Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Field Studies

Monday, July 29 2013

Crowdfunding and Me

When it comes to crowdfunding, there's no easy way to talk about the money.


Thursday, May 30 2013

The Groove Is Everything

Digital music makes sense to me. But dragging a needle through the grooves of a slab of vinyl and Led Zeppelin IV coming out? Now that's witchcraft befitting the Devil's music.


Tuesday, April 9 2013

What Comes After the Jason Molina Is Gone Blues?

The late Jason Molina was never anything but honest about his trials and errors, his long dark blues, and his farewell transmissions.


Sunday, February 10 2013

If It Dances, It’s Probably from This Is American Music

This Is American Music is thriving in these challenging times because it hasn't lost sight of its core purpose: to champion good music, especially from its Southern surroundings, and to do it because it knocks you on your ass with emotional recognition or gets your ass up and moving because the music rocks so hard.


Thursday, October 11 2012

Sing a Sad Song

If you're hooked on the sad song, you never stop looking for the next good one.


Tuesday, August 7 2012

Fear and Hope in the Great Depression

Songs about the fates of small towns are nothing new. For as long as they've existed, and for as long as they've been changing, songwriters have found inspiration in the conflict of "then vs. now". Southeast Engine finds no shortage of tales to tell from the plight of Canaanville.


Sunday, June 10 2012

Talkin’ Political Occupy Blues: Todd Snider

As Todd Snider's career has progressed, he has become more and more vocal about the plight of the poor, and about the powers that he views are keeping them there.


Monday, April 30 2012

The Bloody Ballad of Charlie and Ira Louvin

The Louvin Brothers made heavenly sounds, but the road they took to get there was Hell on Earth.


Wednesday, February 1 2012

Tower Songs: Townes Van Zandt

I'll Be There in the Morning offers an affectionate but hardly rose-colored view of Townes Van Zandt and his influence on other songwriters.


Monday, January 2 2012

Kicked in the Teeth by Art

For a full day, it seemed like I got pummeled by unflinching art. And I feel like I'm better for it.


Wednesday, September 28 2011

The Future of Music Looks Like a Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

I can just imagine some kind of electromagnetic pulse taking out all of the world's computers, leaving us with little more than the Ferrante and Teicher albums that litter every thrift store in the country.


Wednesday, August 10 2011

The Return of 120 Minutes

120 Minutes returns to guide us through the alternative/indie/hip-hop/whatever-else universe. But what's a show to do when nothing's as hard to find as it used to be?


Wednesday, June 1 2011

Beware the Urge to Serve Two Masters, Especially One So ‘Primitive’ as the Blues

They say Bluesman Robert Johnson went to a crossroads one night and sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his guitar prowess -- but no one ever accused him of serving two masters.


Thursday, April 14 2011

Record Store Day: The Cost in the Grooves

For a few hours each year, music geeks converge on indie record stores in hopes of scoring vinyl Holy Grails -- and then scurry back to their computers to watch auction prices soar on the items they didn’t get.


Tuesday, January 4 2011

Private Universe: Crowded House Salvages 2010

One concert experience can be a magic reminder of why you fell in love with music in the first place.


Tuesday, October 12 2010

Ah, Halloween: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… for Music

A zombie has a better chance of making it through the heavy ordnance firing range near my house than I have of making a mix – even a Halloween mix—that doesn’t devolve into sad, introspective territory.


Monday, August 2 2010

Jukebox Heroes: A Long Delayed Return to Classic Rock—Which Can Be Pretty Damn Good

Maybe classic rock's most bothersome aspect is that it traffics in arguably one of the most fertile creative periods in rock history, but leaves the impression that most bands never wrote more than three or four songs.


Sunday, May 23 2010

Souvenirs: The Enduring Appeal of John Prine

The time feels right for not just another live album, but for a long overdue John Prine tribute record. This summer, we get both.


Tuesday, March 30 2010

Sinnin’ and Sin-Eatin’ Southern Rock

Bands like Southern Culture on the Skids and the Legendary Shack Shakers do their best to preserve a sense of Southern character.


