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I don't think I've ever aimed a diary for Community Spotlight, but this is it.

Have you ever heard of the Americana category in the Grammy Awards?  It used to be attached to Folk Contemporary, as of two years ago it became its own category.

It is the unlikeliest site of controversy in this year's Grammy Awards.

This year's nominees include Emmylou Harris (12 Grammy wins), Ry Cooder (six Grammys), Lucinda Williams (three) and Levon Helm (two) -- if you're of a certain age and temperament, you are already tapping your feet.

But there is a fifth nominee, a controversial nominee, who has sold a lot fewer records than the other four: Linda Chorney, of Sea Bright, N.J.  In fact, according to the official Nielsen SoundScan count, up to a week before the nominations Chorney's Album, "Emotional Jukebox," had not reported any sales despite its January release.  Only two of her five previous albums have had sales at all: one had 15, one had 18.

(Nielsen SoundScan does not count CDs that you sell after concerts at street fairs and bars and restaurants -- where, personally, is where I buy most of my CDs these days.)

I had better make a couple of things clear up front: (1) I don't know Linda Chorney, don't know that anyone I know does know Linda Chorney, and have no personal stake in Linda Chorney's success.  (2) I got this story from the Facebook page of a friend and old roommate of mine who is a noted music writer and who seemed intent on not expressing his personal opinion about her saga, except for its unusual amount of unusualness.

I went to YouTube, where some of Linda Chorney's career apparently lives, to check her out.  The first title I saw was called "Tea Bag Party People," which was released in mid 2010 on her "Dance More Less War" label.  (I believe, Daily Kos, that I now have your attention.)

Yeah, she's our type.  Here's what Variety quotes her as saying about herself, her accomplishment, and the controversy:

"I am Occupying the Grammys -- I am the 99. ... I'm the middle-class that got a friggin' shot, and I got in there. And the irony of hearing that people are upset that the little nobody who hasn't sold a thousand copies of her little album managed to get in there -- somebody's upset about that? Really? You want to just take it all, and not share the wealth? It's so unbelievable.  I've been playing guitar for 41 years, and (working) in bars for 30. I haven't made it to that (big) scale -- not because I'm not good enough, but because nobody gave me the break. And Grammy 365 gave me the break."

You should read the real story about her from Variety -- an amazing tale of guts, talent, luck, and social media -- or you can start with my story below.  The only real advantage of starting with mine is: I'm embedding video.  Lots and lots of video.

Let's start with a video, shall we?  It's called "Tea Bag Party People"; I have to warn you that the first 45 seconds are a little slow and then it gets creative and fun.  I find the politics a little obvious, the tune a little limited, but she has a beautiful sultry voice and a spirit of fun.  (Warning: she's a 51-year-old who looks like a beautiful 31, so if that is going to bother you, gird yourself before you click the link.)

Whatever its limitations -- and it's hard to write something that's political, funny, and top form -- the world will be a better place if it goes viral by Monday morning.

If you want something a little more indicative of her songwriting and vocal talent, here's "Sink or Swim" from 2007, which should clear up any doubts:

Here's a live performance of a lovely song, Led Zeppelin's Going to California, a duet with Ralph Notaro:

And here she is at a festival, singing an acoustic version of the Stones jagged little "Mother's Little Helper."

And oh, this song -- a contemporary Dylanesque story of yearning for love with a delightful chorus -- just tickles me:

OK, you'll have to find the rest (and there are more) yourself.

One pleasure of having lived in New York City and Greater Los Angeles over ten of the past twelve years is that you find out how many really excellent musicians there are.  I cherish the self-produced CDs I've bought in the subway tunnels, Thai restaurants, street fairs, tables by the side of the small secondary stages, and such more than most of the mainstream ones I've bought.  They are the glorious lumps in a homogenized culture -- just as the Americana category itself is a lump in a larger homogenized culture.

So, with all due respect -- and great  respect is due -- to Emmylou, Ry, Lucinda, and Levon: am I sorry that Linda Chorney was nominated?  Not in the least.  A little controversy is good for a category.  Chorney represents what I imagine most Americana artists were like when the started out, except that (at least until now) she has not been able to grasp the brass ring.  So Americana music will survive this insurgency, I'm sure.

