Willie Nelson's five biggest gambles

Kelly Dearmore
Willie's Gambles Can Turn Into Collectors Items

Aside from being as genius of a musician, Willie Nelson is a survivor, an activist and practical spiritual guru. Over the past couple of decades, his non-musical exploits have calmed considerably. Fewer movie roles and, aside from a minor drug-bust on the border a few years ago, a seemingly calm family and personal life have made some folks forget that Willie was once as wild as they got from the late 1950s all the way through the '80s. His inclusion in the group of so-called "Outlaws" was warranted for decisions and actions made both in the studio and at home.

For better or worse, Willie has gone with his gut and gone where his beloved sweet smoke has taken him. There's little argument to be made that some of the moves he's made over the years have been wild head-scratchers. But other gambles have turned into massive victories as well. Here are five of the craziest examples of Willie Being Willie.

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Five country artists that liberals would actually like

Photo by Randee St. Nicholas
Miranda Lambert

Ask someone of a liberal political persuasion what they think about modern country music, and it's often a shrug you'll get in return.

Long gone are blue state-copacetic country heroes like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash, and now that the Dixie Chicks are no longer a force, most Obama fans have no patience for anything out of Nashville. Members of the supposedly open-minded party tend to believe that the genre is completely saturated with odes to guns, trucks, whiskey, and American flags.

But that's just not the case! Mainstream country has become increasingly friendly to liberals, and these five artists are prime examples.

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Grammys 2014: MN native Rahki produced for Kendrick Lamar's good kid m.A.A.d city

Photo provided by Rahki Smith

South Minneapolis-bred rap producer Columbus "Rahki" Smith is listed in two categories for the 2014 Grammy Awards this weekend. His production work is featured on Album of the Year and Rap Album of the Year nominee good kid m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar.

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The album is not dying, despite what you may have heard

From the Shangri La art
Tell this guy about the death of the album.

"The album is dying in front of our very eyes," Variety columnist and music business know-it-all Bob Lefsetz wrote recently based on weak LP sales, including Katy Perry's Prism, which sold only about 220,000 copies in its first week.

"If your plan is to increase your audience, spread the word and make money, suddenly the album just isn't working anymore," he continued. "We've turned into a nation of grazers. And the artist's job is to constantly be at the smorgasbord. Not to deliver one big meal that is picked at and thrown away, but to constantly provide tantalizing bites to the public."

As if Bob Lefsetz knows anything about "the artist's job."

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Jake Bugg

Why we need to keep the Artists' Quarter open

Photo by Andrea Canter

Dave King is the drummer and composer for the Bad Plus, Happy Apple, Dave King Trucking Company, and Halloween, Alaska. This essay is based upon Dave's conversation with City Pages music editor Reed Fischer.

As an old-school jazz club, the Artists' Quarter is a model that's dying in America. There aren't many places left where you're not four feet from a caesar salad while you're playing this music. Outside of New York's Village Vanguard and the Green Mill in Chicago, the Twin Cities has the Artists' Quarter.

It's the rare jazz club run by jazz musicians. Who could understand more about what the environment needs to be than somebody from that environment? You're entering something special here. It's subterranean and black inside, with black walls, no windows, and a bar at the back. Also, it's a condensed listening experience where it's not really tolerated to talk loudly during the music -- or to talk at all.

See Also: The Artists' Quarter is closing

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Minnesota Orchestra's Osmo Vanska: Please do not applaud

Exiting Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vänskä added a deafening exclamation point to his farewell concerts over the weekend. Last week, he announced that he was resigning from his position after a decade as music director with the orchestra, and the performances at Ted Mann Concert Hall would be his last. For those, he gave everyone a chilling finale.

Both Vänskä and composer Aaron Jay Kernis decided to leave the Minnesota Orchestra after a year-long musicians' lockout stemming from salary reductions recommended by the board. This past spring, he wrote a letter threatening to resign if rehearsals hadn't resumed by now.

See Also: Osmo Vanska resigns from Minnesota Orchestra

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Kevin Steinman on Norway healthcare: I feel as healthy as I ever have

Thumbnail image for Kevin_Steinman_Fjord_singing_Espen_Willsersrud.jpg
Photo by Espen Willserrud
Another advantage of Norway? You get to sing in the Fjords.

