August 27, 2002

T Bone on Music

Category: Music :: Permalink

T Bone Burnett was slated to be the keynote speaker for the International Bluegrass Musicians Association recently. He wasn’t able to make it, so he had someone else read his speech for him. The speech is partly about O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but along the way, he talks about the music industry (quoting Larry Poons: “We live in an age of music for people who don’t like music”), “rock and roll” (a phrase that goes back to the late nineteenth century, he says, and used to include what we’d call swing and bluegrass and country and some other styles of music, too), what makes for good banjo playing, and what went wrong with country music. He says,

To me, however, the interesting thing about the sound of O Brother is not, as many have accurately remarked, that it is true to the sound of that period. The interesting thing is that it sounds so completely modern. It has high fidelity. Fidelity to what was happening in the room when the singers and players were singing and playing all at once. All of this is to say that by the grace of God and the Coen Brothers, people are once again listening to other people play and sing music.

I note that T Bone has teamed up with the Coen Brothers to form DMZ Records (with Bono from U2, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and others on the board). In this press release, T Bone describes DMZ as a “musician-centered label,” and says, “We’re not going to concentrate solely on traditional American music. We’re going to do music that is good, music that will become traditional American music.”

They’ve just released a CD by the 75 year old mountain musician Ralph Stanley, who sang the haunting “O Death” in O Brother. “We’re going to have a 75-year-old rock star,” T Bone says here. Almost makes me want to listen to some bluegrass. Almost? Well, actually, it does.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:03 pm | Discuss (0)

Leave a Reply