Monthly Archives: December 2020

BB King’s Bluesville Announces 2020 Year End Rack List

Bluesville chooses fifteen songs to match the number of pool balls in a “rack.” It all has to do with Low-Fi’s Bar and Pool Hall in the imaginary community of Bluesville, of which BB King is the perpetual mayor, and the Blues Foundation is the new power-generating station

Listen: Al Green Shares First Recording in 10 Years with Freddy Fender’s ‘Before The Next Teardrop Falls’

Singer-songwriter and record producer Al Green has released a cover of “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” most famously recorded by Freddy Fender.

Reverend Green first recorded the song with Matt Ross-Spang in 2018, ten years after 2008’s Lay It Down. With his signature soul, he reshapes the original (sung bilingually by Mexican-American country singer Fender). Organ player Charles Hodges returns for this track — his first time playing with Al Green since the ’80s.

“As a lifelong Memphian, I’ve always been a massive fan of Al Green and his producer Willie Mitchell,” Ross-Spang said in 2018. Continuing, “Together they created some of the most enduring soul music. Sonically speaking, Willie and Al also really invented a distinct sound that separated them from Stax or Motown.

“When Al arrived at the studio he was already incredibly warm and gracious, but he really became animated and enthusiastic when we all started recording the song live in the room,” Ross-Spang said. “His passion and voice are just as strong as when he first found them as a young man.”

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*Feature image credit: Philippe Merle/Getty Images

‘Lady A’ Anita White Shouts Out Margo Price, Chris Stapleton in ‘My Name Is All I Got’

Anita White, the Seattle blues singer who performs under the name Lady A, has released a new song about her legal battle with a Nashville country-music trio over use of the name. “My Name Is All I Got” is a rhythmic, stomp-and-clap blues song that finds White detailing the hardships she’s faced in 2020.

“Yes, they tried to take my name/but my name is all I got,” she sings in a defiant call-and-response chorus, before growling about how “they keep trying to make me insane.” It’s an emotional performance, as if the weight White has shouldered for the past few months is inspiring, not hindering, her. “I’ve come too far to turn around,” she promises.

Near the end of the song, White offers a few ad-libbed words of appreciation. She thanks Margo Price for publicly stating back in July, while onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, that “the real Lady A” should be invited play the Opry — “That’s what true allyship looks like,” White says. She also shouts out Chris Stapleton for saying that black lives matter during a CBS interview and evokes the words of Bettye Lavette: “She said, you take our culture, our music, our artistry…leave us our name.”

In September, the solo artist White filed a countersuit against Grammy-winning trio Lady A, who changed their name from Lady Antebellum in the summer and subsequently sued White over the rights to the name. White is asking for unspecified compensatory damages, a royalty fee for music sales and performances under the Lady A mark and payment for infringing the Lady A name.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman With Otis Photo Matt Marshall
Gregg Allman lovingly petting his dog Otis.

With the death of founding Allman Brother Gregg Allman on May 27th, 2017 the world lost a musical figure of almost mythic proportions. Filled with the blues, Allman endured tragedy, enjoyed glory, and played some of the best music of the 20th century. Here are ten things you may not know about the man.

1. Gregg Allman inspired Duane Allman to play slide guitar – an event that would make him one of the best and most sought after slide players in his tragically short life.

Duane was spending his 22nd birthday nursing a cold and an elbow injury that he blamed on his younger brother cold. Gregg stopped by his house and dropped off two birthday presents: A bottle of Coricidin decongestant and a copy of Taj Mahal’s debut album. Within two hours, Duane had washed the label off the bottle and was using it as a slide to play along with “Statesboro Blues

2. Allman’s grasp of the blues came from personal tragedy. His father was murdered in a robbery the day after Christmas, 1949. Gregg had just turned two a few days prior. Years later, while working through issues with a record label, he contemplated suicide.

When The Allman Brothers were at the very top of their game, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. Gregg was 23. Just over a year later, bassist Barry Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident. Allman was forced to channel his frustration, stress, and anger into one of the most guttural, and recognizable voices in blues history.