By Kevin Steinman

One year ago, my wife Ina and I posted our Ikea furniture on Craigslist, watched as four strong men packed up my studio gear, guitars and piano, hugged friends and family after my farewell concert in Minneapolis, and flew to Norway to begin our new adventure here. (Read about my reasons for leaving here.)

Since then I've received six Remicade infusions for my Ulcerative Colitis, and I'm happy to report I feel as healthy as I ever have. When I first arrived in Oslo last August, I didn't yet have a Norwegian social security number, so I felt no small measure of stress as I approached their health system as a new immigrant. The doctor I visited at the University of Oslo health clinic immediately understood that my treatment schedule merited a quick prioritization, so he made up a number for me, just to get me in the system. He assigned me to a private hospital (still covered under the national insurance plan), where they have lots of experience with the kind of treatment I get, and predicted I would be very satisfied with my care. He was right.

See Also:
U.S. healthcare is too costly for Kevin Steinman, so he's moving to Norway

Kevin Steinman says farewell and thanks to the Twin Cities
Kevin Steinman's farewell show at Bryant Lake Bowl, 7/23/12

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One Direction's 1D World at Mall of America is a nostalgia presale

Photos by Reed Fischer
This past Saturday, the boy band One Direction opened a pop-up store at the Mall of America, and Gimme Noise decided to observe what sort of youth-cultivated bedlam might result. Called 1D World, the store will occupy the northwest corner of the mall's rotunda for the next six weeks.

Upon receiving the 1D announcement, what first came to mind was "1 dimension," like 3D, minus 2. Once it was clear this is a group of English and Irish young men brought together by powerful hands of The X Factor's Simon Cowell, it recalls an all-too-clear arc of lineage from the past three decades: Menudo, New Kids, the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync. Then Gimme Noise hit adulthood.

For the week leading up to Saturday, it was impossible to not think about boy bands, and have memories of lines of teenagers winding through the mall concourse to wait for New Kids on the Block. It was mostly girls, but some boys in there too. They looked out of place because they were masking their anticipation and the girls weren't. It is like scanning someone else's memories; I wasn't there. I never went out to a thing like that. I stayed home. Maybe I'll get to the One Direction store and throw a fit, especially if I have a little brandy in me.

See Also:
One Direction opening their own store at Mall of America

One Direction return to Minnesota on 2013 U.S. tour

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In defense of the container: A response to Emily White

The iconic artwork for Some Girls from container experts the Rolling Stones

Today marks the return of Emily White -- the 21-year-old NPR intern who got everyone riled up last June because she's too young to appreciate music ownership. She and I are actually very similar on paper. Both of us love music and the artists who create it deeply enough to delve into the murky waters of industry economics. In a new post published today on Billboard, titled "Music Owns Me," she discusses the potential of streaming services that pay a living wage to artists.

Like her, I also have a background in college radio, albeit at a station staunchly committed to physical formats. We're roughly the same age, and therefore have a comparable viewpoint on the record industry's battle with streaming and music piracy. But despite these similarities, we diverge wholly on the thesis she uses to end this piece: "It's really time to start paying the creators instead of the containers."

See Also:
I buy more music than Emily White, and you should too

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Why Death Grips sold drama instead of a copy of NO LOVE DEEP WEB

Photo by Jonny Magowan
The Music Industry is a weekly column that dissects local and national music-business headlines with the help of local industry professionals and music fanatics.

This month, dark lords of alt-hip-hop Death Grips emerged from the shadows to thrill believers by leaking their latest album, NO LOVE DEEP WEB, online. The album's cover features a very NSFW shot of male genitalia  with the title scrawled on it in Sharpie, and inside, the record follows a sweaty band of punks from Sacramento as they commandeer the rap format and wipe the floor with their more commercial counterparts in the process.

Supposedly, their label Epic Records wasn't in on the decision, and they retaliated by pulling the band's website. Now, I'm a marketer by trade, and I can smell strategy a mile away. So, when casually interested bloggers and journos wondered timidly whether the Death Grips leak may have been a setup, I had to laugh.

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