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Unbound Words

Bandcamp Friday, July 3, 2020

Since the beginning of COVID-19 shutdowns this year, the online music company Bandcamp has been promoting “Bandcamp Friday”, starting on March 20, 2020 and occurring on the first Friday of the month every month following until today. On these days, Bandcamp agrees to forego their collection of revenue for digital sales (not including subscriptions). In general, this means an extra 15% goes to artists or labels on these days.

While not a perfect model, the monthly occurrence provides a calendar marker for giving deliberate support to small or medium-scale artists and labels. This might be the last Bandcamp Friday of this wave of COVID-19, so I’m sharing some music that I find exciting on Bandcamp.

Tré Burt – “Caught It From The Rye” ~ Tré Burt put out this well-balanced album on Oh Boy Records (the independent label started by John Prine). He expresses heartbreak both public and private in deftly executed songs & rounds out the sentiments with songwriter’s wisdom.

Our Native Daughters – “Songs of Our Native Daughters” ~ This Smithsonian Folkways release caught my eye after listening to Kaia Kater’s “Grenades” from the same imprint. Seeing Rhiannon Giddens’ name, I expected something great. I was further impressed by the other musicians in Our Native Daughters. One reason to buy things on Bandcamp these days is that digital downloads are sometimes bundled with pdfs, videos, or other files. The companion pdf to this album yields scholarship and provides context to the music, serving as a jumping off point for more learning.

Nicole Mitchell and Lisa E. Harris – “Earthseed” ~ I have not given this a full listen yet, but I’m eager to hear their exploration of the themes of Octavia Butler’s science fiction. FPE Records’ listing of the recording drew me in.

Nana Grizol – “South Somewhere Else” ~ This album delivers on Nana Grizol’s fun folk punk sound, pushing beyond it here and there with fresh ideas. For long-time listeners of the band, their lyrics have matured with the bittersweet passage of time. They grapple with the ongoing task of undoing xenophobic social conditioning, acknowledging biased falsehoods and the resulting behaviors with acumen that allows them to be dismantled.

Oxherding – “Unfolded Along The River” ~ This is my friend’s most recent release on Distant Bloom, an electronic record label from Saint Louis, MO. I can imagine river confluence scenes past and present while listening to these two tracks. I also appreciate that the label has taken a stand on social justice issues. Through sales in June 2020, Distant Bloom donated $520 to ArchCity Defenders, a non-profit civil rights law firm in Saint Louis.

Using one’s voice and other means of leverage is something that appeals to me with all of the musicians and organizations I am sharing in this post. When they get some extra money from Bandcamp sales today, it’s going back into sustaining actions that will make their part of the world a better place.