3. Gregg Allman shot himself in the foot — on purpose. Both of the brothers Allman were against the war in Vietnam, and both had terrible memories of military school.

Duane was exempt from the draft, but at 18, Gregg was eligible. One afternoon in 1965, Duane came up with an idea to keep his younger brother out of the military. They got liquored up at their home in Daytona Beach, Florida, Duane invited some girls over, and they threw a “Foot Shootin’ Party”. Gregg drank heavily, drew a target on his moccasin, drank a bit more, called an ambulance, and then shot himself in the foot. The next day, he limped into the recruiter’s office and got a medical exemption.

4. The Allman Brothers got Jimmy Carter elected. While Carter was Governor of Georgia, he became friends with Gregg and the band, often appearing at their local shows. When he decided to run for president, he didn’t pull much financial backing. It was then that Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden gathered his artists, including The Allman Brothers, and did fundraising shows.

Incredibly effective, they raised over $800,000 for the campaign. Without that funding, Carter had a slim chance of even getting through the primaries. As a thank you gesture, Gregg was invited to share the first meal the Carter’s served in the White House. Not only that, but they ate in the residence portion, where most folks aren’t even allowed.

5. A known addict, Allman was threatened with a grand jury indictment if he didn’t testify against his dealer. He did, but it wasn’t that simple. The dealer, in this instance, was also the band’s road manager, Scooter Herring, who had, more than once, saved Allman from an overdose. Herring received a 75 year sentence, which was later reduced to 30 months. The damage, however, had already been done. His bandmates, and others, considered him a snitch, and in 1976 the band officially broke up.

6. Gregg Allman began recording solo albums 1973. In those days, his solo work was much more soulful than bluesy. In the 80s, his work ran more toward a blues-rock feel, while his 2011 release, Low Country Blues, finally revealed a true Bluesman. The album is made up almost entirely of blues standards, covered by Allman and select special guests including Dr. John, Doyle Bramhall II, and T Bone Burnett. It also garnered him a Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album that year.

‘Laid Back’ – 1973

7. The movie Almost Famous has ties to the Allman Brothers. The film was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, and traveled with several bands including The Allman Brothers, while they toured. He used the combined antics of those groups to create the fictional group Stillwater for the film.

The scene in which the lead singer jumps off a rooftop in Topeka, Kansas into a swimming pool, was taken from Duane Allman pulling the same stunt off a three-story Travelodge in San Francisco. Gregg and Dickey Betts also pulled a prank on Crowe, telling him that contract clauses would not allow his story to be published, just before the Rolling Stone deadline.

8. Gregg Allman was married seven times. Three of those before his 30th birthday. He also fathered five children. Three from marriages, and two (his eldest, and youngest) from relationships that did not involve marital vows. Three of his children, Devon, Elijah, and Layla, followed in their father’s footsteps, becoming not only musicians, but lead singers in various groups.

9. Arguably most famous for playing at the Fillmore East, Gregg and company did many more shows at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Between September, 1989, when they played their first gig there, until their final farewell on October 28th, 2014, they played more than 200 times at the historic venue. Their annual spring appearances ranged between 8 and 19 nights per year.

‘My Cross to Bear’ – 2012

10.  In January, 1995, Gregg made the conscious decision to quit drinking. Alcohol had fueled not only the Allman Brothers, but most of the Southern Rock bands of the day. At this point, Gregg wrote in his autobiography that he was drinking at least a fifth of vodka per day.

He went on a five day bender while in New York for the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. While intending a heartfelt acceptance speech including thanks to his mother, and Fillmore manager, Bill Graham, what came out was somewhat more abridged. “This is for my brother – my mentor,” he said, then promptly left the stage. Watching footage of it later was the incentive he needed to quit. In-home nurses were hired, and worked in 12-hour shifts to help him kick his booze habit.

