Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bill Janovitz Covers Others

Guilt of all sorts:
I havent been able to put in the necessary time and energy to rightfully call this a "blog" (is there an expiry date after which you can no longer call you efforts a "blog"?)

By way of explanation:
This online page exists because I really fell for bowhowdy's music blog.
Boyhowdy's blog led me to Star Maker Machine.
Star Maker Machine accepted me as a blogger.
I have been coordinating Star Maker Machine posts since January 2013.

Star Maker Machine (SMM) gets a lot of "hits": several hundred a day/15K a month. Included in those attentions are probes from aspiring musicians - and, as moderator at SMM, I get daily mails with links to some great music I could share with you, and that will be the subject of a soon-upcoming post here. (SMM does not accept that kind of promo/targetted music)

However, back to the guilt: help me count them out: (1) havent been blogging here for way too long, (2) aint linking to the SMM targetted promo music, and (3) I feel I maligned one of my favorite musicians and dearly want to address that perception (if it exists): the topic of this week's post: Bill Janovitz

In my recent SMM post, I griped that a song I legally (as far as I know/knew) downloaded from is now blocked from sharing. I realize that I dont necessarily have the right to share a song I once-upon-a-time downloaded, but I thunk I ought to be able to link to it/send others there to also get a "personal copy".

Aint so: is no longer what it was, and its archive of music is no longer what it was. I can't speak for Janovitz's current frame of mind (and honestly beleive that it is his handlers and not he himself that have made the sharing more difficult), but I am hurt that music that was once share/free is no longer so. I have run across the same thing with some of the Grateful Dead's music as well.

All this, because this blog was brought online to share and celebrate legal free music.

Enough: on to what we can (or appear to be able to) share legally/freely - and the GREAT post-topic musician: Bill Janovitz

Check out his personal website to learn more than I can include here. However, one of his projects that he doesnt seem to be giving much time to these days (and the one where he outright states that he sees no problem with people sharing a song or two because it likely advances the career of the promoted musician) is his cover tunes blog.

There are some real gems there (he himself being the true gem), so alongside my limited selection of a few good ones, here is the link to one iteration of his cover blog site which you really ought to visit:

A small selection of some covers from his covers blog that I enjoyed:

Bell Botom Blues (Derek and the Dominoes)

Winter (Rolling Stones)

Here Come Those Tears Again  (Jackson Browne)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Xmas 2012

Christmas is a time for giving, sharing and buying. While the shelves of commerce are stocked with CDs of Xmas music, there are other musicians who use the season as a chance to freely give away their work.
This past week, at Star Maker Machine, contributing bloggers have been posting “Holiday Horrors” – the topic title says enough. However, not all about the holiday must needs be horrible.  Personally, once a year, I don’t mind re-visiting Christmas classics. And, from time to time, I run across a new interpretation of an old song. They often both bring back fond memories of family and December 25th at the same time that they provoke new emotions on account of their novel approach to a classic tune.
Over at Star Maker, I posted one song from a large collection of Cigar Box Christmas songs, but there are many more where that came from. As I said there, some of the music is not so good – but there are a few that are worth sharing. In general, the quality of the cigar box music leaves much to be desired (out of tune and amateurish). But not all. For example:
Here are two takes on “Twas the Night Before” from Denys Lord from the Cigar Box Collection
Some time ago, I brought up the issue of mashups: DJ-mixed and adjusted songs that offer a new perspective on a well-known song. Although they include bits and pieces of copyrighted material, DJ mashups appear exempt from take-down notices in that they fall within fair use guidelines: not sold commercially, using limited segments, new interpretation of old material. What better time of year to take another look?
I offer up Yultide Led Zeppelin – a mix of classic Led Zeppelin and strains of Yule. From "A Bootie Christmas".

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bela Fleck

Whereas, over the months since this blog went online, I have focused on websites that offered up legal free music, this time around I am going to mix things up and focus on a specific musician. In keeping with the mission of this blog, it is, of course, a musician who permits a large quantity of his work to go online, creative-commons free.

