Tag Archives: Ben Lacy

Arts

Ben Lacy: Born with it

Ben Lacy has for over three decades been a prominent musical artist on the local scene here in Lexington as well as the world stage. His highly-recognizable style and uncanny acumen for guitar have allowed him over the years to play with the likes of Al DiMeola and many other well-known guitar titans. Born to Alice and Terry Lacy here in Lexington on Christmas Day, 1970 (a birthday Ben shares with his Dad), he grew up first in the Wilson Downing area before his family moved across town to Chevy Chase. In a conversation with UM contributor Charles Sebastian, Ben opens up about his playing, his heroes, and what makes him tick.

UM: Tell me about your early influences musically.

BL: That would be mainly my dad, Terry.

UM: Also a musician?

BL: Oh, yes. He still plays with some fellas regularly. He would tinker a lot when I was little. There were instruments all over the house. He does a lot of Bluegrass. Dad was a big influence. He took me in for one lesson with a classical guy when I was a kid. That was the only proper lesson I’ve ever had.

UM: Surely there were other influences that helped you develop your chops, though.

BL: Sure. When Willis Music was in Fayette Mall, I saw Jeff Calhoun, who was in a few bands. He worked at Willis. I’d see him after school. I’d go in and not buy anything and be a bum. You know, just hang out and absorb the scene and the vibe. So, Eddie Van Halen first, then Steve Morse, who was with the Dixie Dregs, and later the Steve Morse Band. What Steve did for me was an appreciation for arranging and my picking level was raised.

UM: What about other non-local influences?

BL: Wes Montgomery comes to mind. 

UM: Was guitar your first choice as an instrument.

BL: I actually started with cello. I wasn’t totally feeling the vibe. I felt it was preparing me more to play with an orchestra and I was a lot more interested in rock and the hard stuff.

UM: So you switched to guitar. When was this?

BL: I would’ve still been in elementary school.

UM: So you got a taste of your first electric. What was it?

BL: It was a Hondo II, which looked a lot like a Les Paul. 

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Then I graduated to an Ibanez Roadstar, which was a bit more Strat-shaped.

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UM: Were you going to see shows this early?

BL: My brother, John, and I went to see a lot of acts with Dad. Ricky Skaggs, Boone Creek, a lot of local stuff. We went to the state fair 35 years ago and I was blown away by “Moonlight” by Starbuck. That still sticks with me.

UM: That’s some softer stuff, though. You started getting more rockish after awhile, right?

BL: Absolutely. My best friend at the time showed me the Van Halen album,  Women and Children First, around 1980. It transformed me.

UM: I think a lot of guitarists were opened up by Eddie Van Halen.

BL: Totally. I also got big into Yngwie Malmsteen, Judas Priest, and Kiss around that time.

UM: Are you still as inspired by those bands today?

BL: Many of those still work for me. Van Halen, Stones, then it all progressed. 

UM: Progressed to?

BL: James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan and others. I was constantly changing how I was listening to music and what I was listening to. I also felt I owed it to my audience. Any guitarist can just stand up and shred through scales; there’s not really a heavy art to that. To feel the groove of the song, though…

UM: To really get into the character of the music you’re playing, you mean?

BL: Yes, and to have a versatility and openness.

UM: Your song interpretations sound very different. Is that by design or just the style you fell into through years of playing and influence? 

BL: Well, I do play a lot, usually over 100 gigs a year. And yes, my style has developed from all that stage time. Solo’s my bread and butter, but I do some duets and I have a vocalist, Corey Cross. Also Alan McKenzie, a drummer, we play a lot of old-school rock. The bass player who gigs with me a lot, Robert Scott Bryant, is more of a Jazz guy. 

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Performing at Lexington’s Parlay Social with bassist Robert Scott Bryant

UM: So, not as much studio work.

BL: I haven’t been in the studio in a long time, I’ve been gigging so much.

The last thing I submitted for a CD was a Steely Dan tribute album (Maestros of Cool), which they approved. It was released just in Europe and I did a cover of “Hey 19.”

UM: So gigging really just developed over the years, like building any clientele?

BL: Right. I was teaching a lot and I said “why am I teaching, when I’d rather be gigging?”