Celebrating 60 Years of Arhoolie Records with Livestream ft. Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Billy Gibbons, etc.

Before this exceptional year is out, we’re taking some time to celebrate an important milestone for Smithsonian Folkways: the 60th anniversary of Arhoolie Records! The venerable label released its first recording (Mance Lipscomb‘s Texas Songster)  back in 1960, starting a decades long journey through the rich musical traditions of North, Central, and South America. If you got the blues, chances are Arhoolie’s got ’em, too. Ready to two-step to some zydeco? We’ll get you dancing! Maybe you’re in the in the mood for a fandango — whichever style of “down home” music your curious ears desire, you’ll be sure to find it on Arhoolie. Explore this historic catalog on our new Arhoolie website, which contains stunning photographs, behind-the-scenes reminiscences, and extensive discographies.

But that’s not all! Tune in for a star-studded livestream event celebrating Arhoolie’s anniversary featuring Taj MahalRy CooderBeauSoleilBonnie RaittCharlie Musselwhitethe Del McCoury Band, ZZ Top’s Billy GibbonsLos Texmaniacs, and more! The concert will air on YouTube on December 10th at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Other performers include Los Tigres del Norte, Savoy Family Band, La Marisoul, Cedric Watson, and the Campbell Brothers.

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways

Arhoolie founder Chris Strachwitz has made it his life’s work to seek out the music he loved. In 60 years, he has steered clear of pop music and gravitated towards the vernacular music of communities around the United States and Mexico. And now you can access much of this incredible collection on Bandcamp. It’s easy to say that Chris took various genres of music which previously only could be found on small local record labels and used Arhoolie to distribute these musics worldwide.

The popularity nationwide of cajun and zydeco nationwide since the late 70s can be traced right back to the wonderful albums Chris released. He used a network of music scholars to turn him on to new sounds. Also involved with many films, he established a longstanding collaboration with Les Blank, Maureen Gosling and Flower Films bringing some of the wonderful music he found to the screen. But don’t take our word for it, go check out the new Arhoolie website and immerse yourself in 60 years of down home, hand-made tunes from your favorite artists.

*Feature image courtesy of Bonnie Raitt’s Facebook page

UK Singer-Songwriter and Multi-Instrumentalist Sean Taylor Releases the Most Pivotal Album of his 20-Year Career

Sean Taylor is the ultimate road warrior whose inspirational, genre-defying music for the past 20 years has been inseparable from his life as a political activist, peace and justice campaigner. Sean’s recent highly acclaimed Live in London album confirmed his credentials as one of the most influential and gifted musicians of his generation.

Blues has its roots in voices that refused to be silenced by oppression, including slavery and segregation — music which expresses basic human feelings of suffering and injustice. To this extent, Taylor is the consummate bluesman who has fearlessly spoken out about contemporary scandals including homelessness, disasters like Grenfell and what he believes to be the sad, broken state of a dystopian England.  

On Lockdown (Sean Taylor Songs), Sean’s frustrations and anger during nine months of isolation in a world turned upside down surface more passionately than ever before.

“Because we are fighting for our lives, now is the time to take sides. No more scapegoats. We are all complicit in our staged democracy. More people have died from coronavirus in the UK than any other country in Europe. The UK and America have been at the forefront of this failure of capitalism. The impact of Black Lives Matter, and climate justice campaigns, and Free Palestine movements challenge the establishment, offering hope and resistance. In this time of economic and political unrest, minorities become the common enemy and are used as scapegoats.”

Seven out of the ten tracks, mainly recorded at home, are political spoken word pieces from Taylor who plays guitars and electric piano accompanied by Austin, Texas producer and collaborator Mark Hallman on drums, bass and Hammond organ. The first of these is “Herd Immunity Part 1” with its eerie repetition of the slogan, “Stay Alert/Die Quietly/Don’t Complain.”