And I hope -- without having heard any of the albums -- that Grammy voters will, between now and the December 23 cutoff, fill out their ballots and cast their votes for -- Lucinda Williams, of course!  Three Grammys is way too few for an amazing artist like her, and I'm sure that this album must be as good as all of the others.

As for Linda Chorney: what the heck, it's an honor just to be nominated, right?  And, anyway, I understand that someone wrote a nice story about her on Daily Kos.

Originally posted to Doane Spills on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 07:19 PM PST.

Also republished by DKOMA, Protest Music, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  One last thought: New Jersey is not that far (34+ / 0-)

    from Providence, Rhode Island, so my bet is that (especially if we make one or more of these go viral), Grammy-nominated Linda Chorney seems the type who might be willing to take a trip and play some music for Netroots Nation, if someone asked her nicely.  (I'm sure that she'd bring some CDs to sell, too.)

    Democrats must
    Earn the trust
    Of the 99% --
    That's our intent!

    "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

    by Seneca Doane on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 07:19:33 PM PST

    •  As you wrote this for our attention (12+ / 0-)

      it feels appropriate to add a comment to your Tip Jar.

      It is always welcome when a respected Community member recognises the work we do, and draws the attention of others to the Community Spotlight.

      We strive very hard, reading every Diary published, in an attempt to bring good Diaries, usually by less well known Diarists (but not exclusively), to a wider audience.

      The feedback we have suggests that the Community appreciates those efforts, and our protocols are designed to ensure that folk who like to browse the CS are not disappointed.

      You are a very well known Diarist with a large following and your well executed efforts appear regularly in the Recommended Diary List. Clearly not someone who generally fits with our Mission. Repeating the Rec List does little to add to the variety that is expected.

      Yet we are human, and such a direct appeal is not something any of us would ignore lightly. Whether we Rescued this Diary or not, we would have responded to you. To not do so would be rude.

      We were amused by your first sentence. I, for one, simply presume that every Diarist realises that one of the Team will read any Diary published and there really isn't a need to be quite so upfront :) However, we have a sense of humour so thanks for the smile.

      This did strike me as a very good opportunity to remind folk that all of your efforts are read. Not being Rescued does not mean you wrote a stinker, but being Rescued does mean that generally three Rescue Rangers agreed that you had written a good Diary. For whatever that might be worth.

      So at least one Ranger thinks this is "Rescuable". As tonight's Editor I agree and it will be Queued to our Group List. If the next Ranger on duty agrees then it will appear in the CS Box. That is the process.

      Thank you for both an interesting Diary and the opportunity to get out a few thoughts that may help others when considering how their efforts might fit into the work we do.


      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 10:44:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's fine either way it turns out (7+ / 0-)

        (and I hope you know how much I admire the work you all do.)

        Most of my diaries are either serious or silly and just for fun.  This one is out of character for me -- cultural and of the moment -- but seemed like it fits what Community Spotlight likes to highlight.  My point, I guess, was that I was not shooting for big numbers here, but that if people wanted something a little quirky they could find it!

        I'm happy to have provided occasion for your comment.

        Democrats must
        Earn the trust
        Of the 99% --
        That's our intent!

        "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

        by Seneca Doane on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 10:53:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your point was well taken, sir! (4+ / 0-)

          And we thank you for giving us the opportunity to shine a light on Linda, and the idea that the NN12 folks should contact her immediately.  I'd love to hear her on stage at the big bash!!!

          You're absolutely right, "she's our type".

          As Steve (twigg) pointed out, we strive to make less well-known diarists more visible, in hopes that they'll be able to take advantage of it in future writings.  While you don't need that help 'per se', you certainly deserve our admiration and in this case, gratitude for writing about someone who deserves a lot more visibility in our world than she seems to have gotten.

          Conservatism is a function of age - Rousseau
          I've been 19 longer'n you've been alive - me

          by watercarrier4diogenes on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 10:55:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Gorgeous Midrange Voice and a Celtic (8+ / 0-)

    mixolydian melody for the first piece. What's not to love?

