Sunday, March 18, 2012

How many music execs does it take to hear a hit?

My Darling Clementine's Michael Weston King and Lou Dagleish
While those in charge of struggling record labels like to blame their financial woes on illegal downloading, the real reason many are facing difficult times has more to do with a fundamental lack of vision and what people in the music business call "ears."

It's difficult for well-compensated executives to admit this but the majority of those who have signing authority simply wouldn't know a great recording if they heard it. And even if someone still working for the label did, they're now too scared to pull the trigger for fear of their capital investment wouldn't be instantaneously profitable.

Take for example the illuminating case of My Darling Clementine, the inspired male/female country duet project of UK singer/songwriter Michael Weston King and his wife Lou Dagleish. Their impressive debut disc How Do You Plead? (Drumfire) has received rave reviews across the board from venerable print publications and music blogs alike and continues to get the sort of BBC support that's very unusual for something with a twang. Yet so far, King still hasn't been able to curry any label interest in a North American deal. Everyone he's corresponded with has apparently shrugged off the offer of a finished album that's already been critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. "Thanks, but no thanks."

That might be understandable if Americana mainstays like say Bloodshot, New West, Lost Highway, Sugar Hill or Rounder already had their own top-selling male/female duet acts that could write, record and perform their own material but the fact is, they don't. Moreover, even if you put aside that radical duets concept, the sophisticated level of compositions, arrangements and musicianship on How Do You Plead? puts My Darling Clementine's debut ahead of 90% of those labels output over the past decade.

It makes you wonder what other great Americana talents U.S. major indies have foolishly slept on – well, apart from The Walkabouts, Dylan LeBlanc, The Rizdales, Caitlin Rose, The Pining, Alela Diane, Scotty Campbell, etc.

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