UM: It seems there are those musicians who would rather be recording than gigging, too. But the reverse seems true for you.

BL: Truthfully, the only thing I think about is “how can I get better?”

UM: That’s a great sentiment for anyone in any business.

BL: The trick is, I have to find that “shed-time,” where I’m able to cultivate and be creative. You have to keep a youthful exploration. I borrow from all of my influences, but I want to play like me. I want people to say “that’s definitely Ben.”

UM: What makes really good music for you?

BL: Something someone can connect with.

UM: A groove, something that speaks.

BL: Exactly.

UM: You were married not too long ago. Did that change things for you?

BL: Most certainly. I married the most beautiful woman I ever met on Oct. 14, 2012. Erica. 2 step-kids. She’s definitely into music, 80s all the way.

UM: Congratulations! Do you feel the standard for music and what sells on the world market has lowered over the years?

BL: Yes.

UM: Who do you feel is out there keeping it real?

BL: Chris Stapleton and Adele come to mind. There are others, but a lot of them are still going and are from 70s-80s.

UM: Was there something considerably different about the artists coming from those decades than most today?

BL: I believe there was more appreciation for the craft. If you bought a vinyl or an 8-track, you knew the people involved actually took the time to learn their instruments. And that was all in an effort to connect to an audience.

UM: Even back then though, there were those artists that were sub-par and are now pretty much forgotten or remembered with a chuckle.

BL: Right, but the ones who really made a difference, the ones who really delved into the craft, that stuff holds up today. I can still go back to some of that early Van Halen stuff, Diver Down, etc. It’s still great.

UM: And a lot of the commercialized or commodities-posing-as-artists probably won’t be remembered in forty years, like Van Halen.

BL: I don’t believe so.

UM: When did your following really kick in?

BL: In 2000 I was still teaching at Willcutt Guitars. There would be these announcements for NAMM Shows. (The National Association of Music Merchants). That’s where my name started getting around. There are two per year, one in Anaheim, then one in Nashville. It’s the kind of thing where there are all kinds of players, albums for sale, new ideas. It’s great. I went to these for 12 years and my name just started getting out, mostly just by playing solo at the events.

UM: So people just started to slowly get word of Ben Lacy through the shows?

BL: Yes. I was endorsing Brian Moore Guitars, out of New York at the time. The people at Brian Moore were great and the guitar was great. I just love the way it feels. I’m still with them.

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UM: Wonderful. So they would help set you up at the shows?

BL: Right. They’ve been flying me to shows and paying me. After years of doing these, all of a sudden, I had a hundred people around me playing. From there, things escalated and I started playing All-Star Guitar Night, which is part of the NAMM Show. I think there’s still some footage on YouTube of me playing “Kashmir,” by Zeppelin.

UM: I’ve noticed that you have a bunch of clips of other pieces on your Facebook page and YouTube.

BL: Yeah, I’ve been doing a fun little thing: posting 1-2 minute clips of well-known songs. Just me sitting and jamming it out. I don’t even play the whole thing, given everyone’s limited attention spans nowadays. I did the Bowie “Fame” recently, after he passed.

Check out Ben’s FB page to see some of the clips and to follow Ben and keep up with his gigs.

UM: Is there anything super-duper exciting coming up, besides the regular gigs?

BL: I have the Raleigh International Guitar Summit next month, which should be fun and informative.

UM: I like that your main focus is “to continue to get better.”

BL: I find myself onstage with a bunch of great players and am grateful. Continuing to get better, yes, that is the first thing on my mind.

UM: Ben, it’s been a real pleasure. We look forward to seeing you play again soon.

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Photo from Story Magazine

Arts

With Tele in hand, he’s Golden

Whether you were born and bred in the Bluegrass or are a transplant, chances are good to great that you know Lexington has a rich artistic heritage. This is especially true with respect to music. Some of the greatest pickers and grinners of all time have come from Fayette County and the areas surrounding it.

Patrick Golden is one such artist.

