Nashvillian Karen Leipziger is well-known within the local music community as a publicist for many top blues and soul acts. Now she’s moving into a new arena. Leipziger’s composition ”Winds of Change,“ which she cowrote with another local composer, Richard Fleming, is the title cut on the forthcoming Eddie Clearwater CD for Bullseye Blues. The song and disc were produced by guitarist Duke Robillard in Warwick, R.I. Backing musicians include fellow Nashvillian saxophonist Dennis Taylor, who’s also Leipziger’s husband.
The song represents Leipziger’s first foray into writing, and she says she was shocked that Clearwater not only liked the tune, but eventually recorded it. ”I was a little afraid at first to let him hear it,“ she says. ”I just hoped he wouldn’t make fun of it, since he’s one of my favorite musicians and a great songwriter in his own right. He told me he really liked it and wanted to cut it. I thought, ‘Sure, he’ll never do it.’ “
Leipziger is now going full-steam ahead writing more songs; she has also formed a publishing company, but doesn’t plan to abandon her publicity work. Still, she’s thrilled about getting her compositional debut onto disc. ”It’s something you can’t describe, hearing your song being done by a legend, and also being performed in the fashion that you pictured. He got everything down right, even the conception I had in singing the lyrics.“ The CD is tentatively slated for a summer or early fall release.
Former Nashvillian Dean Blackwood’s Revenant label has scored a major coup: the so-called ”secret volume“ of the legendary Anthology of American Folk Music, which came out May 23 for the first time. Compiled by musicologist/filmmaker Harry Smith in the early 1950s, the original three-volume Anthology was released in 1952; it became an essential part of the folk revival of the late 1950s and early ’60s (and by extension, part of the civil-rights and Vietnam protest movement). When reissued in 1997 on CD, it startled new listeners with the beauty and vitality of its blues, folk, spiritual, and bluegrass recordings, and it topped most critics’ lists of the year’s best releases.
A planned fourth volume was compiled in the ’50s by Smith, but it had never been issued until now. Revenant’s two-disc set includes 28 tracks by artists such as the Carter Family, Bukka White, Robert Johnson, Uncle Dave Macon, and Leadbelly; it comes packaged in a beautifully designed 96-page book loaded with photographs and essays (by Revenant cofounder John Fahey, Ed Sanders, Greil Marcus, and more). Like the dozens of selections on Smith’s original Anthology, the music on this set is both elemental and utterly revelatory. For more information, check out http://www.revenantrecords.com.
A year ago, Harry McCarthy got the call from Bruce Springsteen’s self-described ministry of rock ’n’ roll. E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg needed a new touring tech, and McCarthy was the man.
”Three days later, I was setting up Max’s drums in London,“ recalls the Nashville drum wizard, who has since traipsed across the country on Springsteen’s U.S. tour. This week, he’s off to New York for a string of 10 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden that will put the finishing touches on one of rock’s most celebrated attractions of the past year.
”Harry is my point man and the unheralded element in any review of my playing,“ Weinberg says. ”What can I say? I love the guy!“
McCarthy is the guy who pulls the eight-hour shift before each concert to make sure Weinberg’s drums feel just so and pop like cannons. He is the one on pins and needles at each marathon performance, ready to spring from beneath the stage in hunt of the tension bolt gone awry, the sticking pedal, or anything likely to result in a vitally missed beat.
”Bruce relies on Max, and Max needs to be totally focused on Bruce. I make sure nothing gets in their way,“ McCarthy says. He reassures Weinberg with the following mantra: ”You have nothing to worry aboutI have you covered.... Do your thing.“
Clearly, everything is covered and Weinberg is doing his thing as never beforeSpringsteen himself has taken notice. ”I just want to tell you, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it for my drummer,“ McCarthy was advised by The Boss. ”I’ve never seen him this happy. Thank you, and keep it up.“
Delivering the goods for drumming’s elite is nothing new for McCarthy. As founder of Drum Paradise of Nashville, he cares for pedigree drums owned by Lonnie Wilson, Chad Cromwell, Greg Morrow, and other top rhythm men. Setting up musicians for the perfectly tuned studio performance is his routine. However, touring is something special.
”I couldn’t pass up working with Max and being part of a Springsteen show,“ McCarthy says, as he remembers that first night in London in his cockpit below the stage. ”It was so loud. I had never heard a crowd roar like that before. Then this great band started to play. It dawned on me: This is so big! This is huge. I can’t believe I’m here.“
McCarthy will have plenty to keep him busy in his Nashville shop after the crowd noise dies down at Springsteen’s tour-closing NYC shows. But don’t count out a return engagement with Springsteen and Weinberg. ”Bruce and the band are having a great time and are playing better than ever,“ he says. ”It’s hard to say what might come next, but you can see this definitely is not the end of the road.“
The God squad
Author Mark Joseph’s book The Rock and Roll Rebellion (Broadman & Holman) poses a provocative thesisnamely, that Christian artists should not retreat from the secular music world, but instead put their work into the same arena as pop acts and compete for audience attention without muting their beliefs or abandoning their faith-based messages.
Joseph’s book does two things very well: It offers a comprehensive look at the birth and rise of contemporary Christian music, outlining the struggles of such acts as dc Talk, Michael W. Smith, and Amy Grant to expand their appeal without deserting their core sound. The book also demonstrates that it’s possible for devout Christians to reach out to secular audiences without being hypocritical or artificial; Joseph includes conversations with Lenny Kravitz, Donna Summer, B.J. Thomas, and even David Geffen to illustrate his point.
What he doesn’t hit quite as hard is the issue of race, most notably how the Christian music industry remains almost rigidly divided in terms of marketing when it comes to white and black artists. He spends some time on the subject, but doesn’t substantively discuss the separate playlists for CCM and black gospel stations, or the different gospel categories in the Grammy and Dove awards.
Much of The Rock and Roll Rebellion is valuable, however, especially Joseph’s argument that gospel artists need to stay in the mainstream rather than retreat into a niche market.
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