Local Rhythms – Turntable Turn-on

s_turntableEverything old is new again.

For example, the downward trend of the music business’s general state remains unchanged, but one rare bright spot is a throwback – turntables.

Digital track sales are up, while CD sales are down – no surprise there.  But the biggest industry growth area is a bit shocking.  Vinyl album sales have nearly doubled in the last year.

That’s only a million or so LPs, and with disc sales plummeting exponentially more, not enough to save the day.  But it’s good to know warm, honest sound is back in vogue.

I have a record player and I’m not afraid to use it, but I’ll need something better than my 1989 Technics model to enjoy the current generation of long players (top seller: Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” followed by the Beatles’ “Abbey Road”).

The vinyl’s heavier, which makes for better sound, but the price tag is also weighty – over 20 bucks each for most platters.

So I prowl the swap meets and EBay auctions for out of print gems like the Fools’ “Sold Out” or the first (and only) Cowboy Jazz album.  I also try not to wonder why the LP is suddenly such an expensive format.

Didn’t’ CDs double the price of music when they replaced vinyl 25 years ago?  Maybe those in the business expect folks who held album-dumping garage sales in the 80s to once again pay through the nose to replace their entire collections.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Leaving the circular firing squad to its own devices (hey, we have a newly successful sales formula – let’s price it out of everyone’s reach!), I’m heartened by another trend.  Digital album sales increased in 2008, which is good news for anyone who believes it takes more than one good song to make a great musician.

If folks are going to iTunes for more than the odd Katy Perry single, things could be improving.  But I’m not holding my breath.

This week, I’m at the annual MacWorld conference in San Francisco, where video and iPhone apps come up in conversation more than music does. Rumors swirl about Steve Jobs’ absence (is he sick? No, just protein deficient.), Apple’s decision to withdraw after 2009 (are they smug?), but I doubt even an iTunes Vinyl Store would shake things up.

DRM is gone, but it’s too late.

After years of industry dithering, coupled with ever-widening entertainment options, everyone’s moved on.  Even Apple can’t save them.

Here’s the area live music slate:

Thursday: Wise Rockobili, Firestones – This is creative self-expression night, I guess.  Salt hill, Casa del Sol and Clear River Tavern host open mike nights, while 7 Barrel Brewery recently launched Karaoke Thursdays.   This Quechee restaurant features a revolving ringmaster – next week is Tad Davis, followed on January 22 by Guy Burlage.  Bring your axe and your courage.

Friday: Jimmy Dunn’s Comedy All-Stars, Claremont Opera House – The host of NESN’s “Fan Attic” is the ringleader for an evening of stand-up comedy that includes Paul D’Angelo, Rich Ceisler and Tony Moschetto.  There’s nothing like a lot of hearty laughter to shake away the winter blues.   Expect a lot of Boston-centric humor, although Moschetto has worked everywhere, including Beijing, so who knows?  Anything can happen, all of it funny.

Saturday: Dr. Burma, Salt hill Pub – One of my favorite albums of 2008 came from this Upper Valley R&B outfit, which has a reputation for packing the dance floor at Salt Hill with some inspired, high energy sounds.   I particularly like their version John Hiatt’s smoldering song, “The Crush,” but the original material contained on “One Bite Won’t Kill You” is also first rate.  DB’s always a great party, tonight at a music-loving venue.

Sunday: Richard “Dobbs” Hartshorne, St. Thomas Episcopal Church – Everyone calls this upright bassist and storyteller by one name – Dobbs.  Today’s show is a benefit for the Upper Valley Music Center.  It includes a lecture called “Hope Through Music” that recounts his work with children, refugees, and prisoners in Afghanistan, Palestine, and the U.S, as well as a performance of Dobbs’ own unique musical work.

Tuesday: Singer & Jordan, Tip Top Café – Phil Singer and Lucianne Jordan play authentic folk music, show tune and fun stuff from every era..  For an example of what they do, check out Phil’s recently launched web site, dogandponymusic.com, with free downloads of his many songs (he’s been making music since the mid-60s), as well as lyrics and a growing section for tunes from his many musical friends.

Wednesday: The Wood Brothers, Higher Ground – Both Oliver and Chris Wood spent time in other bands – Oliver in King Johnson, Chris in jazz genre-benders Medeski, Martin & Wood – before forming a duo and releasing “Ways Not to Lose” in 2006.  They’ve played their brand of stripped down blues-rock for audiences at Bonnaroo and Carnegie Hall.  Tonight, it’s Northern Vermont.

One thought on “Local Rhythms – Turntable Turn-on

  1. Hey Michael,

    Ever find the Fools “Sold Out” on vinyl? When I first read this column in The Spectator, I was thinking, “Now, how many people in the Upper Valley even know this album exists – let alone have even heard of The Fools?” I could probably give you the count on one hand. Although, I may be surprised on that one. There are many other Mass. transplants in the area, who may recognize the vocals of “Night out – yodel-ay-eee-hoo! I’m finally having the time of my life”. And oh yeah, I’ve had the LP for many years now. I probably found it in the dollar bin at Nugget’s in Boston circa ’86 or so.


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