Patrick Golden with his collection of Fender Telecasters

Lexington-based guitarist Patrick Golden with his collection of Fender Telecasters

Born in Lexington, July 14, 1966, Pat recently celebrated over 40 years in music and has influenced hundreds of students and peers. Known worldwide for his ‘chicken-pickin’ style, Golden is an accomplished guitarist, transcending genre with a style recalling many great players, but most definitely all his own.

Before we chat with Pat and a host of guitar greats who have performed and studied with him, how about a listen? Here’s a clip of Golden promoting Knight Guitars. He is playing a signature Richard Young edition, customized for the Kentucky Headhunters’ rhythm guitarist and vocalist.

The Headhunters still tour a great deal and have had a string of hits over the last 25 years. Headhunters’ lead guitarist Greg Martin has been friends with Golden for some time.

How did you and Pat hook up?

Pat was freelancing with my stepdaughter, Sherri McGee who is in Little Miss Tammy Smith and the Inbreds. That’s how I got to know him. He reached out to me years ago. He’s great about being open to learning new things.

Pat with Doug Phelps and Greg Martin of The Headhunters

Pat with Doug Phelps and Greg Martin of The Headhunters

What is most striking to you about his playing style and approach to teaching?

Pat’s a very dedicated player, a very patient player, and a great teacher. Stylistically, he has his own take on the Tele “twang” thang for one thing, but there is much more to his playing. He loves Telecaster and he’s really creative with its use.

Here’s a clip of the Pat and Greg working some magic.  And here he is, jammin’ with Headhunters’ drummer, Fred Young.

In this exclusive conversation for UnderMain, Golden talks about his playing, his teaching, and growing up in the Bluegrass.

Why electric guitar?

“It all started acoustic,” he explains. “My step-dad gave me an old Craftsman Acoustic back in 1973. It was the f-hole style guitar and it wasn’t much, but it got me started. I banged around on that old thing for a few years. My mother and grandmother wanted to see if I was serious and would stick with it before they bought me an electric, which is what I really wanted.”

Soon after, Pat got his first electric guitar, an old Sears and Roebuck model.

Was it just getting that electric guitar that set you on your path, or something else?

“My mother took me to an Elvis concert in 1976 in Cincinnati; this was just a year or two before he died, and it changed everything for me. It felt like I was supposed to be there. I could tell you what the weather was like and what we had for lunch. It was the most intense experience of my life up to that point and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about it.”

It wasn’t just the King’s charisma that captured Golden, however.

“It was James Burton. James Burton was and is my biggest influence. I saw him originally playing with Elvis and I became absorbed by his style and professional manner. He could cross into any genre and he has many times, playing with Merle Haggard, with Elvis Costello, John Denver, Johnny Cash, the list goes on and on.”

Golden with James Burton

Golden with James Burton

It was also Burton’s influence that led Golden to play a particular type of electric guitar: the Fender Telecaster, or “Tele” for short.

What is it about the Telecaster that made sense to you?

“My first good quality electric was a Gibson Les Paul. I just found playing very limiting for what I was trying to do. The Tele offers me a much wider range of options. I can do more of the things I really want to do with a Tele. Stratocasters, Les Paul, they’re all great, but the Tele is right for me.”

What happened after the Burton experience?

“I started to absorb everything I could to be versatile like Burton: Django Reinhardt, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis. I’d watch all the great acts on Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Express in the 70s; Hee Haw, which, of course, had Roy Clark, Buck Owens, and Don Rich. Right after watching something that was Country, Rock, or Blues, I’d switch over and take in Lawrence Welk. All of these things and more were influences. In those days there were just three channels and no internet, so you watched what came on, and I watched intently, with the idea of applying it to playing.”

Pat with Waylon Jennings

Pat with Waylon Jennings

You’ve taught Blues, Funk, Rock, Country, Jazz and many other genres, but you seem to have a lot of Country influence. How did that come about?

“Well, in the 70s in Lexington, you would have bands playing in local bars 6-7 nights a week. Most of the stuff being played was Country. I was a teen and wanted to play, so that’s where I landed, but I’ve always been interested in and played everything.”

When did your playing first get some real notice?

“Many years ago WKQQ had a contest for the best young rock guitarist and I submitted a demo, which, of course, at that time was on a cassette tape. There were a lot of people entering. Ben Lacy was in the mix, and a lot of other amazing guitarists. Neither of us won, but it did give me more exposure.”

