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WRITE TEAM: Listen up

Like millions of folks, I really, truly love music. I’m entrenched in rock and roll and blues but I fancy many other genres.

Over the past couple of decades, I've developed a pretty healthy devotion to jazz. NOT the incipient noodling (not my phrase, I swiped it from a San Diego writer, and it is perfect) of performers like Kenny Alphabet-letter-guy and Dave Koz. That’s un-jazz, anti-jazz, bereft-of-soul-jazz. Any DJ, radio station, or record seller/music retailer that claims that it IS actual jazz is lying to you and should be poked with a hot fireplace utensil, as they are seriously misleading you. AND they should be reported to the authorities for supporting jazz havoc, a grievous offense.

Jazz is Stanley Turrentine. Jimmy Witherspoon. Ella Fitz, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. Esperanza Spalding. Herbie Hancock. Chet Baker, Stan Getz, and Cassandra Wilson. ‘Trane. Wynton Marsalis. Tito Puente. Django Reinhardt and Milt Jackson. Robert Johnson. Billie Holiday, Sir Duke and Louis Armstrong. You get the idea. Check out any of the aforementioned artists and you’ll get a meaningful shot of what jazz does.

Jazz is an American conversation. Get involved. There's a lovely complication to it, yet it's completely accessible. If you like to be carried to new places when you listen to music, take a jazz test drive. You won't regret it. (Good place to start? I recommend KSDS in San Diego. An absolute trove of jazz education; it’s long been my favorite place to chill with the cool cats.)

I've also gained a new appreciation for old country. Old-country-for-me, like Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Tom T. Hall, Patsy Cline, Hank Sr., Bob Wills, Dolly Parton, etc. I've always enjoyed people like Dwight Yoakum, The Mavericks, Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Joe Ely, and Steve Goodman. I really don't know where in the modern pantheon of country any of those would find a slot.

However… I'm compelled to reveal that what I find repellent is what is commonly referred to as “new country.” I call it “bro country” because I read that somewhere, and it fits. I couldn't honestly tell you I know for sure anyone's name associated with this debacle because it's all so offensive to my ears. As I browse the radio – you guessed it, looking for that elusive "something new" - I smack that scan fast and hard just get away from the horror. It sounds like bad 70s pop. Emphasis on bad.

Judging from the artist names I have heard, I only need to remember three or four, as they all sound interchangeable: Blake Shelton, Shelton Kelley, Kelly Clarkson, Clarkson Devon, Devon Blake, Blake Shelton. See? Yes, I made a couple up, but who would know, really? Did you? I'd ask who listens to this abomination, but judging by the fact that there's so much of it out there, I guess a whole bunch of folks do.

I'd waaaay rather listen to Mexican ranchera music. And so I do.

Here’s my perfect scenario, though: enough years to listen to all the music I'd like to discover, and the time to read every book I ever wanted. But for now, I guess I will settle for being happy that the internet is working again. Pandora, here I come.

SHANNON HIGGINS CONNOR is a mom, a voracious reader, a jewelry maker, a bipolar wonder, a dog mom/chauffeur, a tequila enthusiast, and (kind of) a writer who currently lives with her Weimaraner, Meeshka in Streator ... but is always scanning the horizon for the next move. She is a believer in both climate change and "Leave things better than you found them." She can be reached at

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