Is serendipitous musical discovery still possible? With most listening being done on computers and mobile devices that have access to endless catalogs and discographies, that utilize advanced matching algorithms for recommendations, can we randomly happen upon our new favorite record? There are a billion arts & culture blogs that will point you to the latest, the greatest, and the up-and-coming. What’s left to discover? Is there no free-will in unearthing what you will love? Conversely, I personally think that there will always be a human, spiritual, or je ne sais quoi element to finding new things, especially in music, literature, poetry, art, and anything culturally rooted. Algorithms predict future patterns based on past history. Blogs are curated by people with their own set of ideals, opinions, and tastes, all of which are constantly in motion. However nothing can prepare you for the short and long term effects that an unheard, read, or seen work can have on you until you internalize it. Sometimes you are unknowingly or unwittingly drawn to a bookcover or album art, a song title or sculpture, even an artist’s name, by a cosmic force. I’ve found some of my favorite pieces, in music and art, in this matter, through this gravitational field. What can this be if not wonderful happenstance? I’m thankful for it and I sincerely hope we don’t construct an algorithm that crushes all of the mysterious qualities out of discovery.
A recent occurance of this phenomenon took place when I found Caroline Rose‘s album America Religious. Being part of a radio station, you are often inundated with those pesky plastic disks which are often sent in bulk and litter every flat surface with their jewel casings. I’m certainly not complaining about my wide access and privledge to new and old releases, but it’s hard to navigate these waters with limited time. It was in one of these piles that I spotted and subsequently snagged America Religious. With no preconceptions and, admittedly no expectations, I loaded that bad boy into my Discman, just kidding, my laptop and quickly became absorbed. As the songs go by, you realize that Rose is a true American songwriter like Dylan, Van Zandt, or King – different stylistically, but all touch on something inherently continental. Rose spins stories with a sense of adventure, a certain badass swagger, and devil-may-care attitude. It’s Americana and it’s not, it’s rock-and-roll and it’s not, it’s rootsy and it’s not. Her music exists somewhere at the confluence of these styles, but also carries the ambiguities of living without of these genres. Truly, a refreshing album to be drawn to for a listen. Was it fate? Was it mathematical equations? Was it ancient aliens? Perhaps it be sheer luck? I’d rather think that my environment, personality, mood, weather, and the universe, in its infinite wonderment, conspired together to get that CD in my hands. Thanks guys.
Caroline Rose and her sideman Jer Coons recorded this Folkadelphia Session on September 3rd in advance of their late summer tour and concert at The Fire in Philadelphia.