November. Boosted by the wins and Justin Timberlake’s help on Chris’s performance of “Tennessee Whiskey” during the CMA’s national telecast, the album and song rocketed up the charts and stayed there. Plus Stapleton’s big wins continued at the Grammy and ACM Awards in early 2016.

My point in bringing up the Americana Awards nominations and especially Chris Stapleton’s recognition and remarkable albeit somewhat belated sales success is that it validates my belief that there is in fact a market for great performances in the music this blog seeks. Today’s digital-driven music industry just makes it hard for many artists working with classic forms to find their audiences and for audiences to find music they can love.

To close the circle of this commentary, that’s why “Finding Classic Cowjazz R&B” exists. Alas, far too little of the quality music we’ve discussed via this blog found anything near the commercial success Stapleton ultimately enjoyed. This blog can help audiences and artists find each other at least in a small way but only if we can grow the readership and in turn ramp up the dialog. Looking back over the music we’ve “found” this first year and motivated by the example Traveller set, I’ve added a second goal for our mission: grow the readership. I not only want to find the music we love, I want to grow the audience for the musicians that make that music.

For now, join me in looking back over year one. Let’s enjoy a semi-randomly selected sampling of great performances – not necessarily from the albums we reviewed – by artists we’ve featured in year number one.

I wrote about Donnie Fritts’s album Everybody’s Got A Song in my inaugural post. This is my favorite tune from that album, “If You Say So.”

Whenever I listen to Chris Wall, well, “I feel like singing along.”

Eli “Paperboy” Reed performed for two of the Lea Brothers Band Western Classics, although you can’t get mush further away from western than to be born in Boston. He usually does original material, but this cover from the “At Daryl’s House” series is just too much fun to miss.

 

The title of her recent album notwithstanding, Darlene Love needs no introduction. Here she shows the “Boss” how much run rock ‘n’ roll can be.

 

As a nod of thanks to David Lee for taking the time to write to me, and because I love what the song has to say and how it says it…

In closing this annual review, I want to thank those of you who’ve responded with comments about the music and artists or suggestions for other artists and albums to consider. Most of those comments and suggestions have been posted for all to enjoy.

I referenced just above a very thoughtful and complimentary comment I received from one of the artists I featured, David Lee.  He wrote (in part,) “I want to thank you for the incredibly insightful review of my record “The Wichita Kid.”  Thanks for taking your precious time to delve into my world and truly understand the music. Thanks for what you do pal, for getting the music heard and being a true fan of the music creators that truly need folks like you to care.”

That says it all about why this blog exists, doesn’t it. On behalf of David Lee and the other “music creators” we cover, thank you for reading, listening, and exploring.

Finally, I bid year one adieu with my favorite singer in tribute to my favorite songwriter. (Unfortunately, after you click the play arrow for the video you may have to click a second link you’ll see to go to YouTube to actually see the video because of restrictions by its owner. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I hope you agree it’s worth the trouble.)