    For the record I was hot for several 50-ish women who resembled her, back in my 20's, and now that I'm older than them, little has changed.

    I don't know from Grammies; but all sounds indicate I could really enjoy her music. Thanks for the pointer.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 08:03:34 PM PST

  •  Is this supposed to be controversial?? (11+ / 0-)

    Not sure I see that part.

    Nice diary, and the CS signal beaming out did not go unnoticed.  :^)

    I keep hearing that 51 is the new 31, so maybe you are on to something here.  A beautiful woman with a beautiful voice.

    Keep plugging that NN idea.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 08:30:36 PM PST

    •  It's controversial with the people within (9+ / 0-)

      the Americana Music Association.  From the (very much worth reading) article:

      Chorney's nomination -- ahead of such talent as veteran singer-guitarist Buddy Miller and rising stars Justin Townes Earle and Hayes Carll -- lit up the Americana community, which was taken by surprise. Chorney is not a member of the Americana Music Assn., the 1,300-member Nashville-based trade organization, and has never attended its star-studded annual Music City awards show, now televised on PBS.

      It's interesting not only because she came out of nowhere -- literally not a single recorded CD sale until the very end -- to get the nomination, and because she's a committed DKos-style progressive (who may have given us a theme song!), but because she used social media to accomplish what she wanted and in so doing roiled the establishment within her small area (who are themselves right to feel marginalized much of the time.)

      I'd love to hear about an Americana format radio station.  I'd stream it!  It's like our domestic version of world music.

      If people like (and rate up) the video (which started the day with about 5250 views and 28 likes to 7 dislikes), then it seems reasonable to think that she might show up and thank us.  (Or y'all -- I don't think I can make it this year.)

      Democrats must
      Earn the trust
      Of the 99% --
      That's our intent!

      "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

      by Seneca Doane on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 11:01:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  While not an Americana format (6+ / 0-)

        in toto, there are a number of Americana programs every week on 88.1FM KDHX in St. Louis and, yes, you can not only stream them live but you can stream them in an archived version for up to two weeks after broadcast at

        We are a home for independent music that features all-volunteer DJs who select their own music and present it with a knowledge and passion that is extremely rare in radio these days.  We are mainly member-supported and are in our 25th year on the air.  You can figure out which programs are "Americanish" by going to the individual program descriptions.

        I know you're not demeaning any of the other nominees in this diary--simply putting forward reasons to support Chorney--but I will add that Ry Cooder's work over the last several years has embraced many progressive issues and the release for which he's nominated, Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down, is as topical and political an album as I've heard in quite awhile.  For example, listen to "Christmas Time This Year", in which a soldier wants Santa to bring him a new set of lips--his face having been blown up--so he can kiss his wife.  It's hard to even listen to that.  Or, "No Banker Left Behind", whose subject should be easily discerned.

        This artist is new to my ears thanks to you, Seneca Doane.  The opportunities to produce independent music are only growing and we should all be thankful for that and support these artists by buying their music and turning out for their live performances.  

        A petty criminal is someone with predatory instincts but insufficient capital to form a corporation.

        by stlsophos on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 05:36:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know if she is the first... (4+ / 0-)

        to use Grammy 365 is this way but you can bet she won't be the last, at least if the rules continue to allow it.

        I've now listened several of the songs from her nominated album, Emotional Jukebox, and I like it. I may even buy a copy. As to her chances of winning, she's got some stiff competition. I haven't listened to any of the other nominated records but I like all artist and I am especially a long time Ry Cooder fan.

        Thanks for the great diary.

        A frustrated liberal/progressive living in a red district. I feel like a fish out of water.

        by gaardvark on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 10:31:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't know anything (4+ / 0-)

    about the music industry and how they decide who makes it and who doesn't. It does seem though that the 1% is deciding which musicians the rest of us should get to hear.

    I'm all for supporting a wider range of musicians and so thanks for bringing her to our attention.  

  •  Okay, If I have anything left after I sell my org- (4+ / 0-)

    ans to fund Alan Grayson's campaign, I'm buying a thousand copies of her album.

