Of Classic Rock, Country Radio & Delayed Plays: Life During the Great Pandemic, Vol. X

“I don’t know. You’re a classic rock guy,” said someone I’ve worked alongside for ages, the shrug of his shoulders all but audible through the headphones. We were early for a video-free Zoom meeting and, as is my wont, I asked if he’d heard anything good recently. As one does. He’s a big Spotify guy, understand, with a wide taste in music – and I’m forever curious about who and what is turning ears. Despite my voluminous research, which includes reading reviews and, of late, sampling Apple Music’s New Music Mix playlist, much slips through the cracks. A case in point: Bella White, who released her debut last fall. I stumbled upon it a few weeks back and, honestly, how did I not know about her and it back then?

I understood, however, why he made the assumption about me and classic rock: I’m a big fan of many older artists, including (but not limited to) the Beatles, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, and I recall raving to him about Springsteen on Broadway a few years back. Yet, as this blog demonstrates, my interests range far wider than just the artists who’ve been with me since my youth.

Truth be told, I abhor “classic rock” as a category and radio format. When folks ponder why rock is dead, and to a large extent it is, one reason is simply a lack of outlets that support it. Back in the day, when AOR was king, at least some new mixed with the tried and true; and for acts that fell outside of that era’s constricted definition of “rock,” there were college stations and, starting in late 1981, MTV. (As I noted here, while it had many faults out of the gate, MTV was instrumental in breaking the logjam many new acts faced in getting heard.) Consider this: What becomes of “classic rock” when its listeners die off?

That same short-sightedness can be seen in other radio formats. Rather than have an expansive view of, say, country music, we’re treated to the same-old, same-old, and their pickup-driving, beer-drinking clones. The good ol’ boy brigade has its place, of course, but at its core country music is about so much more. It’s about heartache, heartbreak, minor victories and setbacks, about picking ourselves up off the floor when or if we trip. It’s male, female, and black and white.

In any event, one thing I’ve attempted with this blog is to balance the old with the new – and, in a roundabout way, use the old to introduce the new. My most popular posts are about legacy artists and acts, from Bruce and Neil to Natalie Merchant and Roberta Flack, while most of my First Impressions focus on new and new-to-me artists. If all I wanted was hits, hey, I’d focus exclusively on the Neil Young Archives. But after that gold rush ends, what then? My hope has always been that the folks who dig into my posts on Neil or Bruce will stumble upon my posts on, say, Courtney Marie Andrews or Fretland. (If you like Harvest or Harvest Moon, you’ll like both. Guaranteed.)

All of which leads to this: Next week, I plan to introduce a new category of reviews to sit alongside my First Impressions and Essentials: Delayed Plays. It’ll be devoted to albums, like Bella White’s Just Like Leaving, that I missed on the first go-round.

Peace Out.

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