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The Appetizer Radio Show

Serving up your connection to new and emerging artists along with established legends each week.

Connect with us using these platforms to discover fresh flavors of music from the known as well as the unknown.

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Indie Influentials Playlist

IndieInfluentialsCover I admit to being a fan of books. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of history and biography. Looking back on where we come from and where others do can reveal a lot about where we are now. I spent this past week with some classic songwriters and realized that, whether stated or not, much of the new indie music we showcase here has influences in music from the 1960s and 70s. So, that’s the focus this week. And yes, “Influentials” isn’t exactly a word you can look up. But like “Noticeables” last week, that’s not stopping us.
Reading the bios of some more prominent names in indie music we see artists of the past mentioned like Lou Reed, Fleetwood Mac and Hendrix. How does that influence play out? Often we don’t take the time or the interest to look into the songbooks of those who came before us to discover how that influence might actually play out, until now. In this introspective look at music from the past, we key in on select singer-songwriters, musical icons and prominent names to discover just how that influence took shape. This hour we’ll go beyond the hits and sample some tracks from the deeper songbooks of The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Texas blues icon Bugs Henderson, Arlo Guthrie and much more.

This week’s playlist is available to those who seek it. Contact me if you’d like me to send you a playlist. Thanks.

When Different Equals Popular: Musical Outliers Today

In a recent episode of PBS’s YouTube series Idea Channel, Mike Rugnetta analyzes country music and its transformation over the decades. From its origins in the blues, European folk, and Appalachian music styles, the past century or so has seen it transition from primarily being about the struggles of loners and outcasts in the working underclasses of society to the third-most popular genre in America. Now, country is one of the most pop-influenced genres there is, being based in America’s “music city” of Nashville, where myriad record companies have stood behind innumerable artists. For the sake of popularity and profitability, modern country music has distanced itself from its downcast “hillbilly” elements, ditching the dirges of banjos and mandolins for acoustic guitars and upbeat chords. Likewise, the subject matter of songs tends to be more about life’s pleasures and American pride – see tracks like “Drunk on a Plane,” “Summertime,” “Chicken Fried,” “American Child,” and countless others.

The trend of capitalizing on what was once the music of the marginalized expressing their frustrations is nothing new. The same thing happened to alternative rock. The genre’s name, after all, conveyed its intentions: to be a countercultural alternative to mainstream music. But today, few bands with such intentions can rival supposedly “alternative” groups like U2, The Foo Fighters, Muse, and Coldplay. Maybe there was something in the punk vibe of rebellion and loner mentality that carried a mass appeal for Americans. But even in purposely trying to move away from the mainstream, outcast music keeps becoming popular again. It sells radio time, concert tickets, and merchandise.


So what’s a music-lover to do if they want to get away from all this? Indie music might not seem like a promising alternative in a social media age where anyone can be a blogger and everyone want to be on top of the next obscure artist. The solution might not be in the hands of any one group of artists or even with a single genre, but with a certain kind of artist. When so many artists today can’t be defined by single genre, it may not be the style of music or lyrical content that is necessary to attract audiences. Just as cinema audiences are longing for independent films that aren’t simply recycled franchises and reboots, music audiences want more authentic and original artists. Especially with millions of artists (past and present) vying for our attention, so many five-star musicians can be ignored simply because they lack major record deals. But at the same time, online music platforms offer an unprecedented opportunity to access unlimited songs. Instead of trying to avoid mainstream music altogether or stay within the boundaries of preferred genres, we as listeners have the choice and the chance to dig through the unexplored ocean of music that’s right at our fingertips. Now more than ever, we can seek out music that’s authentic and reflects true craftsmanship. Rather than letting companies dictate what music is heard and loved by the public, we have the ability to craft our own music profiles from any number of stylistic backgrounds.

Josh Garrels Isn’t Your Pastor’s Worship Music

Mention any genre variant of “Christian,” “gospel,” or “worship” music, and half of the audience will probably drop their drinks and walk out. As someone who used to shudder at the mere mention of Chris Tomlin, I think I have a solid idea why: like sermons and even church itself, music with a religious claim quickly evokes just about every negative gut reaction we have. Whether it’s being told we haven’t been good enough – or being blandly told that God is simply perfect – the old themes wear themselves out before they have a chance to reach our ears. At times it feels supremely pretentious, as though worship music demands our attention if we want to be good Christians. It all seems so superficial, so thoughtless, a rote recitation of a crusty catechism to be left safely in the pew.  But Josh Garrels, a singer-songwriter from Indiana, is breathing new life into dead expectations, proving that there’s more to Christian music than anyone ever expected.

“The evergreens, mist, rain, rocky coast, and stretches of uninhabited woods feel wild and untamed. I think the terrain also influences the area’s culture and spirituality. Living here has deeply affected me and my work.” Josh Garrels’ words don’t ring with the empty repetition of a dull youth pastor. The way he speaks, writes, and sings have the distinctive marks of a folk artist, which is where he places himself musically. He has spent years cultivating a sound that gives any Americana artist fair competition. His work is a pleasure to listen to simply for its lush natural feel and emotionally-rejuvenating harmony. And the same craftsmanship he applies to his grassroots guitar style is not lost on his lyrical development. Drawing on his experience as a hip-hop producer, he adds the potent elements of clever rhyme and rhythmic delivery to give his words a masterful flow that so many amateur lyricists simply falter around.

Josh Garrels

Garrels tends to base his albums around distinct themes, and not the kind that are so readily recycled for mass consumption in modern worship music. Instead of offering the same old praises and testimonials, he actually explores what the Christian life means from a perspective that is nearly mystical. One of his most remarkable albums, Love & War & The Sea In Between (2011) was called “prophetic, incisive, achingly human, and longingly spiritual” by Christianity Today. It honed in on some of the most introspective and overlooked aspects of faith, such as relying on one’s spiritual instincts to navigate times of darkness without clear guidance. His most recent release, Home (2015), plumbs the depths of identity in a world that seems alien.

What Garrels achieves is actually pretty remarkable. In a market saturated by money-making artists who have fine- tuned their appeal to the broad Christian public, it’s refreshing and hope-inspiring to come across one who’s capable of giving a philosopher’s contemplation to life’s most challenging questions. People of any faith can appreciate his approach and his talent, as well as his thoughtful consideration of religion.


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