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The Quiet One

I’ve never really known what my ideal pursuit would be. If I ever had any aspiration at all as a kid, I guess being a writer for Rolling Stone was about as lofty as it got. These days I can’t say I have much respect for music critics - I think positive reviews can inspire people to check out music they might not otherwise, but I don’t know what benefit negative reviews have other than stoking the reviewer’s ego. I do like talking about music. Opinions are great conversation starters and can be useful - especially if you find someone whose tastes intertwine enough with your own that you can reliably discover new things you enjoy. But I think Americans tend to get too caught up defining their self-image by what they listen to. That may explain why certain “uncool” bands like Toto can fill arenas overseas without being able to tour the states without a nostalgia package. We had to have English rock bands export the blues back to us for us to pay any attention. And jazz is still more popular in Europe than where it was created. Americans are obsessed with trends and what’s new.

I respect anyone willing to get on a stage and express themselves through music. And I mean that sincerely. Even music I might not like at all is meaningful to someone. And it takes courage to get up there. I’ve performed a fair amount over my life and it’s always been behind drums - and it’s terrifying every time. I can’t even imagine fronting a band or singing my songs.

Anyway, I hope not to overthink and just write about what interests me. The problem is, I’m finding as I get older that almost EVERYTHING interests me. This can be dangerous in the digital age. We’ve all gone down rabbit holes. But my main passions seem to be music, history and hockey - not necessarily in that order. And I’ve discovered a passion for research. There are some informative Columbus music websites out there - Buckeye Beat, Columbus Music History, Donewaiting, and Cringe, for example. Jorma Kaukonen’s blog is an inspiration - so is the man. To see someone who's been through everything he has, end up in such a grounded place gives one hope. One of my all-time favorite musicians and people.

The Ohio connection doesn’t hurt. Jorma went to school in Yellow Springs and chose Meigs county as the spot to settle down and open his Fur Peace Ranch. We Ohioans consider him our own. And that’s meaningful somehow. What is it about a place that makes it “home” or gives one pride? I think there’s something to a sense of place in the crazy randomness of this globalized society. And yet, even with the increasing focus on local “farm to table” food, local breweries, local businesses, etc., we generally think of local art as something that must not be that good. Why is that?

Like probably most people my age who grew up in central Ohio, I didn’t think much of the place as a kid. And really with good reason. Compared to today, it was a backwater. Dipping was the thing to do. The faded circle from the dip canister in the back of your jeans pocket was cool. The Fishinger Road bridge was a narrow steel bridge that could barely fit two cars side by side. Mill Run was farmland. EVERYTHING was farmland. Chinese food was Mark Pi’s and Mexican food was Chi Chi’s.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to do a ton of traveling. From Hawaii to the Virgin Islands to Germany to the Philippines. And I can honestly say there’s no place I’d rather be than Columbus. It has everything - a world-class art/music scene. Thriving and substantial LGBTQ community. First-class restaurants. An NHL team. Midwestern ethos - hard work, substance over style, friendliness, humility, honesty. Diversity. The city has grown up around me and with me. Before this quarantine, I’d be stuck in traffic and feel like I just woke up in a big city. It sometimes seems to have happened overnight.

So these passions have culminated in my current obsession with Columbus's music history. One of my current hobbies is cultivating Columbus music on the Discogs database and giving it the proper respect it deserves. I already have a fairly substantial “Columbus” subset to my somewhat-more-substantial overall collection. I like almost everything, and even so, my taste continuously widens. But I’ve been getting a lot more Columbus stuff recently. I’ll focus on things I like. Punk and low-fi is sort of what Columbus is known for because it gets more attention from local critics for whatever reason. It’s already comparatively well documented anyway. I think part of the Columbus ethos is to not take anything seriously that takes itself seriously. What makes something “Columbus” music - I’ll be somewhat loose with my definition but I think someone like Rusty Bryant who continued living in Columbus throughout his career will get a closer look than significant artists like Nancy Wilson, Harry Edison and Rahsaan Roland Kirk who moved away early on in their careers (although I’ll look at them too, particularly early work). Anything recorded in Columbus qualifies. I may start with Rusty Bryant’s America’s Greatest Jazz album. I don’t think I’ll be overly chronological in my approach. There were earlier Columbus-bred stars like Elsie Janis who did some recording, but I do think Rusty’s work is the right place to start a serious look at Columbus music from my particular point of view.

Coming from a conversational family but without a voice loud enough to compete, I’ve always been the quiet one. So it seemed an appropriate name for a blog. Plus it’s one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite musicians. But I ain’t quiet, everybody else is too loud...

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