Ben Lacy’s been on the Lexington music scene as a highly refined guitarist for many years. Lacy said the following recently of Pat’s playing:

“He is the purest of tele pickers, able to capture the essence and truly honor the personality of the Tele from classic country sounds and the blues. You can hear all that glorious pedigree of such greats as Danny Gatton and Scotty Anderson but still you can hear Pat’s own voice on the instrument. I’m proud to know Pat and admire his ability to not only perpetuate the rich tradition of the telecaster but also to forge his own path.”

Pat with Phil and Don Everly

Pat with Phil and Don Everly

But was this what got Pat to Nashville and becoming a sought-after sessions player?

“It helped, but late in the 80s I met Bobby Anderson, who was then a writer for Hee Haw. Bobby was from Somerset and we went down to Nashville together, and he connected me to the staff at The Grand Ol’ Opry; Jim Ed Brown, who had a show for many years and many well-known artists. Most of them would hang out at the Nashville Palace. If you’re a sessions-player, singer, songwriter, or anything else musical in Nashville, the Palace is the place to be.”

What happened when you got deeper into the Nashville scene?

The same thing that happens to all players who go there: a reality check. I thought I was a great player, but I didn’t know what that was until I got to Nashville, and there’s one on every corner. I remember going to a show and being sick in the parking lot after, realizing what I was up against.”

Pat with sought-after Nashville sessions player, Reggie Young

Pat with sought-after Nashville sessions player, Reggie Young

Where did you go from there?

“Well, I had a decision to make. Either tuck my tail and go home, which is what happens to so many players, or buckle down and get focused.”

You chose the latter, but how exactly did it manifest?

“I went looking for the best people I could find to study with and learn. The first teacher I sought out was Ray Flacke. He was known at the time as being one of the best country pickers and had recorded with everybody.”

Some of those artists include Ricky Scaggs, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, Kathy Mattea, and Emmylou Harris. The English-born Flacke has been known for four decades as one of the greatest country Tele-pickers in the industry. He is also well-known as an instructor and sessions player.

Pat with Garth Brooks

Pat with Garth Brooks

Golden continues:

“Someone who continues to influence me greatly is Scotty Anderson. I still drive up to Ohio and study with Scotty; he’s in the top .01 percent of players in the world, but he’s kept a low-profile for many years. Any serious player knows about Scotty, though; he’s in a realm all his own. I’ve been with him over twenty years now and I’m still working on that first lesson.”

Here’s what Anderson has to say about his long-time student and friend, Pat Golden:

“Throughout the years I’ve seen Patrick turn into a fantastic player. He was always a really good player, but now he’s reached the level of commercial music greatness really, really unique in his own style. Maybe I was able to help him a little bit; I definitely could tell his playing in a room full of players. He always plays the right notes at the right time and he’s a hell of a nice guy.”

These sentiments about Golden echo throughout the industry, not just with his instructor of many years.

Cartersville, Kentucky singer/songwriter, Josh Logan, has been friends with Golden since the 80s. Logan recorded four albums for the world-renowned Curb Records, starting in 1988. Somebody Paints the Wall included three chart singles which have been covered by artists like Tracy Lawrence and Aaron Tippin.

You and Golden go back a long way?

“Oh, yes. My friend Pat: I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s one of finest real country guitar pickers that I have ever met, his style is the real deal, not computer automated!”

On your tours, did you ever use Pat?”

“The sad part of my story is that I never had him as my lead guitar picker. The timing was always wrong for him to join my band, when I was on the road heavy in the 80s and 90s and early 2000. However, he’s a real country guitar picker, and with his ability to play just about anything that you need on a guitar, I’m sure he could just about fit any style that you need.

Golden’s influence crosses genres and spills out of the Country music scene as well. Blair Carmen, who tours with his band, Blair Carmen and The Belleview Boys, hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. The band stays with a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis and Big Band-style songs. Carmen commented on Pat’s playing and professionalism.