With its metronomic drumbeat backing, “The March Is On” deals with the impact of environmental destruction particularly on the poorest, “creating a global mass movement of planetary defenders/From Extinction Rebellion to First Nation Warriors.” Despite its somber piano accompaniment, “No Borders” portrays a world where refugees are welcome and diversity is celebrated. “Fear is the prison that holds us/Racism is the poison that divides us.” It may be a monologue, but Sean delivers the chorus lines of “Beauty in diversity/ Beauty in who we are”‘ with emotional depth. 

The positive side of lockdown is evident in a glorious solo rendition of “Moonlight Sonata,” Taylor having learned to play classical piano during his time at home. Next up is another atmospheric spoken word track, “Black Lives Matter,” with its anti-racist mantra: “How many worlds will you shatter/Before you realize Black Lives Matter.” The words of Angela Davis ring out to the sound of the piercing electric piano and guitar notes: “If they come for me in the morning they will come for you in the night.”

Sandwiched between the spoken word tracks  “Palestine” and “Herd Immunity Part 2,” Beethoven’s “Für Elise” is the second beautifully played classical piano piece. A piano and percussion instrumental, “Lockdown” precedes the finale, “Free To Do,” which takes on the corporate social media giants or “emperors of tyranny.” The haunting, screaming saxophone of Joe Morales adds drama and intensity to the message, “Log In/You are free to do as we tell you.”

Taylor’s relentless expression of strong and challenging views across such a wide range of global issues will generate many types of responses and opinions. Lockdown is not an album for the faint-hearted, and listeners will find it dark or uplifting, or both, depending on their own experiences and perspectives.

Above all, this ground-breaking piece of music cannot be ignored as it demands a response, forcing people to confront the bigger picture of humankind and society today — and to decide where they stand in relation to what they see. These factors ensure Lockdowns status as an intriguing, historically significant and much talked about album of this decade and beyond. What shines like a beacon throughout is Sean’s sincerity and strong commitment to his pursuit of truth, and the expansive lyrical and music creativity involved in communicating his principles with such potency and clarity.

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See Haim, Jack Johnson, Feist Cover Cat Stevens Classics

Haim, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews and Feist were among the artists cover Yusuf/Cat Stevens classics as part of Saturday’s CatSong Festival, a livestream celebrating the 50th anniversary reissues of the singer-songwriter’s 1970 albums Tea for the Tillerman and Mona Bone Jakon.

Incubus’ Brandon Boyd, James Morrison, Passenger, Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Sad13, Ron Sexsmith, Imelda May and more also took part in the two-and-a-half hour virtual fest.

Jack Johnson opened the mostly acoustic show with a rendition of “Where Do The Children Play?,” which was followed by the Haim sisters’ “Hard Headed Woman.” Feist tackled the Mona Bone Jakon classic “Trouble,” while Matthews delivered a solo take of Tea for the Tillerman’s “Father and Son.”

“It’s great to see and hear these covers of my songs given new life,” Yusuf/Cat Stevens said of CatSong in a statement. “There’s no better honor for a songwriter than to have his songs performed by talented musicians with such love and sincerity. Thank you.”

The Tea for the Tillerman and Mona Bone Jakon album reissues — which include 24 unearthed recordings as well as discs full of demos, alternate takes, outtakes, live recordings, and more — are out now.

Cream of Scottish Blues Perform Live at the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival Online Celebration December 3-6

Opening with “Where’s Your Man,” it is clear from his guitar and vocal style that Jed Potts is steeped in down home authentic blues having traveled extensively across America to learn and develop his skills. He signifies his intentions with trademark tasteful guitar interludes and subtle changes of pace while adding light and shade.

“It Won’t Be Long” is based around a Howlin’ Wolf groove with echoes of “Smokestack Lightning,” but given a new interpretation courtesy of the excellent rhythm section, Jonny Christie’s drums, and Charlie Wild on bass.

