Trying Something New Again: The Something of Marcus Singletary and Country Music
“When I started out as a musician, Auto-Tune hadn’t been invented yet, so you actually had to be able to sing and play well to get a gig, whereas, today, you can simply pay for the privilege - regardless of your talent level.”
Marcus Singletary, from the official press release on gratefulweb.com
Musicians need to be remembered for their music alone. It should be our responsibility as aficionados to make sure the people who only know of an artist through controversy, and not art, know who that musician is and where they came from. At the same time, it should be the musician’s responsibility to strive for a great product to remember, especially if they plan on offering it to the world. Let’s take Ted Nugent, for instance. Should he be remembered for his hate-filled Obama bashing? Or “Stranglehold”? Should Prince be known only for the TAFKAP debacle? Or his incredible talent and awe-inspiring catalogue? How about Jim Gordon… the superstar drummer for Derek & The Dominos, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, and thousands of hit sessions, who brutally murdered his mother in 1983? The answers to those questions are indeed rhetorical… but what if the controversy overshadows the talent (or lack thereof), a la Lohan? Should we then disregard the “artistic” output in favor of the headline for remembrance? After hearing Marcus Singletary Sings Country Music Standards, I’m inclined to say yes.
Singletary is an experimenter. Every release from the first Jupiter’s Child CD to Sings Country Music Standards is stylistically different, but that’s not necessarily a good thing in this case. One can certainly argue this point, for those artists who are considered to live in the “jam band genre” live by no genre. They’re free to interpret what they want, as is the listener. I say true, but here’s where the responsibility of the musician comes in. As prolific as Singletary is, I can’t help but to think of each record as a noodle of spaghetti, thrown at the cabinet door to check for doneness. In the case of Sings Country Music Standards, the water isn’t even boiling.
The controversy with Singletary is still fresh in mind. Last year, he tried to obtain a trademark for a hooded sweatshirt line with the slogan, “Justice For Trayvon”. The word went viral, people were vocal, and some threats physical. These are sensitive times. Trayvon Martin is a sensitive issue. It was unfortunate, but ultimately it’s not what Singletary deserves to be known for. Look back into his career, and seek out those special moments in the catalogue. He has them. “Jason’s Song” from his Jupiter’s Child days is a great moment to start with. The musical performances and arrangements on his self-titled disc from ‘08 are quite good, and there’s more good to be found on the net if you sample his goods song-by-song. Musicians should be known for their music… their quality music, that is.
It’s quite ambitious to enter the studio to record a “live” record. One microphone, one man, one guitar leaves a lot of room for criticism, unless you’re prepared to the nines and turn out a product worthy of praise for the nakedness. Singletary takes this solo-live-in-the-studio approach, and applies it to cover songs. Of all the songs to be chosen by a man known more for psychedelic noodlings and funky rock arrangements, he chooses “Proud Mary”, “You Win Again”, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Muleskinner Blues”, and “Just Pretend”. Audibly, it’s evident this is unfamiliar territory for him. Great choices… if you’re planning on playing happy hour at the local VFW for the first time. Even worse, he’s just going through the motions with no emotional attachment to these songs, coming off lazy and careless. Marcus Singletary Sings Country Music Standards is more of an amateur demo tape than it is something he should ask people to shell out their hard-earned money for. See quote above for the irony.