“How do you know so much music..?”
This is a question I get asked a lot, and to be honest there are times I feel like a bit of a fraud.... Let me explain.
Regular listeners to Roots & Fusion (www.rootsandfusion.com) will know I spent almost ten years working in a specialist record shop in the 90’s, where I was exposed to a huge amount of music: Blues, folk, bluegrass, Cajun, Zydeco, “World Music”, jazz, country and truth be told, that gave me a huge working knowledge of roots music and a good base to work from. After I left Decoy, I spent a number of years out of the music scene completely and that working knowledge got a bit rusty. I used to know every Deep Purple line up from 1968 to 1976, together with their various off-shoot bands – these days I’ve been known to get Plant & Page mixed up…
When I started Roots & Fusion back in 2009, the first few shows were all taken from my collection, with no new music at all. I realized quite quickly that this had to change. I wanted a radio show that not only drew from the past but also gave a voice to new music. So I bought a copy of the Music Week Directory as a starting point and emailed every label and PR Company that looked interesting. I didn’t get many replies – most weren’t interested in a new community radio show with an unknown audience, and also back then downloads weren’t as prevalent as they are today and they didn’t want to spend the postage money.
Still, I did get a few replies. That was how I discovered the wonderful mandolin based tango noir of Ruth Roshan (www.ruthroshan.com ). I asked mostly for label samplers, and one I received was a Blues & Roots Sampler from Black Market Music out of Australia. There were half a dozen tracks that I really enjoyed, one of which didn’t seem to fit on the sampler; a dark, tango inspired cover of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows. I got in touch with Ruth, letting her know I was going to play her song on my show, and that was the start of something lovely. She has since appeared three times in session on the show and I’ve played her music regularly over the past 9 years.
Slowly, as more people listened to Roots & Fusion and word started spreading, some PR Companies started sending me music, which was great. That was how I first heard of Joanne Shaw Taylor (www.joanneshawtaylor,com). Roots & Fusion was one of the first radio shows to play music from her debut album…
Two things became clear fairly soon. One: this was a passive way of discovering music for the show, and two: I was receiving a number of CDs that I didn’t want. One of the key parts to Roots & Fusion is that every track I play, I like. In fact, I like it so much I want you to hear it. But what was I going to do with the CDs I didn’t like..? Well, I started passing them on to other shows on Pure Radio (the community station R&F started off with) but eventually I started making trips to the charity shop. A hard decision, as I know artists have spent time, effort & money on their music – but I have to do something with them…
I started being more active in searching out new music. I subscribed to Rock & Reel magazine (later R2, now R&R – www.rock-n-reel.co.uk), a magazine we used to sell in Decoy, and also because every couple of months they review maybe 200 CDs, mostly the sort of music I wanted to play on R&F.
I often find it difficult though, reading reviews and working out if I’m going to like the music. Describing music with words is very difficult, two separate languages. I got in touch with some artists & record labels and yet more music arrived.
I then came across an online magazine called Fatea
(www.fatea-records.co.uk/magazine). There was a review of a track called Obnox Stomp by a John Fairhurst and a link to a video. I really enjoyed the track, got in touch with John and before long he agreed to come & do a session for Roots & Fusion. Back then I didn’t have my own dedicated sound engineer, so the early sessions were usually short.
A bit more investigation and I discovered Fatea was the brainchild of a guy by the name of Neil King. I read some of his reviews and then got in touch via Facebook. I noticed he listened to some online radio shows that I hadn’t heard of, so I checked some out too. One in particular was the late lamented Bob’s Folk Show. It was here that I heard artists that were being reviewed on the Fatea site, and also others I hadn’t been aware of.
It was on Bob’s show that I first heard the music of Marina Florance (www.marinaflorance.com), Jo Bywater (www.jobywater.com) and Dylan Walshe (www.dylanwalshe.com) among others.
And then I found that Fatea released a free download every three months – the Showcase Sessions (www.fatea-showcase-sessions.co.uk). What an excellent idea. A new release every quarter, replacing the previous one. No physical CD, no waste, no trip to the charity shop… Some music I knew, most I didn’t and a large proportion of it fitted right in with Roots & Fusion. I guess I have played over 100 songs on the show over the years taken from the Fatea Showcase Sessions.
This year sees the 30th birthday of Fatea, and the 10th year of the Showcase Session downloads and to celebrate I have just put together a special Roots & Fusion where every track is taken from these downloads.
At the top of this piece I said that sometimes I feel like a bit of a fraud when people ask how come I know so much music. All I do is listen to music other people know about first – I just play the stuff I like…