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I never drink unless I'm alone or with someone - R.L. Burnside, festival in Corvallis Oregon, 1983

Author Topic: iTunes Radio, Delta Blues station review  (Read 648 times)

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Offline Rivers

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iTunes Radio, Delta Blues station review
« on: September 22, 2013, 09:17:52 AM »
Got a Macbook message this morning
What do you think it read
Got to upgrade your OS X
That version you got is dead

I restarted the machine
Streaming iTunes Radio comes up
Clicked on Delta Blues
I had to check it out

Apple's quest to monetize music distribution continues, and it's not bad actually.

After adding 'Delta Blues' as a station the player comes up and kicks in. The panel has a slider labelled Hits, Variety, thru to Discovery.

On the Hits setting, it played:

Come On In My Kitchen (RJ)
You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die (Patton)
Stackolee (John Hurt)
Things About Coming My Way (Tampa Red)
I Feel Like Going Home (Muddy)
Worried Life Blues (Honeyboy)
Banana In Your Fruit Basket (Bo Carter)
61 Highway (Fred McD)

Moving the slider all the way to 'Discovery' has so far yielded:
32-20 Blues (Robert Lockwood, 12 string)
Down In Spirit Blues (Tampa Red)
Pea Vine Special (John Lee Hooker)
Crowing Rooster Blues (Lonnie Johnson)
Ramblin' (Johnny Shines)
Good Gin Blues (Booker White)
Ride 'Em On Down (Petway & McClennan)
I Rowed A Little Boat (John Lee Hooker)
Old Original Kokomo Blues (Kokomo Arnold)
Little Angel Child (Pinetop Perkins)
Cottonfield Blues Part 1 (Akers & Callicot)
Confidence Man (Peetie Wheatstraw)
Down The Big Road (Mattie Delaney)
The Jail House Blues (Sam Collins)
That's Alright (Fred McD)
My Sweet Lovin' Woman (Robert Nighthawk)
Lonesome Jail Blues (Lonnie Johnson)
Give Me a 32-20 (Crudup)
Woman Woman Blues (Ishmon Bracey)
Shake 'Em On Down (Booker White)
Mississippi Bottom Blues (Kid Bailey)
Country Blues (Muddy)
32-20 Blues (RJ)
I'm Prison Bound (John Lee Hooker)
Worried Man Blues (Big Joe Williams)
Fred's Worried Life Blues (Fred McD)
It Ain't Nobody's Fault But Mine (Johnny Shines)
Blues Everywhere (Memphis Minnie)
Death Valley Blues (Crudup)
Alcohol & Jake Blues (Tommy Johnson)
Times Has Done Got Hard (King Solomon Hill)
I'm An Old Bumble Bee (Bo Carter)
Panama Unlimited (Booker White)
Wind Howlin' Blues (Honeyboy)
Preachin' Blues, Up Jumped The Devil (RJ)
You Done Told Everybody (Fred McD)
Cypress Grove (Skip James, rediscovery era)
Sundown (Son House)
High Water Everywhere Pt. 1 (Patton)
Wished I Was In Heaven Sitting Down (Fred McD)
Gonna Follow My Baby (Crudup)
Dough Roller Blues (Akers)
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl (SBW #1)
Big Road Blues (TJ)
Preaching Blues (RJ) (repeat)
Shake 'Em On Down (Booker White) (repeat)
I Want Jesus To Walk With Me (James Shorty & Fred McD)
Special Rider Blues (Son House)
Cypress Grove (Skip, original version)
Revenue Man Blues (Patton)

You would likely hear a few more obscure and older tracks on a typical weenie juke radio session but still nothing jarring so far, and it could easily have been a whole lot worse. I noticed that a few artists got multiple titles played, more than I would have expected from a random, unweighted selection, including Booker, Muddy, John Lee, Fred, Crudup, Bo, and predictably RJ. Not that any of those guys are a problem of course, but I'd have to listen for longer to discern whether this might detract or not. Plus after a couple of hours songs have started repeating, though they do seem to be versions released on different albums.

The history of the last 10 items played shows on the iTunes panel and you can click to buy, of course. You can also click to 'Add an artist or song', so I added Kid Bailey, to see if it would select something with a lot of surface noise. Kid Bailey did play about a half hour later, probably Apple having to observe the rules of delayed play requests under the DMCA. You can also click a 'Never play this...' button if you really don't like an artist or song.

All the tracks it selected were acoustic bar a few, for example the Pinetop cut with a low key electric band and Crudup bangin' on his big old Kaye archtop. All played with good quality and no hangs or glitches, and sounded quite warm and pleasant to my ear. The interface is pretty intuitive and well-integrated with the rest of iTunes. The only downside were three jarringly slick ads, one actually had the temerity to mention Justin Timberlake!, another was a quick station ID

Naturally you'd have to think that if a song / album is not in the iTunes store it would never play. We also have no idea whether Apple are weighting the selections based on profitability, payola or any other factor. But all in all, my first impressions are Apple are off to a very good start with in-house streaming radio and Pandora and other services had better watch out.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2013, 10:49:32 AM by Rivers »

Offline Gumbo

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Re: iTunes Radio, Delta Blues station review
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2013, 01:23:55 PM »
Got a Macbook message this morning
What do you think it read
Got to upgrade your OS X
That version you got is dead

:D :D

Great review, Rivers, thank you. I don't think I'll be shifting in that direction just yet, but it's good to hear that there has actually been a bit of thought behind the selections. The Weenie juke is, as has elsewhere been noted, still the bees knees when i need to step out from trying to listen to everything in my collection.

Offline Rivers

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Re: iTunes Radio, Delta Blues station review
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2013, 04:26:09 PM »
One word: depth. The iTunes station is good but it's easy to predict it will never play a lot of the huge body of stuff the juke dips into hourly. Plus it's kind of impersonal, you can't talk about anything on there, or discuss essential parallel aspects like lyrics, playing, and so on.

I'd be quite happy to have it on as I did work around the house or something though. It's a whole lot better than it could have been, I was fully expecting a blizzard of Allmans etc blues rock, not that I don't like the Allmans sometimes. When my worst expectations were not realized I just sat and listened. Still, bland in comparison to the juke. I may be biased.