Lonnie Johnson’s Guitar


THERE'S been a lot of bad news for culture and society lately, so I want to offer one of my occasional bits of inspiration. Jazz and blues player Lonnie Johnson is one of the greatest-ever American musicians, and one of the most underrated guitarists in history. His playing predates Robert Johnson and many of the Delta blues masters, and he developed a more polished urban style that to T-Bone … [Read more...]

Stop Working For Free


BY now, the movement urging artists, writers, musicians and other creatives to stop donating their labor has made some noise in the culture: It's one of the key issue for today's exploited creative class. But I've not seen the subject framed as well as this new Daily Beast story, with its subhead: "Remember when people volunteered to help the poor? Nowadays the poor volunteer to help the … [Read more...]

How Artists Do (and Don’t) Make a Living


A NEW study is starting to draw attention, and it confirms some of what we've suspected: That despite the rise of university programs to educate artists, the employment market for the fine arts continues to tighten. So we're left with more and more people stranded, often with significant amounts of student-loan debt. And the number of people can actually make a living as an artist with a fine-arts … [Read more...]

Rosanne Cash on Our Culture’s Big Lie


LATELY the country-steeped singer-songwriter has become vocal and eloquent on issues of artists's rights, including an appearance before lawmakers in Washington, DC; she's also on the executive board of the Content Creators Coalition. The freshest thing about the arguments made by this daughter of St. Johnny is that she looks not only at technological and economic but the cultural causes of our … [Read more...]

Will Cable TV’s Golden Age Last Forever?


THE answer to this question, I must admit, eludes me. But the era of deep and complex narrative television born with The Sopranos (and carried through Deadwood, Mad Men, etc) seems to have moved into another chapter as HBO and CBS announce streaming services. Here's the beginning of my new piece on Salon: The most prestigious of the cable channels and the most-watched of the traditional networks … [Read more...]

Paul Krugman on Amazon


Is the online bookseller a monopoly? A monopsony? I'll leave the details to the economists, but will concur with the New York Times columnist -- and the recent New Republic story -- on the company's danger. The most succinct way to phrase it may be the way Paul Krugman opens today's column: "Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt … [Read more...]

Iggy Pop Rips the State of Music


TODAY I have a new Salon post that quotes an Iggy Pop speech in the UK, and tries to make sense of it. Well into the age of streaming, we’re still hearing from a few musicians – most of them promoted and even employed by the tech sector – that we live in the best of all possible worlds. Some resent the new arrangement, where they earn pennies from Spotify or Pandora plays, but don’t want to … [Read more...]

More Death Among the Alternative Press


AT a certain point, we won't even notice it anymore when a publication we've loved and learned to rely on fades to black. For a little while longer, though, we'll still register it. That's one of the reasons I'm grimly happy to have had the chance to weigh in on the loss of two more alternative weeklies -- the Providence Phoenix on the East Coast and the San Francisco Bay Guardian on the … [Read more...]

New Lucinda Williams Record


HERE at CultureCrash, we're all dedicated Lucinda Williams fans of long standing. Her new double-disc album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, is one of country/folk/blues artist's finest, and includes not just longtime associates like lap steel and mand0lin master Greg Leisz but jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. In honor of the new record, we present a link to this little filmed intro to one of … [Read more...]

Was Beethoven a Bad Influence?


A FASCINATING Alex Ross story in the New Yorker looks at the incredible impact of Beethoven -- has any artist reshaped his art form more? -- and then acts if he has kept music from evolving. Here's Ross on Ludwig van: He not only left his mark on all subsequent composers but also molded entire institutions. The professional orchestra arose, in large measure, as a vehicle for the incessant … [Read more...]