Bela Fleck. Not a very common name. He takes his name from the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok and he plays the banjo. Since age 15 or so. And he does it rather well. In fact, Bela is aclaimed as the most innovative banjo player in America and boasts a collection of Grammy nominations and awards.

His name is most often associated with that of the group he co-founded in '88 with Victor Wooten and others - eponymously named "Bela Fleck and the Flecktones", but he has played with a number of other names you've likely heard mentioned, including Phish, the Dave Matthews Band, Jean-Luc Ponty & Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea and Toumani Diabate. You can also find him at Youtube playing with Earl Sruggs as well as Steve Martin! As you'll note from this list, he covers a diverse set of genres: the man does ethnic, jazz, classical, folk/bluegrass and more. His personal website is and you can find the flecktones at

So ... why does such an accomplished musician give his music away? In the FAQ section of the Flecktones website, they are fairly clear about their policy:if you catch them in concert, audio taping is OK if it doesnt hinder anything, but video taping is not allowed. As a result, you can find a large collection of Flecktones recordings at, among other online sources.

Here is the youtube clip with Steve Martin:

And here is the clip with Earl Scruggs:

My favorite piece, however, is Sunset Road, and although there are a plethora of versions at the Internet Archive, my favorite is the one below. Regardless of the version, I like the build up in the song: the climax with the impossibly fast banjo picking merely proves the man's unique gift. In particular, it is the section that starts at about 5'30" - the crescendo and then the release/come down after the solo seem to me to be perfection in style. Seems to have been recorded at the Molson Center in Montreal in 2002.

Sunset Road

Note: after the fact, it occurs to me that many files hosted at YouTube are not necessarily legal. In fact, in this case, where the Flecktones specifically say that sound recordings are OK but video is not, it calls into question how and from where the above video links stay online. Seems to me that this is not a discsussion for this time and place, but since this blog aims to provide "legal free music", it is an issue that needs to be raised.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


A 2006 interview posted on the GarageSpin web site spells out part of the story behind my choice this week. Disillusioned with the path and procedures of, part-time/amateur musician and programmer Gideon Marken decided to take action. He gathered input from other users that informed his plans for a replacement that would better serve musicians' needs. Thus was born

The service still appears to be very much a one-man project. Musicians are able to upload tracks, mark them as Creative Commons/free or copyrighted, build dedicated sections to promote their bands/music, collect "tips" etc. Users are able to download or stream selections and buy selected tracks or tip musicians that offer free downloads.

Although Marken's project has been in service for nearly 10 years in one form or another (as ArtistServer since 2005), the site offers somewhere in the range of 15,000 songs. It appears that Marken is soon set to launch version 2.0 of the service.

The music available here comes in many, many genres: some with many more selections, some with considerably fewer: Country/Bluegrass lists only 3 songs; Jazz/Fusion has 49. The quality is ... mixed. There is plenty that is good - and some that is considerably weaker. This is fitting for the stated goal of the site: the site aims to provide a resource for musicians, and musicians are responsible for what they post.

You can find music by the acclaimed Dutch group Klimt ! String Quartet (in the Jazz genre) that is (as AllMusic notes) "a delightful release combining experiment and entertainment in a way at which the Dutch seem to excel."

Klimt! String Quartet: Kiss The Guitar Player

You can also pick up your own free copy of music by "chongjohn57", a musician you'll also find at Jamendo (last post) and SoundCloud (another previous post). Here's a link to I Got You.

ChongJohn57: I Got You

I think you'll find it worth your time to do your own deeper digging into ArtistServer

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Continuing my look at sources for legal free music from the Intertubes, this week: two bands from Germany and one from NY –all courtesy of Jamendo claims to be the #1 online site for Creative Commons music. The service goes back to about 2005. The music they provide is available for download in mp3 and Ogg Vorbis formats, and they also stream music for continuous listening via various radio channels: Rock, Jazz, Pop, World, Classical, HipHop … Some of the tracks are professional and must be purchased, but most are free for the taking – even without registering. (More often than not, I back out when I find that I need to register/provide an email address. How about you?)

