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A genuine find

Missy and Will,

We recently had the pleasure of visiting Durango for the Christmas holidays and left a few dollars up at DMR, over at Hesperus and around town. In the continual tourist quest to always discover something for nothing, we came across your newspaper. A genuine find. Being in the same biz we read with rapt fascination your enjoyable and easy-to-read edition.

Good job. Great paper. Don’t Change.

– Thank you,

Geoff Hancock, advertising and production
Laurie Fagen, editor and publisher,

The Ocotillo & Southern Chandler News

Will the real jam band step forward?

Dear Telegraph,

In his e-mail to the Telegraph last week, Tad Winslow cries out against an “injustice” that is at work right here in Durango. The injustice at hand is that the Telegraph’s Top 10 List of the Best Albums of 2002 did not fully reflect Winslow’s tastes.

In speaking out against this injustice, Winslow proceeds to put down all manner of music he doesn’t care for, including pop, punk, heavy metal, country and even “music with catchy, trite melodies,” all the while bemoaning the lack of what he calls “jam bands” on the List. While he never defines this amorphous term, he does specifically cite Medeski, Martin and Wood (MMW), Keller Williams and Government Mule as three acts worthy of inclusion on the Top 10 list.

Let’s address all three of these suggestions. First, MMW is a funk-jazz trio that is fun to see live. Its studio albums have not received much recognition (deserved or not), and its “jams” have variously been described as: exercises in building tension through discordant playing without resolution; the pretense of jazz without its soul; and mindless excursions into a void, ultimately signifying nothing. Next up is Williams. How this one-man techno drum machine “guru” is classified as a “jam band” is beyond me. He might fit that category if he actually played with other musicians and improvised or “jammed” with them instead of the machines he is currently experimenting with. The third band Government Mule was – the last time I checked (about the 30th time I’ve seen the band) – firmly in the blues hard rock tradition. I’m not sure how they fit as a “jam band” unless you can stretch that term to include bands you like and exclude ones you don’t.

Winslow’s inexact definitions and undefined terms not only leave the reader with a sense of arbitrariness and personal bias run amok, but also are just plain puzzling. Why include some bands but exclude others from his comfy “jamband” universe? Three cool bands that are all about jamming are right there on the Top 10 list. Los Lobos’ epic “How Will the Wolf Survive?” is surely worthy of inclusion. So is Jorma Kaukonen (one of the grandfathers of the “jam band” scene from his days with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna) who jams with the likes of jamgrass heroes such as Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Bela Fleck on his great “Blue Country Heart.” And why exactly doesn’t Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” count as a jam band album? It combines pure improvisation (just watch the documentary film “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” on the process used to make the album) and combines blues, country, jazz, techno, short-wave radio noise and other musical influences in one-jam-improvisational stew.

Winslow might find a better use of his time in actually listening to music - preferably a wide variety of music - instead of pigeonholing and separating music into categories and then deciding for the rest of us that an otherwise fun Top 10 List should be arranged according to his narrow tastes. Next, I would suggest he restrict his use of terms like “injustice” – applied to a harmless Top 10 List, it would border on offensive if it weren’t just silly.

– David Hardiman, Durango

via email

Long live the Mohawk

(Editor’s note: The author of this letter may be the father of Missy Votel’s love child. Genetic testing is planned for early April.)

Dear Telegraph:

In response to the letter (by Tad Winslow) printed in last week’s issue – I must note a major contradiction. I agree that the Telegraph is filling the role of the “alternative voice in the community.” However, if the Summit packs to capacity so regularly (for jam bands), and the Abbey sells out so fast for Garcia/Grisman, etc., I believe that implies (at least in this town) that the “jam scene” is the mainstream. So, I applaud the (alternative) Telegraph (specifically Mike Sheahan) for giving press to the Thirteens, Lawn Chair Kings, etc. – and I encourage you to keep on keepin’ on just like you are. For Tad (to plagiarize a favorite bumper sticker from the past) “Face it: Jerry’s dead, Phish broke up (unfortunately not all good things last forever), now get a job.”

Long live the Mohawk.

– Sean Moore,

Southside, via e-mail




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