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  • Rich Kassirer

Out with the old, in with the new

Bob Dylan with Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers at the Grammys in 2011.
Bob Dylan with Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers at the Grammys in 2011.

As many Modern Acoustic followers know, I took a break last year from the magazine and the blog. Life and family left little time to keep up with the flood of concerts and new albums.

During that time, I also realized that I needed a change – musically.

In 2011, the genre of Americana music exploded nationally. It became so popular that the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons made it onstage at the Grammys (backing Dylan, no less!). What followed in 2012 was an oversaturation of the genre, so much so that you could barely tell the bands apart. From the Avetts and Mumford came Trampled by Turtles, Brown Bird, the Punch Brothers, the Low Anthem. From Gillian Welch came the Civil Wars, Milk Carton Kids, the Head and the Heart.

I like many of these bands, but the genre has gotten so crowded, it’s getting tough to distinguish them from one another. Banjos, mandolins, and fiddles have become so popular that they are starting to show up in pop acts’ songs. Banjos in pop songs! For some people, this is heaven. I am still a huge huge Gillian Welch fan, and love the new Avetts album, “The Carpenter.”

But I need to break out.

In fact, if I were to have picked a song of the year in 2012 it would have been one from “The Carpenter,” but the one that seemed the most un-Avett: “Paul Newman vs. the Demons.” Instead of banjo, acoustic guitar and brotherly harmonies, “Paul Newman” explodes in electric guitar, heavy bass, and drums. It sounds like an updated version of Jethro Tull, sans flute. Seriously. It rocks.

And that is exactly what I need in 2013. I want different. I want unusual. I want to be able distinguish one band from the next. I want to hear good, solid rock. Sure, I will joyfully head to Passim to see some of my favorite folk and Americana bands. But I want some new – or old – band to blow me away.

Last week, I posted a list of albums through the years that did just that – blew me away when I first heard them. As an example, I remember hearing Ani DiFranco’s “Up Up Up Up Up” for the first time in 2002. It was funky and punky and filled with pent-up frustration and energy. I had never heard anything like it. My head nearly exploded.

You’ll notice that there was no album on that list from last year. Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention and those bands and albums were out there, but scouring other people’s top picks of 2012, I didn’t see or hear anything that would sway me.

So now that I’m back on the beat. I’m making a vow to expect the unexpected, and to find music that excites me and blows my mind. I’m looking forward to a slew of new albums this year, both from acts I’ve followed for years and those I have yet to discover.

Rock on.

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