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Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Before they could kick me out, I've resigned from all the record clubs that suckered me into membership with their 12-CDs-for-a-penny scams. I just don't buy CDs any more, at least not in mass quantities. Two years ago it was a New Year's resolution. Now it's a way of life.

It's not that I don't listen to music any more. It's just that I have other sources for music. It's easier to turn on one of the satellite music channels than it is to stick a CD in the player. That way I get the variety I crave and the flexibility to switch to another channel whenever I get an urge to hear something different.

Usually I start with the Americana channel. It plays a wide range of what's now known as "roots" music. Mostly it's what we used to call folk, both traditional and contemporary. It's largely acoustic and mostly of the singer-songwriter style, where lyrics and melody mean something. The channel plays some bluegrass, but there's also a Bluegrass channel that plays nothing else.

Some of the artists I already knew about that I hear on the Americana channel include Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams. I've also been introduced to Tift Merritt and Neko Case. They'll play "The Hottest Thing in Town," by Shaver, back-to-back with "Yesterdays and Used to Be's," by Todd Snider. It's the only place I've heard "Maria's Little Elbows," by Sparklehorse.

Now, I own hundreds of CDs and hundreds more vinyl LPs, so I'm not giving up on my own recorded music. Maybe when I get a new car I'll start adding to the collection again. I might even burn a few mix CDs, now that I have a computer with that capability. Right now, all I can do in the car is turn on the radio. Nothing else works.

Fortunately, there's a local radio station, KRSH ("The Krush"), that appeals to my musical tastes. It's a descendant of the best station ever, the long-lamented KVRE of the seventies that had the most eclectic play list I ever heard on the radio. KRSH is a bit less daring, but it still plays more music I like than any station on the dial. It has a blues show on Sunday nights, an acoustic show ("Krush Uncorked") Sunday mornings, and its own Americana show on Wednesday nights. Plus, it plays more world music and album cuts than you'll hear anywhere else around here.

My car radio has eighteen preset buttons, but I only use four of them. One is for the station that carries the Giants' baseball games, two are country stations (good driving music), and the other is KRSH. If there's not a game on, I usually change stations only when there's a commercial. I like my music uninterrupted, but I'm glad I didn't switch this morning before I had a chance to hear Johnny Cash's cover of the Depeche Mode classic, "Personal Jesus." (Yeah, I know there's no such thing as a "Depeche Mode classic.")

There's another reason I'm not listening to CDs straight through these days. It's the Dawson's Creek effect. (And I do have a CD of songs from that show's soundtrack, and also one for Felicity.) A song on one of these shows will set the scene so perfectly that you feel you should have a soundtrack for your own life. Then the scene changes and another song makes you feel the same way.

Somehow away from the program the songs don't have the same effect, but now it's less entertaining to listen to a bunch of songs in a row that all sound the same. It feels as if every emotional point in your day should have its own perfect song waiting to be played at that moment. It's never the next track on whatever CD is in the player.

On the other hand, sometimes a less ethereal song can be background music as good as Sixpence None the Richer or Heather Nova. Last night's episode of Smallville used "Southbound Train" by Travis Tritt to good effect.


Pastel afternoon sky.

Anyway, today's mail brought a CD from a club I already quit. I don't know what it is and I'm not even going to open the package. It's on its way back to Greenville, South Carolina, in tomorrow's morning post.

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One year ago: Studied Ignorance
"This might be a good week to stop watching the news."

Two years ago: Waiting Room
"They all seemed to have something important to do in the next room, or down the hall."

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