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Blue Collar Digs Into Music!
By Mick Polich - 01/17/2008 - 09:44 AM EST

(O.k., well, I guess that I have had a few more articles already in the hopper, so I’m going to go ahead and release them before February, then start fresh. If anyone has some subject matter – music related and with reason, of course –to be covered, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do with the requests this coming year. Until then, FORTH WE GO!!!)

You dig into it… or you pick and choose….

Of course, Diamond Dogs, this has to do with MUSIC!!!!!

All like music for different reasons – do you like, say, the rhythms of rap but not the lyrics? Or dig jazz as long as there is a jam band groove underneath it?

I can relate to all and even MORE!!

 Rare is the individual that buys into the whole package of a music genre (or understands it). I like different music for different reasons –sometimes the whole of it, or sometimes just a little sliver of pie, please!

We have many, many genres and sub-genres in the ol’ music field today – seems like there are more sub categories going on. Is this good? Yeah, doesn’t bother me, and I don’t mind sifting thru it. I just don’t like it when the ‘unsuspecting’ are hit with say a certain type of music that isn’t a good rep of the so-called ‘whole field’ (i.e., smooth jazz as jazz – this is why it’s called ‘smooth’, youngsters…).  Of course, this is experience and a matter of taste  - I can figure out what’s good, bad, and in-between, no prob. But is it o.k. to like PART or PARTS of a song or style? Yeah, do whatever you want – golly, there are no Music Nazis (at least, none in plain sight), so live it up, Romans!

I have mentioned metal before in these columns – that is my ‘man confession’ on a down – trodden musical genre that I like. There’s some complex reasoning there: one, the crunch of the guitars against basic or complex rhythms (especially prog-metal) is most cool, dude/dudette. Secondly, there’s some hidden ‘humor’ there (and not talking about the amped-up blues reference to chicks and partying – too obvious, kinda dumb at this point – oh yeah, maybe a nod, a wink, a raised devil horn for one hand with a beer in the other, then a shake of the head, a muttering of ,” O.k., that’s enough.”). Then, on the other side, it’s a one-trick pony in the wrong hands – lyrically retarded at times (yes, emo-metal/pop punk metal offspring, this includes YOU!!!), redundant in it’s relentless pounding of skulls and head banging. Yeah, I’ve followed along with it all these years, and I know this all goes with the territory (maybe you secretly wished that you coulda been a Great Metalhed, Mr. Polich!!!) been a lot of fun, but if you can swipe some of the power from metal, bring in better lyricists at times, and give it some dynamic range and scope (which I know there are some bands out there in the world doing this – Opeth, Dillinger Escape Plan, maybe the old wave of Iron Maiden/Judas Priest, Metallica when they’re not feeling ‘corporate’…).

How ‘bout country? Yee ha, you bet – again, a mixed bag for me. New country, for whatever the term is worth, can be dubious to me, a little suspicious. Definitely old-school for sure, but with some newer folks thrown in: Willie Nelson, for sure, while Miranda Lambert shows some promise. There is a label out of Chicago called Bloodshot Records, which brilliantly combines punk, rock, and country aesthetics into a heady brew. Deadstring Brothers, Jon Langford, and steel get-tar whiz Jon Rauhouse are Bloodshot artists – impressive, roots-rock with a country edge and occasional tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Drive By Truckers? Brilliant – look forward to any new release by them. As far ‘mainstream’ country, I don’t feel a lot of ‘em have been in the oven too long to get cooked, you know? I don’t mind the ‘Southern Rock Movement’ that’s been going on for a decade or so in country – I’m an old Skynryd man myself – but the mainstream stuff needs some tweaking…..

