Lead Belly.


Boston based design firm Visual Dialogue has designed the art for the new Lead Belly box set. Similar to their work for the Woody Guthrie box set “Woody at 100” the design work here captures the enigma that epitomizes Huddie Ledbetter – better known as Lead Belly. There is a wonderful blend of typography and vintage photos of the artist, along with letters written by the artist and images of the original releases. Working closely with the Smithsonian Institutes Folkways label, Visual Dialogue has created a definitive box set featuring 108 songs on five discs. While digital music has made a huge dent in the sale of records and CD’s, it is this kind of design work that keeps me coming back to buy physical products.


Leadbelly-5Leadbelly-2 Leadbelly-3 Leadbelly-4



John Peel’s Record Archive.

When I was in college I wa a radio DJ at a couple of college stations. The hours were good, I could be on air after class, get off before the bars closed and still make it to art school the following day with a minor hangover, and whole lot of musical inspiration to push me forward.

One of the things I looked forward to, were the latest releases from the John Peel sessions that used to arrive at the station. These were live recordings made at the BBC studios, and they usually featured a cutting edge band that was bound to influence musical tastes into the future.

For those of you that don’t know, John peel was a very influential radio DJ that introduced so many new bands to the radio waves it is hard to count them all. He had an amazing ear, hearing things that others dismissed knowing that they would be great. Over the course of his career, he collected more than 26,000 LP’s an almost equal number of 45’s, and CD’s. When he died in 2004 his wife helped to create the “John Peel Centre for Creative Arts. 7 plus years after his death, The Centre has begun digitizing a portion of the 26,000 LP’s and singles which will be made available in the future.

To help showcase his immense library of music, they have created a really nice website that invites you to explore the virtual stacks of albums from the archives, and experience Peel’s diverse and immense musical taste.

Do yourself a favor, go to the site and look around.

John Peel was a hugely respected member of the local, national and international communities and always gave support to worthwhile local initiatives. He was renowned for encouraging new music from unlikely sources and for many people he embodied the “punk” ethos of people just doing it for themselves.

John Peel Centre for Creative Arts.

Third Man Records. Jack White’s Rolling Record Store.

When I was 21 I landed a coveted job at the newly opened Streetside records in suburban Kansas City. This was a dream job. I got to be immersed in all sorts of music 30 hours a week, and someone paid me to push my musical taste on people that came through the doors. I worked part time at Street Side off and on for 5 years. This was what seemed like the golden age of the record store. Vinyl was still popular even though CD’s were slowly taking over the business. Import albums were readily available, and being able to purchase a record with alternate tracks, or mixes on them was fantastic.

Today I read that today 97% of high school aged kids have never been to a record store. I can see that being 100% correct. Look at the landscape today. Everything is digital, and you don’t need to go. You can buy one off singles, or full albums right on your phone and download the tracks as you go about your business. I have to admit, I am a guilty participant when it comes to this behavior. When I got my first iPod (first generation click wheel) I ripped all my CD’s and took the leap to all digital all the time.

Thank god we have Jack White though.At SXSW this year, White launched his rolling record store. Think of it as a bookmobile for records. Yes I know I just dated myself even more with that reference. The store is called Third Man Rolling Record Store, and is designed to bring the record store experience to the people, since the people won’t go to record stores. I love the idea of this. White is bringing the allure of discovery, of browsing to find an unknown gem, of records. When I think back about vinyl, and the physicality of having to actually get involved with a record beyond a swipe and a tap, it makes me wish I had kept all my records and bought that 1960’s Braun, Dieter Rams turntable when I had the chance.