Back To Jackson

From Nashville to the swamp.

Both XM and Sirius have their mainstream country channels, and their swamp stations. XM’s is entitled X Country. I thought the X stood for extreme, out there, DANGEROUS! But it turns out that’s not true. The X stands for CROSS Country. How disappointing.

Still, the station can be riveting.

You’ve got to be in the right mood. You can’t be in a rush. You’ve got to be setting out to drive across Wyoming, or Montana. You can’t be worried about picking up the kids or your dry cleaning. You’ve got to be ready to survey your entire life, as you look out the windshield, as you become HYPNOTIZED!

Funny how you know something is great from the very first note… It was that guitar SOUND!

That’s what you need pros for. Engineers and producers. Because if you get the right sound, which is very hard for amateurs to do, you can find the way directly into the audience’s heart.

I’d never heard of Jason Eady prior to today. I kept waiting for the song to stumble, to make a wrong turn, for me to lose interest. But as I was driving the streets of Santa Monica on the first sunny day in November, with my hands on the steering wheel, I remained hooked.

I want you to fire this up. Go to: "Back To Jackson" is the very first track.

This is akin to the stuff the Stones used to cut, back when they needed to go to Alabama to get it right. Back when bands weren’t about the single, but the album. When your disc wasn’t about playing to radio, but your fan base. Your POTENTIAL fan base.

Now clubs have deejays. The music emanates from speakers in the ceiling. You move your hips, bumping into the other patrons, trying to get lucky. But before MTV ruined music, back when people believed not only could music change the world, but save your soul, you went to a club, where you sat down, pulled on a beer, and reveled in the sound.

The speakers were on the stage. The lanky dude picking the guitar had been practicing since puberty. Tonight he wanted to show you that Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page had nothing on him. It wasn’t about flash, but FEEL!

And you sat there, your leg involuntarily tapping. Slapping your thigh when you got inspired. You merged with the music.

You bought the record. You told all your friends. You brought them to the next show. And that’s how this business was built. The same way you break records today, by word of mouth.

Not that radio wasn’t a component.

But today radio has a bad rep. And when I hear the lame cliches on Sirius I wince. But not on Outlaw Country. Mojo Nixon is as irreverent as ever. And there’s less talking on X Country, but just as much soul.

I think Mel Karmazin may be pulling a fast one here. After the two services merge and costs are reduced, satellite has a chance at a comeback. You know why? Because Net in the car is far off. Did you read that Sprint just canceled their WiMax project? I.e., how are you going to get a signal? It won’t be many years until most cars on the road are satellite-ready. Word will start to spread. People will realize their iPods never play anything they don’t know, especially stuff in other genres. We could become a radio nation once again.

It could happen.

And if it does, one only hopes the playlists are as open as they are on XM and the jive jocks at Sirius are executed. But I’m looking for those days of discovery to return. When the deejay had power. When the whole country was music crazy. When we were all hooked on the drum.

Country’s not only those people on TV. Jason Eady & the Wayward Apostles are hipper than the has-beens on Guitar Hero. Certainly more real than those acts playing to the back row in an imaginary stadium, that they don’t realize is unfilled.

Give it a chance. If you were listening to "Exile On Main Street" back in ’72, it’ll be familiar. If you just fell off the turnip truck, you’re in for a thrill.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.