    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

    by TheGrandWazoo on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 07:11:45 AM PST

  •  Thank you, SD, (4+ / 0-)

    not only for introducing me to this very interesting artist...

    ... but for the hope that we under-1000 sellers with obvious politics and limited virtuosity have a chance out there.


    Corporations are people, my friend Yeah, well, so's Soylent Green, so I don't find that very comforting. New video: Not Enough (HD)

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 09:44:48 AM PST

  •  Thanks so much, SD (2+ / 0-)

    That voice is purely gorgeous. Heading to iTunes store now.

  •  SD, have admired your writing for a long while. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane

    I am glad too of the direct appeal to CS and the flexible response.  If the Rescue Ranger rules were strictly adhered to we might not see some truly interesting or thought provoking writing.

    In this case it's a Spotlight for an unknown, good artist.

    Agree on the other three nominees, and have Lucinda available for our upstairs listening in the evening.

    Thank you and thanks to the Ranger team.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 11:17:44 AM PST

    •  I'm mostly just digging on being introduced (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Regina in a Sears Kit House

      to "Americana" as a musical category -- and as a category of great, intelligent, tuneful that our type of artist apparently dominates!  The AMA (meaning this AMA) should be thanking Chorney for stirring the pot!

      I can pretty much promise you that without the boost from CS this diary would not have broken 20 comments.  I know which of my diaries are destined to languish.  Pushing people to phone bank, for example, usually means under 10 comments!

      Democrats must
      Earn the trust
      Of the 99% --
      That's our intent!

      "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

      by Seneca Doane on Sun Dec 11, 2011 at 11:44:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I thought that RM would act like that in 1st video (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane

    As I watched the "TB Party People" video, I thought that Rachel Maddow would probably act just like that if she were singing (I've seen Rachel appear on talk shows).  Then at almost the end of the video, my eyes caught RM's name on the brown sign that Choney was holding.  I was able to read the sign:

    Rachel Maddow if I switch hit.  I would go for you.  You rock!
  •  Stuff like this is why I hate American Idol (0+ / 0-)

    American Idol and its copycats are all about conforming to some previously concocted ideas of one or another musical performer stereotypes.  

    It's like writing a sitcom.  They have to have each of the categories of craptastic music represented or they won't reach their demographic targets.

    The reason it gets me unhappy isn't because the artists aren't talented.  It's because the artists are talented, but they are taking that talent and playing exactly what's been played a million times before.  

    It makes me sad that these otherwise creative and talented people don't do things like Linda Chorney.  

    It's more complicated that just this, because those artists could certainly inspire other artists who then play something more creative and interesting.  

    It's just sad to watch those shows and see all that talent go to waste.  


    I am an atheist for moral purposes. Seriously.

    by otto on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 05:46:41 AM PST

  •  I came in because you are a friend. Then (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane

    Wow. I started with goose bumps and moved to the emotion one feels in the presence of beauty. I've got to hear more.

    Unapologetically pro-citizen. Not anti-corporation just very pro-citizen.

    by CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream on Wed Dec 14, 2011 at 06:23:14 AM PST

    •  Get thee to YouTube! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There's more.  And I think her stuff is available online too.

      Democrats must
      Earn the trust
      Of the 99% --
      That's our intent!

      "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

      by Seneca Doane on Wed Dec 14, 2011 at 10:42:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey, do you know of any old friends (0+ / 0-)

        here I can buy a lifetime subscription for? I still don't know how to find out who doesn't have one.

        Unapologetically pro-citizen. Not anti-corporation just very pro-citizen.

        by CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream on Wed Dec 14, 2011 at 09:06:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Go to their profile page (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          If they can receive a gift description, it will say "Give a gift description" in light gray.

          Occ's Hat just got one.  I presume that the Atkins gang has them.  Haven't checked clammy, floja roja, etc.

          I'm off to an Occupy mtg now, but I will think on this!

          Democrats must
          Earn the trust
          Of the 99% --
          That's our intent!

          "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinksy OCcupy!

          by Seneca Doane on Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 03:38:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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