Now people let me tell you ’bout this
It will break your heart and it will
knock you down
The glitter and the glamour, it’s a big
And people, the music, well, it don’t
mean a thing
It’s all about the money that’s made
Aw, people it’s a crying shame
I got them Nashville city blues
And I ain’t leavin’ this town, people, till
I get paid.
James Talley, “Nashville City Blues”
This scathing send-up of Music Row might ring hollow coming from a lesser singer, but James Talley has earned the right to sing it. It’s a sign of just how venal the music business has become when an artist of Talley’s stature can’t support himself making records. Steeped in his Okie and populist roots, Talley’s ’70s albums for Capitol were compared favorably to the work of Woody Guthrie and John Steinbeck. His import-only disc from 1992, The Road to Torreon, a collaboration with photographer Cavalliere Ketchum, is in the tradition and spirit of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee and Walker Evans’ Depression-era study of Southern sharecroppers.
Yet instead of being free to pursue his art full-time, Talley had to start selling real estate when label support for his records vanished. It has enabled him to feed his family for the past 15 years, but the dazzling early promise of his music career has lain dormant in the meantime. To add insult to injury, Capitol Records stonewalled the singer’s efforts to reissue his early albums, and the label tried to make a casualty of his unreleased Woody Guthrie and Songs of My Oklahoma Homehands down the best Guthrie tribute collection ever recorded.
In a heartening development, those records may finally see the light of day once more. After nine years of haggling with a parade of lawyers and record execsof being robbed with a fountain penTalley has finally wrested control of his masters from Capitol and has launched his own label, Cimarron Records. The imprint’s first release, due around the first of the year, will be the Guthrie tribute album. If the record does well, Talley plans to follow it with reissues of his epochal early discs, Got No Bread, No Milk, No Money, But We Sure Got a Lot of Love and Tryin’ Like the Devil. Those wanting more information can check out the singer’s Web site at http://www.jamestalley.com, or http://www.cimarronrecords.com.
For a long time, we’ve bemoaned the death of local ’zines, which flourished here in the early ’90s but have since all but disappeared from newsstands, clubs, and record-store crannies. Turns out they’re starting to resurface, just not in print. Check out the Bombast-XXX Web site (http://www.bombast-xxx.com), which offers the kind of highly personal (and entertaining) marginalia you once could’ve found on the newsrack at Lucy’s Record Shop.
The brainchild of Todd Anderson, bassist for local punk band The Carter Administration, Bombast-XXX provides hilariously opinionated commentary on all things “bom” (“that what rocks!”) and “cack” (“that what is poo”). The bom squad includes teen actress Julia Stiles, women’s tennis, and Bailey’s Irish Cream, while the cackhouse is reserved for Demi Moore, the H.H. Gregg billboards with Reba McEntire, and the price of records at Tower and Wherehouse.
Anderson also lays waste to The Thomas Crown Affair, the new Rentals LP, and Warren Beatty’s presidential aspirations. (“this is the man who brought us bugsy, dick tracy, bulworth, ISHTAR, and reds,” he writes in blunt lower-case. “jesus. it’s like the résumé of the devil.”) And his record reviews show both good taste (Belle and Sebastian, Superchunk, Built to Spill) and the courage to embrace the mainstream once in a while (Weezer, Blink 182).
But local music fans will be most interested in Anderson’s plugs for Nashville club shows and bands. Current favorites include Kill Devil Hill, Ellipsis Union, Slack, the Rev. Asher Dudley, and Glossary, and Anderson says he wants to hear from other local groups, especially indie-rockers. Space is limited, he says, but he’s willing to upload MP3s of anything he strongly likes.
Elliptical dispatches: Sadly, the rumors are true: The V-Roys are breaking up after their New Year’s Eve show to concentrate on solo projects and other concerns. But the Knoxville-based band will close with a parting shot: a 17-song live CD, to be distributed exclusively on its Web site, recorded last August at the Down Home in Johnson City. The record’s name, ironically enough: Are You Through Yet?.... Mark your calendar for two great upcoming Station Inn shows: Canadian singer-songwriter Fred Eaglesmith (50 Odd Dollars) on Nov. 4, and a two-night stand by Steve Earle & the Bluegrass Dukes Nov. 11-12....
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