Jed Potts live shot courtesy of David Scott

Jed is a consummate storyteller with an easy conversational style so “How’mi’mentuh” is the perfect platform for this fictional narrative set in New Orleans. Potts even manages to play boogie-style piano on his guitar to emulate a Professor Longhair vibe. It takes an exceptional guitarist to attempt an instrumental, which will inevitably draw comparisons with Freddie King, but Jed nails it on “Splash-Down!” — partly because of the perfect synchronization of the complex rhythm patterns by Jonny and Charlie.

Another States-influenced song, courtesy of working with Brandon Santini, is “Swashbucklin’” which Jed uses as a metaphor in his lyrics to describe how good someone can make you feel. A distinctly country feel permeates “To The Mountains” and highlights the versatility of this power trio. A fitting finale is the heavy blues rocking “Won’t Be No Use” proving that Jed is right up there with the best when it comes to slide guitar prowess as he gives a master class in speed and technique.

The atmosphere in the La Belle Angele is electric and one can only imagine the anticipation and excitement of the thousands of virtual viewers waiting to watch the first public appearance of Gerry Jablonski’s band alongside Glaswegian Alan Nimmo. Gerry takes the stage first and launches straight into a scintillating guitar solo on “Breaking The Stones,” his equally enthralling vocals soon competing in call and response mode with Peter Narojczyk’s turbo-charged harp blasts.

Peter Narojczyk live shot courtesy of David Scott

There is no sign of lockdown rustiness as Lewis Fraser hits the groove with immaculate dynamics and precision while Grigor Leslie lays down his usual effortless, pulsating rhythm. The biggest bonus is that the expert videographers and sound engineers are bringing the show to life, covering multiple angles and using imaginative, atmospheric lighting effects. Feeling part of the audience at a live show again is the biggest thrill of all, knowing that normality is as close as it can be in this environment, albeit for a short time but nevertheless very welcome after nine months without a gig.

The mesmeric beat of “Higher They Climb,” a fan favorite, provides the platform for more guitar and harmonica pyrotechnics before the mood switches to “Angel of Love,” with its quiet introduction soon giving way to Jablonski’s impassioned vocals and searing axe work alongside Peter’s complementary anguished harp. The pace increases dramatically with “Slave To The Rhythm,” a big test for the band’s stamina after a long period of isolation but the adrenaline starts kicking in. Jablonski is renowned for his online guitar lessons including the “Secrets of Jeff Beck.” Clearly he is learning fast as his fingers are becoming more nimble than those of the legendary English rock guitarist. 

The tension rises as Jablonski introduces his special guest, blues giant Alan Nimmo which is understandable given that this is the American equivalent of Joe Bonamassa meets the Allman Brothers; in other words a clash of titans. Jablonski and his band start singing his self-penned classic “Heavy Water” and after a few bars Nimmo takes over, his powerful vocals and killer, muscular guitar licks exploding into action.

It is not surprising that Alan’s star is in the ascendancy as he oozes talent and charisma, working tirelessly over the past two decades to hone the virtuosic skills he possesses today. Now it is possible to conjure up the ghosts of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan as everyone raises their game even further for a memorable version of “The Sky Is Crying.” The energy in the room is palpable, the fiery fretwork never falters and the interplay between the two lead guitarists is phenomenal. 

Lewis Fraser takes over the vocals on “Little Wing,” his mellifluous tones adding variation and an extra musical dimension to the evening’s entertainment. However, this night was always going to be about an uber jam and “Soul Sister” provides the extravaganza finale everyone is waiting for. With two of the most highly rated British bluesmen on stage, both exuding swagger and confidence when it comes to performing, the potential for a competition is inevitable.

It is great credit to Jablonski and Nimmo that this is not a duel at two socially distanced paces but rather five professional musicians giving their all to create the best experience they can to the fans they love and respect and who in turn support them. Overall, an unforgettable experience and one which this reviewer can proudly declare, “I was there” because that is exactly what it felt like.

King King

Jed Potts & the Hillman Hunters

Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival Online

*Feature image: Screengrab of promo video

World Premiere Video: Tony Holiday ‘The Hustle’

Memphis based Tony Holiday came to international attention with his 2019 VizzTone release, the star-studded Porch Sessions, in which he established himself as a top-notch harmonica player and producer of modern field recordings.

