The coronavirus quarantine has made it even more difficult for independent musicians to make a living. Those who have been at it awhile watched the album and songwriting business model collapse in the first part of the century, pushing them to even more extensive touring and live shows. Now even that approach is gone, as clubs, concert halls, and even house shows are shut down.
If you enjoy music as much as I do and can afford to help, it's time to find ways to support these musicians while they are being kept from their audiences. Here are some ideas as well as information on some of my favorite artists.
As you probably know, artists and songwriters make next to nothing from streaming services. Downloading digital music is a little better. Another way to help is to go old school and buy vinyl or CDs. Check to see if the artists sell merchandise on their website. If so, buy directly from them. If you're already a fan, pick up a t-shirt or something else to put money in their pocket. If you're also worried about record stores, you could order their music from your local record store. During the quarantine, many artists are doing live shows online. That is another chance to help them through admission charges and tips.
Since we all can't get together at live shows these days, I've decided to give a shout-out to some of my favorite musicians who have provided such amazing music for me over many years. Maybe you'll give them a listen and want to support them as well. I'm hoping others will do the same so I can learn about different artists and buy their music.
If by chance you've never heard of Jon Dee Graham, you are in for a treat when you start digging through his musical career. Most of these photos are from the SXSW festival in 2004, the year I moved from Austin. He is a three-time inductee to the Austin Music Hall of Fame, for his work with the punk band, The Skunks, the True Believers in the 1980s with Alejandro and Javier Escovedo, and finally for his solo career.
Jon Dee first made his mark as an amazing guitarist, but his solo career over the past quarter century has shown what a great songwriter he is as well. He's put out ten solo albums and each one is filled with both rockin' tunes and bittersweet ballads. He can move between the wild and scary drug-induced Laredo road trip to one of the most hopeful songs for any mood, World So Full. Jon Dee's most enduring song, Big Sweet Life, has his usual touch of optimism in the midst of the pitfalls of life.
It's hard to pick out just one or two of his solo albums, but you can't go wrong with Escape form Monster Island, Summerland, Hooray for the Moon, The Great Battle, or It's Not as Bad as It Looks. If you'd like to help out a record store as well, why not check with Antone's Record Shop and see what Jon Dee Graham albums they have in stock.
Jon Dee also has art work for sale and you can check it out on his website.
Once the quarantine is lifted and we can all be together again, the best way to experience Jon Dee Graham and his music is to visit the Continental Club in Austin on a Wednesday night. Jon Dee and James McMurtry have been holding down the Wednesday evening and late night slots at the Continental Club since the last century.
During my years in Austin, I spent many nights at the "Wednesday Services," with two of the greatest songwriter/guitarists around.
With the Continental Club closed, Jon Dee have moved the Wednesday gig to his living room, with his son William, via Facebook live. Yet another chance to experience his music and help an amazing musician get through this difficult time.
I hope you'll take some time and listen to some of Jon Dee Graham's music.