“In 2010, I contacted Patrick about an audition to see about him filling in on some road dates with my band. Since we were doing a mix of retro Honky Tonk Rockabilly Piano Pumpin’ Rock & Roll type stuff, I needed someone who was pretty versatile, yet still hardcore at the old country and rock & roll styles. First chance I had, we went down and met him at his home for an audition, which ended up only lasting five minutes. He introduced himself as a no-nonsense, hardcore honky Tonkin’ chicken pickin’ Telecaster picker…and that he was! I looked around, saw many of his different telecasters and vintage Fender amps and knew I was in the right place. He strapped on his 50s Tele and fired into Merle Haggard’s The Bottle Let Me Down and I said ‘Whoa now, we don’t even do that song, but maybe we will now!’  Then he played a little of Workin’ Man Blues and a bit of a rock & roll tune called Big Hunk a Love and I said ‘When can ya start ?’ He asked, ‘When do ya need me?’ And I said: ‘tomorrow.’ It’s been a blast ever since.”

So how did the rehearsals play out?

“Patrick joined us on the road immediately with no practice, no rehearsal, no set list, and no keys to any song and he hung right in and honky tonk’d and rock’d & roll’d like we’d been playing together for years. We played throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Washington, DC, at a huge swing dance in the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park, and outside Atlanta, Georgia, where special guests, J.W. Brown, Rusty Brown, and Jerry Lee Lewis’ ex wife/2nd cousin (13 year old child bride) Myra Gale joined us.  J.W. Brown was Jerry Lee Lewis’ original bass player in the 50s and 60s and played on all of his hit records. J.W. Brown got up and played a few songs with us. He was really impressed with Patrick’s playing and even told me after the show, ‘Now that there’s a guitar picker!’ That’s what we musicians love to hear!”

So, are you still get together?

“Oh, yeah. Patrick still fills in often with us and is always very professional. He’s always early and on time. He’s also very picky about and always has great tone! Very reliable and great personality, too. That means a lot when you have to work and travel with someone.

Pat with Reba McEntire

Pat with Reba McEntire

Rick “LD” Wayne, the lead guitarist for Randy Travis, concurs. A good friend a Pat’s for the last twenty years, Wayne has toured and recorded with Tom T. Hall, Waylon Jennings, Porter Wagoner, and many others, in addition to the Travis albums.

What’s the story with you and Pat?

“I met Pat many years ago when I was working at the Nashville Palace, and he came in with Bobby Anderson, who worked on the Hee Haw staff. We started talking about Telecasters and realized we both had a passion for them. He’s a wonderful player. He’s always learning something and showing me something. He comes and plays with me all the time. He’s a wonderful friend.”

Wayne’s is a Cinderella story, heading to Nashville from Columbus, GA when he was 18 with his guitar strapped to his back. He immediately got a job with Tom T. Hall, then with Johnny Rodriguez. After being at the Nashville Palace for about three years, he met Randy Ray, who became Randy Travis. Randy became a star and Wayne started toured and recorded with him until 2013, when Travis had a stroke and had to slow down.

What is it that makes Pat’s playing so special?

“Pat has mastered the Telecaster. He knows what pickup to use in the front, back, and middle positions. He’s learned how to play between these for particular songs. He is one of the most efficient players I have ever seen. I deeply respect him personally. No one’s better than Patrick at getting the most out of a Tele. He puts a lot of heart and soul in it and I respect his playing immensely. He’s a great player and teacher.”

Wayne says he and Golden have spent many hours learning from each other.

“I’ll say ‘what did you do there, show me that!’ I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s showed me stuff he’s learned from others like Clint Strong; he just has so much skill and a lot of soul. I’ll usually send potential students his way, if they’re up near Kentucky. The thing about Pat, he’s very humble and doesn’t talk himself up a lot the way a lot of people do in this industry. You can’t help but respect his playing, but his humbleness makes me respect him as a person.”

It was in the mid-90s when many years of playing and teaching paid off for Golden. He got the call to tour with Jerry Lee Lewis and play alongside Lewis’ longtime guitarist, Kenny Lovelace.