With Soul Service, Holiday also proves to be a powerful, soulful singer, and a songwriter of smart, moving roots music songs that expand his palette beyond blues to show his diverse influences. Produced by Grammy nominee Ori Naftaly (Southern Avenue, Stax Records) at Zebra Ranch, the Dickinson family studio in Independence, Mississippi, the album features Holiday on lead vocals and harmonica, Landon Stone on guitar, Max Kaplan on bass and background vocals, Danny Banks (John Nemeth band) on drums, and special guests producer Ori Naftaly on guitar and Grammy nominee Victor Wainwright on keys.

Track six from Soul Service is “The Hustle,” a syncopated soul blues track with Holiday’s harmonica dropped in throughout. There’s also a powerful, overblown harp solo about two-thirds of the way in.

“The Hustle” is a song I wrote a few years ago and recently recorded on my debut album ‘Soul Service.’ It’s about someone who is on the road a lot leaving a family behind , and noticing things they left broken at home, are fixed when they return, a person who noticed certain things and problems tend to mend themselves and move on without you when you’re gone all the time. – Tony Holiday

Today is Tony’s birthday, and we’re pleased to bring you the world premiere of “The Hustle.”

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Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” Tops ASCAP’s Most Played Holiday Songs of 2020

Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” earned the top spot on the Top 25 most played ASCAP holiday songs of 2020. Perennial favorites, including “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and others that have been interpreted by artists across all genres, fill out the list, as announced by the performing rights organization today.

Carey’s song, written with Walter Afanasieff and released in 1994, has become the modern earworm song for the holidays and it’s only gained steam in recent years. In fact, the song topped Billboard’s Top 100 charts last year, a first for a holiday song since 1958.

Carey shared a special holiday message to fans about the song on @ASCAP on Instagram, saying “I’m deeply grateful… and just so thankful that it is still bringing joy to so many people around the world and I know that we need that more than ever right now.”

 “Feliz Navidad,” written by José Feliciano and released 50 years ago, returns to the top 25 once again. In honor of the milestone, Feliciano recently released a star-studded re-recording titled “Feliz Navidad 50th Anniversary (FN50).”

Below are the top 25 most played ASCAP holiday songs of 2020*, all written or co- written by ASCAP songwriters and composers. Each song lists ASCAP songwriter credits and copyright date.

1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff (1994)
2. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” by Meredith Willson (1951)
3. “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Johnny Marks (1962)
4. “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson and Mitchell Parish (1948)
5. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne (1945)
6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Joseph Carleton Beal and James Ross Boothe (1958)
7. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Johnny Marks (1958)
8. “Last Christmas” by George Michael (1984)
9. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Edward Pola and George Wyle (1963)
10. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin (1944)
11. “Winter Wonderland” by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith (1934)
12. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” by Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie (1934)
13.“White Christmas” by Irving Berlin (1941)
14.“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Johnny Marks (1949)
15. “The Christmas Song” by Mel Tormé and Robert Wells (1946)
16.“Here Comes Santa Claus (Down Santa Claus Lane)” by Oakley Haldeman and Gene Autry (1947)
17. “Home for the Holidays” by Robert Allen and Al Stillman (1954)
18.“Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano (1970)
19. “Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season” by Kay Tompson and Irving Berlin (1942)
20. “Santa Baby” by Joan Javits, Anthony Springer and Philip Springer (1953)
21.“Frosty the Snowman” by Steve Nelson and Walter E. Rollins (1950)
22.“Jingle Bells” by James Lord Pierpont; Frank Sinatra version arranged by Gordon Jenkins (ASCAP, 1958)
23. “Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson and Greg Kurstin (2013)
24. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by Dr. Seuss and Albert Hague (1966)
25. “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande and Savan Kotecha (2013)
*Based on an analysis of ASCAP streaming and terrestrial radio data.

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