I need more cowbell!

My post about multimedia in gospel concerts has generated a discussion that might warrant a bit of elaboration: namely, innovation is one thing. Amateurism and shoddy gimmickry are entirely another.

Watching Sandi Patty’s use of visual imagery or seeing some country star’s multimedia show may have inspired many of the sg acts we’re discussing to incorporate visuals into their concerts. But splicing together scenes from a religious film that are out of sync with the song being sung is not innovative. It’s sloppy. Singing about God and country while showing video clips of purple mountain’s majesty and sentimental scenes of homespun bucolicry is not innovative. It’s just the multimedia equivalent of getting people on their feet by singing songs with “stand” in the hook. Using your handheld video camera to shakily capture some awkward scenes of your family and a songwriter during the recording of a song and then creating a pseudo-documentary actually is kind of innovative. But the idea was sabotaged by the amateurish videography and the fact that the song in question (”The Ride”) just doesn’t sound like the instantly legendary song the “documentary” made it out to be.

In each case, you get the feeling that, as so often in sg, genuinely innovative impulses degenerate into hackish imitations under the pressure of the omnipresent small-timerism that afflicts the industry. So much creative energy is spent trying to look like someone’s knock-off version of success that very little effort goes into actually contemplating how particular musical ideas may be most effectively communicated (and that may or may not include multimedia). If sg artists were really thinking seriously about professional, tasteful ways to sharpen particular concepts or create special moments in their shows, would so many uses of video clips involve singers on stage singing along with video recordings of themselves singing that same song somewhere more interesting?

This is technology as a solution that creates its own problem: extraneous concert bling. It reminds me of that old Saturday Night Live send up of the Blue Oyster Cult recording “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” with Christopher Walken as a self-important dimwit producer who keeps interrupting the session, with greater and greater degrees of exasperation, to tell the group how they just don’t get it … the song doesn’t have enough cowbell in it. “I need more cowbell!”

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  1. Eric Melton wrote:

    Hey Doug,

    I’ve Got an idea. If you want it done right and you are the only one that can do it right and you have all the right ideas quit being a back seat driver and sacrifice everything like many of my friends in this business have done and get your several friends on this board and start your quartet.

    Quit being bitter at what everyone else is doing and you go it better. Get in the game and join the team. Then we can have you as our model to do things right for this industry. You my friend are obviously the genius and the rest of us are just plain dumb! That will give us all a chance to write about you and the great deal you have sacrificed to make this industry better.

    Sell your home, mortgage your house, get your bus, forfeit your kids education, make Mama worry about if the paycheck will be there next week, sacrifice till you can’t sacrifice anymore, then only then can you tell us how to do it.

    This comes from both Eric Melton and Garry Sheppard

  2. Dexter wrote:


  3. Madison Easter wrote:

    “I’ve got a fever….and the only prescription….is more cowbell.”

    I don’t have anything profound to say, I just really liked that sketch.

  4. Tom wrote:

    The comment by Eric (#1) above is a perfect example of an apparently very common (as reflected in multiple comments to Avery’s posts) yet exasparatingly, perplexingly illogical response to any kind of artistic criticism in the southern gospel community.

    I suppose, in order to maintain continuity with the logic of his argument, Eric would also suggest that Ebert and Roeper have absolutely no business reviewing and rating movies and informing the public which movies, IN THEIR OPINION, deserve thumbs up and which ones deserve thumbs down. Rather, Ebert and Roeper (according to the argument presented by Eric) should mortgage their homes, borrow a few million dollars, and simply “show” us the proper way to make a good movie.

    I also imagine that if any of Eric’s friends ask him, “Have you seen the movie ______ and what did you think of it?” that Eric’s response will certainly be (unless he’s a hypocrite), “I’m not really in a position to answer your question because either (1) I do not have the critical abilities to answer that sort of question, so I will keep my mouth shut, or (2) I have the critical abilities to answer that question, but at the moment I’m in the process of selling my house and buying a movie production studio in order to SHOW you the proper way to make a good movie.”

    Perhaps the reason sg is so amateurish is because so much of the audience lacks sufficient critical thinking skills not only to demand better, but also even to recognize or be willing to admit when something can be improved (and to do so without selling their homes and SHOWING us all how to do it themselves).

  5. Faith wrote:

    “I gotta have more cowbell!” That skit was one of the BEST!

    “I’ve got a fever….and the only prescription….is more cowbell.”

    It’s not quite what I expect to read about on a SG critique site…but whatever, it’s hilarious!