You know, this is just me – I’ll probably miss some songs, bands, and performers from all the genres, but my main gig here is to get y’all to think a little harder about the subject at hand (if not, here’s your X-Box, bro’…)

Rap – lately, I’ve been picking and choosing. Here’s an “aha” moment I had with hip-hop and rap influenced music just yesterday – my son and I went to see the “Alvin And The Chipmunks” movie which is mindless fun if you’re between 8 – 11 years old, or want to get into that mindset for two hours. For Christmas, Andrew received the “Alvin” soundtrack, which has some hip-hop versions of some real-world songs sung by the ‘Munks (which, in some ways, I prefer the ‘Munks versions!). Anyway, I’m listening for the umpteenth time to the CD, and I noticed how modal – influenced the vocal lines are – very Phrygian, Middle Eastern types influx. THEN, in my crazy connect-the-dots way, I think, “ O.k., so we’ve been copping a lot of stuff from the Beruit / Middle East disco scene for awhile (which has been quite prominent for tech and dance music for a long time..). But gosh, it took a ‘Chipmunk’ version for me to realize that! That’s the one not-entirely-obvious thing I like about hip-hop/ modern r and b/rap – there’s some production thing in there that makes you go, ”Hmmmm…” Then, there’s just some obvious differences there – I’m more old school rap (although Kayne West and Jay Z have had some innovative stuff), and there’s probably the thing of being a white kid from rural Iowa, too – although music of struggle (which I think that’s how rap birthed, and still is in some circles) you can relate to depending on your empathy…… 

Yep, it’s the Musical Buffet at the ol’ Machine Shed Restaurant, kids – pick and choose, pick and choose, and pick and choose the menu!!!!

Jazz, well, it runs a huge gambit.  I’ll run across the map with anything from experimental, to free/avant – garde, to classic standards, bop, modal, fusion – as I have said before, don’t like to label jazz any more because the defining line isn’t there. When someone says, “This reminds me of Coltrane’s classic quartet, or Miles Davis’ early 1970’s stuff”, then, well, thanks, that’s cool, and I’m all over it. I guess I was in on the embryonic beginnings of the “smooth jazz” phenom back with Grover Washington Jr., Tom Scott, and Jeff Lorber, but I’ve left that in the dust for the past 25 years. You could argue even the pop/soul jazz stuff that all the cats back in the 60’s and 70’s were doing to get some bread on the table was the impetus for the smooth jazz game – now that stuff is looked upon as classic – DJ’s back in the 1980’s and ‘ 90’s would dig thru album crates to find now reissued CD’s from Grant Green and CTI label records. My personal fav runs to Grant Green – got almost everything issued from the man, still studying it – he was “Mr. Right Note At The Right Time”. Now, see – you might listen up on a Green CD and go, ”Hmm, can’t find any user friendly stuff here!” whereas I would say the same about a couple of smooth jazz cats. Just a matter of what you need, want, and can digest!

Of course, I pick and choose thru new pop stuff – I won’t haul off and say it’s all garbage because you gotta listen to a bunch to get to some interesting stuff.

Carlos Santana had a good observation regarding music and growth – the S-Man said moving from one era of his music to the next is like moving up in shoe size – you were there, but now you’ve grown, and it’s time to move on to the next era. Some folks are quite comfortable hangin’ out and listening to a particular music era –I guess lately I’ve been enamored by the jazz/rock fusion era again, circa 1968 – 1980. Also, I’ve been revisiting new and old rock stuff that I glazed over the first time (old: Ry Cooder, new: Band Of Horses and the Black Angels…). Really, I just take what I need from the music – that’s all anybody does when we’re listening and watching. But I guess the search is always part of the process to see what’s new, what’s old, what’s mellow, and what’s bold in the music we listen to.

So, gentle reader, it’s o.k. to graze over the music that you love, sorta like, and question from afar like you’re in the buffet line at the local Chinese restaurant . I know of very few people who are emphatic about the WHOLE of the music that they listen to – like that melody, don’t like the drums, like the guitar work, hate the lyrics. Always something to pick apart (kinda like the menu at Lee Ho Fook’s…ha-oooooh, Werewolves Of London!)

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