Sunday, January 24 2010

Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary

Without this guide "jack stropper" (someone who's trying to steal your woman), "dead cat on the line" (a problem from the past), or "my stomach thinks my throat's been cut" (powerful hunger) can leave you scratching your head.


Sunday, November 29 2009

Rock ‘n’ Roll Does Middle-age Awfully Well

Bruce Springsteen, among others, is not above hammering nails into the coffin of the open-road mythology that he’s built for himself.


Tuesday, September 29 2009

Truck Drivin’ Songwritin’ Man

Trucking songs, with their heart-of-gold waitresses, foggy nights, heavy loads, and rolling tires, must hit some modern emotional sweet spot, and musicians on the road share a kindred spirit with truckers.


Wednesday, August 5 2009

They Killed John Henry but They Won’t Kill Me

In these days of economic turmoil, massive job losses, and corporate profiteering, you'd expect to hear more rewritings of the John Henry legend.


Sunday, June 7 2009

Blood Meridian: The Last of the True

Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian has been called unfilmable, but that doesn't stop Ben Nichols from getting ahead of the game and crafting a worthy soundtrack.


Tuesday, March 24 2009

Heaven Can Wait ‘Til I Finish This Remix

Should I die before I wake, I’d better make sure I’ve already got my iPod / mix-tapes / CDs/ vinyl in order.


Thursday, January 29 2009

Art Imitates Death

One of the misconceptions that Graeme Thomson deals with in his book I Shot a Man in Reno is that music about death is somehow out of the norm. In fact, death finds its way into pretty much every type of music.


Sunday, November 16 2008

Bleary Eyed Duty: The Unflinching Testimony of David Eugene Edwards

In a world where you can have a Christian version of pretty much any genre, Woven Hand's David Eugene Edwards is a real outlier because you wouldn't know where to put him if he were a secular artist.


Wednesday, July 23 2008

Vinyl: Got to Get You Into My Life

Maybe it's because current methods of listening aren't cutting it that I've started buying more vinyl. Not because it sounds better or evokes nostalgia, but because listening to vinyl is a more structured and formal experience.


Sunday, June 8 2008

Righteous Paths

The Drive-By Truckers' live shows once played like a songwriters-in-the-round session with electric guitars and increasingly empty bottles of Jack Daniels. Then Jason Isbell came along -- and it only got better.


Thursday, March 20 2008

Anger With Stoic Dignity

Protest music can go one of three ways: angry, storytelling, or communal. Sowing the Seeds is communal, meant to shore up the spirits of people who are locked together, arm-in-arm, to fight for a common cause.


Sunday, January 20 2008

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (A Eulogy for the E Street Sound)

When it comes to his work with the E Street Band, Springsteen seems to have tempered or even jettisoned other songwriting trademarks, such as the sense of place that informed so many of his songs.


Sunday, December 9 2007

Young Upstarts and Wily Veterans

If you thought Satan couldn't invent a few new rides for you, you obviously forgot that he's got all the time in the world and plenty of cheap labor -- and other thoughts on the 2007 roots music scene.


Thursday, September 20 2007

The Cradle Will Rock

While my wife sings sea chantys to our baby, I'm finding plenty of dark, tranquil passages from Bruce Springsteen to help her sleep. Beats tales of the Black Death, miscarriages, and executions found in traditional nursery rhymes.


Sunday, July 22 2007

Resurrections

The co-founder of the maverick reissue label the Numero Group talks about seeking out the eccentric, saving the unknown, and releasing only what you love.


Thursday, May 3 2007

Collective Impulses

The wife disposing of her ex-husband's collection. The estate sale. The stash of records sold for pennies on the dollar because the water bill was overdue. Collecting music often depends on someone else's misfortune.


Tuesday, December 19 2006

2006, Through Roots-Colored Glasses

It's the same old complaint every year, isn't it? You do what you can, you hear what you can, and you wait to see what takes root in your brain as a keeper.


Monday, September 25 2006

Wild Abandon

It may seem quaint now, even after punk's scorched-earth campaign, to think of '50s rockabilly as a danger to Western Civilization, especially in light of pop culture's rampant envelope-pushing since then. But a closer inspection would make even the seen-it-all cynics take pause.


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