  6. joe wrote:

    “And it just keeps gettin betterer and betterer and betterer”.

  7. Not Beavis wrote:

    “Sell your home, mortgage your house, get your bus, forfeit your kids education, make Mama worry about if the paycheck will be there next week, sacrifice till you can’t sacrifice anymore….”
    Let’s hope this isn’t “Plan A” on how to make it big in SG

  8. Phil wrote:

    actually #4, mr. ebert did write the script for a movie & i think even he admitted the movie was really bad…

  9. Robin wrote:

    I learned a long time ago that whatever movie the “critics” say is not worth seeing, will be the one I enjoy the most. The movie with the most hype is usually the one that I can take or leave (more often than not, the latter.) Maybe I should put this same theory in action when it comes to other people’s opinions about SG and its artists. Sure everyone’s got one, but that doesn’t mean I have to give it any merit. Just because Doug says they’re terrific probably just tells me that they are a spit-and-polish, high-tech entertainer and finely tuned business. On the other hand, if Doug says they are second-tier or lower, mom-and-pop, small-time, shoddy, unprofessional, etc, etc., then I can almost be assured that they will bless my socks off when I go to see them for myself.

    It is easy to listen to a CD, or go to a concert or two (or none) then sit back, nit-pick, and verbalize ad nauseum about what I think a group could and should do better (in my opinion, be it ever so humble.) But until I have walked a mile in their shoes, or rode a mile in their big shiny bus or their tacky little van and trailer, until I have lived one day in their home, or better yet, until I have been given a glimpse into their heart and mind to know the true person, maybe I should think twice about sharing that self-proclaimed expert opinion.

    And yes, I’m preaching to myself as well. Man, the words I wish I could take back that were based on someone else’s opinion about another person, only to find out they and I were wrong. Facts, people. It’s the facts that matter. Not any man’s opinion. Get the facts and form your own opinion.

    Yes, I have opinions, but I don’t recall anyone asking for one lately. And even if they did, its still worth exactly what it cost them. Absolutely nothing. Zippo. Squat. Nada.

  10. Bryce wrote:

    Mr. Melton, if you and Mr. Sheppard don’t currently manage a group, I implore you to start one together. I propose you call yourselves The Martyrs.

  11. Mike McIlwain wrote:

    I just watched the SNL Cowbell skit again. I’ve got the fever, I need MORE COWBELL!!!!

  12. Scott wrote:

    What people never seem to realize about critics is that most are generally interested in the work they are reviewing. Proper criticism–in the academic sense–reflects a scholarly detachment that is an art in itself perfected over many years of ardent and serious study.

    It moves us into a greater appreciation for the context in which specific cultural entities occur, and it moves us beyond saying “i like this; i don’t like that; this sucks; that’s awesome.” It shows us WHY we like something, WHY something doesn’t work; it removes us from empty statements and allows us to express thoughts and feelings that would otherwise be ineffable.

    Good criticism is its own art.

  13. thom wrote:

    “and sentimental scenes of homespun bucolicry …..” Homespun What?

    I looked at Dictionary.com and they had no definitions for this word. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bucolicry

  14. thom wrote:

    I understand that many groups are in a continual financial struggle and that high diesel fuel prices have made it even tougher than it used to be to make a living.

    With all the sympathy and concern in my heart let me offer this viewpoint. To forsake your children’s education, put your families security at risk by mortgaging your home, bury your family in overwhelming debt, and become a slave to the almighty bus payment does not honor the Lord or the teachings of the scripture. “the borrower is slave to the lender”

    I believe that if God intends for you to be in fulltime music ministry he will make a way for it to become a reality without all the schemes of man. Where He guides, He provides.

    what do you say?

  15. quartet-man wrote:


  16. Robert wrote:

    I can’t comment on any of the power point presentations except for one group. I saw the Booth Bros. sing Under God live and they had a patriotic themed video playing on the screen behind them and it was great. It was synced up perfect to the song and thus did not distract at all from it. It was awesome!
    This is not to say that I think everyone should do this. With the Booth Bros. it was one song, was in sync, and enhanced the song. Otherwise, it would have taken away from the song.

    To #1: You are taking Avery’s way of trying to make this a better industry and trying to make him out as something he isn’t. Sometimes the truth hurts.

    To #14: Awesome post! I believe you are right on mark.

  17. Grigs wrote:

    It might be time to cut and paste Teddy Roosevelt’s “It is not the critic who counts” quote….

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