Homegrown Music: In Praise of Small Record Labels

Our resident correspondent and musician points you to some of the small record labels that distribute downhome music.

| November/December 1978

Even homesteaders need to relax and enjoy themselves from time to time, right? And almost everybody these days wants to cut his or her cost of living. So how about a little do-it-yourself entertainment?

That's what this column is about. Homegrown music... and sometimes homemade musical instruments to play it on.

The television and radio pickings are awfully slim for down-home music aficionados these days. Both mediums have become so dominated by a mad search for high ratings in the major population centers that even the "country music" currently being broadcast is aimed at country people who now mostly lead citified lives.

Thank heavens, then, for record players and record albums. And a special thanks to the Great Spirit for the handful of small record labels which still release recorded collections of songs that any homegrown musician can enjoy getting his or her ears into! This column is devoted to a few of those small companies, starting with:

ARHOOLIE RECORDS. The blues — both country and city — make up a large portion of Arhoolie's whopper of a catalog, and the company is probably the recording mainline to this type of music. But Arhoolie also offers Cajun, Chicano, old-time country, contemporary folk, gospel, and a little jazz too.

Arhoolie's current hot artist is Clifton Chenier, who plays blues/rock (his style is called "Zydeco") on the accordian while his brother, Cleveland, backs him up on the rubboard (a homemade instrument that's basically the same as a washboard). Clifton has a very interesting sound ... especially when he sings the blues in French.

And although I haven't yet heard them, several of Arhoolie's albums (if you can judge 'em by their titles) should be quite inspirational to down-home musicians. A couple of examples are JUG, Jook and Washboard Bands, and Washboard Sam.

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