Pat, Kenny Lovelace (Jerry Lee Lewis' longtime guitarist), and James Burton (Elvis' guitarist)

Pat, Kenny Lovelace (Jerry Lee Lewis’ longtime guitarist), and James Burton (Elvis’ guitarist)

Touring with Lewis taught him a lot and when Golden returned to Kentucky, he focused on teaching and running to sessions in Nashville, Austin, and a handful of other music meccas in America. Many of his lessons are taught through Skype these days as well as his home, with students from all over the world.

What do you like about teaching, Pat?

“It’s so important as a teacher to be able to transcend genre, relate to the student, and ultimately give students what they come to you to learn. I usually just ask students where they want to go with their playing and take them on that journey. Doing it this way, you’re always giving the student what they want, which keeps them interested and makes the process fun.”

NOTE: Pat Golden can be reached at (859)221-4633 or (859)271-8812. His email address is hottelepicker@yahoo.com. Pat is also on Facebook and can be messaged there as well.

Photos courtesy of Patrick Golden

Arts, Entertainment, Music

Bob Bryant: Our Music Scene from a bassist’s eye view

IMG_3516When touring artists find themselves in need of a bass player while performing in Lexington the “go to” musician is Bob Bryant. Bob has held down the bottom for everybody from Alex Acuna, Rosemary Clooney and Al Hurt to Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, J.P. Pennington and Larry Cordell. He’s a regular on the WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour and is often found performing as a duo with one of a couple of other local masters, Jay Flippin and Ben Lacy. 

Bob has played in all sorts of venues and in all sorts of situations. He has a unique “bassists’ eye view” of the Lexington scene.

UnderMain asked him to share some observations. Here are Bob’s thoughts:

Hopefully, slipping into the membership of Lexington’s “Old Guard” is a good thing in terms of music affairs. Regardless of where I’ve lived or worked, Lexington has always been considered home for me, and never have I lost focus on this community or it’s musical well being.

When asked to compose a couple of paragraphs on the topic, initially the task appeared a struggle in any attempt to display an honestly positive overall outlook. My concerns were (and are) a conspicuous digression in the manner many venues (among the many exceptions) treat musicians as the new norm.

More discouraging by observation is the often belligerent status of the new generation audience. I am often amazed by the ‘party’ atmosphere amidst spectacular musical performances that would never be tolerated in other nearby cities, and traditionally would not have occurred locally.

Though great news to follow, it’s a shame to lose sight of just how amazing the storied tradition of Lexington’s music scene had been until just a couple of decades past. It was truly something, with ‘great’ bands slamming on every street corner while others participated in the “New Circle shuffle,” traveling from one beltway venue to another.

And this is not to mention a bustling recording scene: red-eyed musicians at 8:00 a.m., recovering from their 5 night  stand, sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes, participating in pre-production plans for an all-day session, just to depart directly back to the bandstand, and then do it all over again.

Such meetings took place in a control room including a 2 inch tape recording deck, a mixing console big enough to sleep 4, and a room full of outboard gear so hot the AC ran full out in the dead of winter. The cigarette smoke was unbearable. And the coffee was awful no matter which studio you were working. Those days are history.

On the other hand, all is not lost; not by any means. Extraordinarily talented young musicians continue the tradition of uncanny musicianship known to this unlikely expanse. We should all be so proud of them as they thankfully persevere in this relatively new hostile environment (which incidentally includes Pro Tools).

In addition to the youngsters are other categorical heroes, for example, the relative unknowns. Such is the case of University of Kentucky PhD candidate, Jay Crutcher. Jay’s newest upcoming solo album features some of the finest performing/producing I’ve ever heard.

Another new mover and shaker is UK orchestra conductor John Nardolillo, who has taken the organization to inclusion among the nations absolute elite. Most concerts are free to the public; just show up!

And of course to weigh in on behalf of the previously mentioned ’old guard’ there is the formidable Jay Flippin legacy (of which I am a grateful member). The pianist, a true national treasure, not only raised an entire brood of young music students into career-minded professionals, but serves as the standard for all musicians to aspire. The Jay Flippin/Gail Wynters duo is an unimaginable treat of true greatness!

There is plenty for which to feel positive; amazing musicians-young and not so young, in or out of the spotlight. Helpful would be a little less chaos in the listening rooms, a little more support from (some) venue operators, and acknowledgement of a great future as all these artists are eager to share their gift.