The Old-Time Herald Volume 11, Number 7

Issues in Old-Time Music
Old-Time Herald Reviews
By Alice Gerrard

. . . I completely understand the personal angst and sense of accomplishment that goes into making a recording. It’s your baby, and when you send it out into the world you want everyone to love it as you do. Some of the musicians reviewed in these pages have not made many CDs—maybe just one—and are not used to being reviewed. Others have made lots. When a review comes out that is not glowing, it can hurt a bit—or a lot. I would guarantee that every musician who has ever recorded, especially if he or she has recorded a lot, has received a bad review, or a review that very carefully didn’t say anything, or, that in reading between the lines convinces you the reviewer didn’t like the project. Here are a couple of excerpts from reviews of projects I’ve been involved in.

“You Better Let That Liar Alone” and “Jolie Blon” are tolerable, the rest is an ol’-timey Cajun nightmare.

[Name] is content, without singing, to strum on his old banjo . . . depressing numbers like one called “Black Lung.” I have no wish to add to add to the troubles of exploited miners . . . but I wonder if conditions were ever improved . . . by so gloomy a protest song.  . . .  a really slobbering little number called ‘I Truly Understand.’

The sarcastic tone of that last excerpt (I cobbled together pieces from what was a longer review) is one I’ve never encountered in reviews in the OTH. What I felt on reading this review, besides the initial wince, was that the reviewer didn’t know s—t from apple butter, but that was his/her opinion (and he/she might be kind of a jerk).  Recently, I saw a review of a CD in the Washington Post that was very unfavorable. The next day I picked up a copy of People magazine, in which they reviewed the same CD and loved it. That’s the way with reviews—one person loves it, another hates it, and all degrees in between. And sometimes (in my opinion) the reviewer hits the nail on the head, and sometimes misses.

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