Wikipedia says that more than 45,000 albums – *not* individual tracks - had been uploaded as of 2011. The service is based out of Luxembourg. Considering EU laws and policies protecting people as well as businesses (no, a business is not a person), the TOS for Jamendo may have a more solid standing related to your rights to your music than some US-based services.

I am not aware of any policy the service employs towards vetting the input/user uploads. They do say they gather/vet the best for their radio channels, but even my random sampling of genres/files available for download has netted some quality music. My experience with the quality of the sounds from some other sites that offer free music has not been nearly as positive. If I had a business and needed continuous free, streamed music, I would seriously consider broadcasting their radio channels as ambience music throughout my store. (I see after I wrote this that they have a section labeled “background music for your shop or business!)

A small random sampling of downloads this week mostly focused on pop/rock to get you started:

Ella Blooma, a band out of Dresden, Germany, tells us on the MySpace page (they also have a Facebook) that their music is pop (“Ella Blooma machen Popmusik). The song is

Christopher Squier is an indie musician out of Buffalo, NY. The track from his EP “Flowers Beneath the Ashes” is on the list of most listened to tunes at Jamendo:

Trick Seventeen, another German band continuing my rock/pop focus this post, with a rocking number from their “We Own The Night” album called

Privacy notice: I have both MySpace and Facebook logins. As much as we have heard about the decline of MySpace, I have to admit that accessing band info via MySpace is a lot less painful/invasive than via Facebook . Many of these bands have accounts at both, but MySpace allows you to check them out without logging in to your account.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SXSW 2012

SXSW is now on my “Bucket List”: it is 10,000 miles away from here and at a “bad” time of the year, so it will take some effort to get there. SXSW  stands for South by Southwest and it's an annual festival held in Austin, TX in the spring.
When I went digging for information, I was surprised to learn that SXSW was much older, better known and more established than I was aware. (This is a state of affairs that I run into more and more - seems it gets harder and harder to stay tuned in.) I learned that 2012 was the 26th SXSW. It is a week-long (longer now) media festival (primarily music and film) that has grown from an attendance of hundreds to tens of thousands over the years. I understand that the SXSW organizers have recently gravitated towards providing more offerings as well (more and more, digital media, of course) including an extension specifically dedicated to education (SXSWedu).
In my continuing search for free musical downloads, I was delighted to see that you can get free legal copies of some of the music recorded at SWSX. The copy of the music files I found/am aware of is at - this appears to be a sub-site of and was a link from the website. There are sub-sections of labeled "SXSW 2012 Free Songs" (online and available for other years as well - try a Google search for <SXSW Music download YEAR>). The site also has a "Free MP3 of the Day" section.
Being somewhat skeptical about TOS for media files, I tried to drill down a bit deeper: under what conditions can I (you) use them? Typical of online resources, the best info I could find says [... you can download some content but don't exceed the rights granted to you.. unless you are authorized ... ]  Nowhere does it say yea. Nowhere does it say nay. But of course, it does say that they can change the rules when they see fit – it’s kind of hard to begrudge them when it is a freebie. Since I am going to provide you with a link to the larger zipped files that contain the music, let's assume we're "free and legal". However, to spare you the extra hassle of downloading their large files (100MB), extracting the individual files, and searching for something you like, I have unzipped and am posting a very limited selection of my choosing this week. Do go get the full zipped files if you like. Actually, if you like it, head to the bands' websites and buy a song or an album or two. That's what it's all about.
I know from previous forays online that several of the bands are amenable/glad to have other folks spread the word, sharing their music-at least for some of their work. You can visit the official websites for this week's choices below, where they provide download options for some of their tunes.
there is so much available ere and my selections here are so limited that I will aim to return with another selected collection at a later date. If you proceed on your own, most of what you’ll get if you download the full set is going to be worth your time.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah [ Statues] [Website]
Jennifer O’Connor [Here With Me] [Website]
William Elliott Whitmore [Hope For You] [Website] - [also see SMM]