It’s hard to sell music nowadays. Ask any musician, from pro to a novice releasing a first CD. Digital downloads, pirating, internet radio, and the ease with which anyone can now duplicate music at home, all make it nearly impossible for singer/ songwriters and bands to legitimately sell what their creative hearts and minds have painstakingly produced. The days of rock stars and concert halls are gone, when one had to purchase a song on vinyl, cassette or CD to own a copy.
Key West offers a smorgasbord of great musical talent, with styles and genres ranging from blues, rock, trop rock, reggae and country. And there are world-class musicians who live and play here year-round. But you can’t always buy a CD from each and every one you see in the bars along Duval Street. So, two years ago, I decided to do something about that. I convinced 18 of the best of them to pool together, one song each, into a “Best of …” CD compilation, capturing a who’s who time capsule of favorite songs by Key West’s favorite artists onto one convenient disc.
And it wasn’t easy. Musicians are, by nature, procrastinators at times, so I had to bug the hell out of some of them. In the end, it was well worth it.
Last April, “The Best of Key West, Volume One,” was released to rave reviews. It offered some of Key West’s most beloved classics, like Nick Norman’s “Cheap Cocaine,” Caffeine Carl Wagoner’s “My Little Island Home” and Zack Seemiller’s “You’re Harmony,” plus new material by blues legend Bill Blue, “Sink or Swim,” and a great song from trop-rock icon Howard Livingston, “Local on the Eights.” The CD breathed new life into these songs on local radio stations where they still receive regular rotation. The CD introduced a lot of music to new audiences, and also to other musicians. It’s not that easy for local musicians to get others to listen to what they’ve created, but when there are so many all in one place, rolling one right into the other, it is easy to get the listeners’ attention piqued.
The rousing and uplifting song “Rise” by Tony Roberts and Sam Waite kicks off the CD, followed by Jeff Clark’s lighthearted “Coconut Jam.” There are a couple songs from trop-rock duo Chris Rehm and Dani Hoy, “My Little Island Town” and “I Like It Hot” respectively. Cliff Cody, fresh off Season One of “Rising Star,” offered up his humorous anthem “Homegrown.” There are two reggae-ish numbers from El Dub, “Anywhere Bound,” and MC COUSCOUS, “Square Grouper.” Topped off with melodic, guitar-driven pop/rock gems: “Respectfully” from Anthony Picone, “Days Like These” from John Taglieri, “Home” by Mike Festa and Jettison Theory, “Talk” by Kevin Poole, and “Problem” from Key West’s favorite family band, the Doerfels. And then, newcomer Karri Daley, with her grindy, raspy, bluesy “Layin’ Low.”
That was Volume One, and it has been one of the best-selling CDs in Key West for well over a year, online and at retail locations all over town.
And now, the good news is that Volume Two is being pressed as of this printing, and there is going to be a CD release party on May 23 at Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, featuring artists from both CDs. Is it better than Volume One? That’s the thing about producing a Best of Key West CD. What is “best” is subjective and always evolving. Once again, I’ve selected 18 or so of the best the town has to offer, from masters to talented beginners, from old-timers to barely-drinking age, rock, blues, 1950s surf rock-’n’-roll, ragtime gypsy jazz and even some musical comedy. Here are the musicians and songs appearing on the “Best of Key West, Volume Two.” You be the judge:
¦ Roenin, “Duval Street”
¦ Tony Baltimore, “Right Back”
¦ Larry Baeder, “Skills to Pay the Bills”
¦ Patrick and the Swayzees, “Left Me
Down in the Keys”
¦ Michael McCloud, “The Conch
¦ CW Colt, “Key Western Cowboy”
¦ Pete and Wayne, “My Father’s Balls/
¦ Matt Quinton, “Another Key West
¦ Mary Spear, “Seeking Peace”
¦ Joal Rush, “Bleed”
¦ Adrienne Z, “Blue Day”
¦ Leah Orlikowsky, “Tiger”
¦ The Love Lane Gang, “Mona”
¦ Bill “The Sauce Boss” Wharton, “Kino
¦ Bria Ansara, “Feel the Scene”
¦ Don Middlebrook, “Goodbye Captain
¦ Gabriel Wright, “Devil in the Deep”
¦ Jeff Clark, “Babylon”
¦ The Muse Gurus, “Souls on Ice”
Please join me, along with some of these select musicians (to be announced) on Monday, May 23, at Smokin’ Tuna Saloon beginning at 5:30 p.m. and playing all night, and purchase a brand-new CD. As always, $1 from the sale of each CD goes to benefit the Sister Season Fund of Key West, a nonprofit organization that helps out those in the service industry who fall into financial duress for reasons beyond their control.
You can find “Best of Key West” CDs at Conch Republic Seafood Company, Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, Six-Toed Cat, Koz’s Green World Gallery, Key West Island Books, Crystals and Coconuts, Plantation Coffee, Island Dogs, Grateful Guitar, Gone Fishin’ and the Blue Flamingo. Also available at CDBaby.com and iTunes, including digital download. Support local Key West music! ¦