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By Cheryl Mullen - 09/22/2002 - 06:26 PM EDT

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted...

Please accept my sincere apologies for last month's absence. Between my computer crashing and numerous aspects of my life crashing simultaneously, I simply found it impossible to get a decent columnn written by last month's deadline. Hewever, now that my life is on a relatively more even keel, I am back with a vengeance!

This month's column is a "snippets" column. Instead of focusing entirely on one big subject, I'll be touching on several little subjects. So sit back and enjoy the ride!

Since I began writing this column I've been contacted by several artists and/or their fans/friends/managers who have invited me to profile them. While I've regrettably had to turn down several of those requests due to my hard-and-fast rule of not profiling anyone I can't hear perform live, I have had the pleasure of being introduced to two cool artists, and now I'd like to introduce them to you.

MELISSA MCCLELLAND

Melissa McClelland is a singer/songwriter/guitarist based in Toronto and has toured successfully across Canada and the US. She has collaborated with such artists as Hawksley Workman, Rob Lamothe, and Jian Ghomeshi. (Allow me to digress for a moment--Is there anybody left in the business who hasn't worked with Jian Ghomeshi?? This guy is quickly becoming the Kevin Bacon of the music industry. Anyone up for a game of "Six Degrees"?)

I was fortunate enough to see Melissa perform at the Living Room in NYC this past July, and I was absolutely blown away by her material. Her songs have a depth and a maturity to them that are truly impressive. What makes them even more impressive is that she's only 23. While the music industry is well-populated (some would say over-populated) with fresh young faces, there are very few in this category who have honed and developed their talents to the point where they can hold their own professionally. Fortunately, Melissa is one of the talented few who have managed to do so.

While she doesn't have a bad song in her set, I'd have to say that my personal favorite was "Smoke Signals". This is a must-listen for anyone who's ever been desperate enough to attempt a pickup in a bar.

Melissa's self-titled CD was released in September 2001 and is available for purchase through a link at her website. Several tracks from the CD are also available for downloading in MP3 format on the site, so you can try before you buy.

JENN LINDSAY

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Jenn Lindsay was raised in England by wolves. That is, if you believe her website. And if you believe her lyrics, she's a poor struggling artist desperately trying to make it in the Big City while living on saltine crackers and dodging bill collectors. (But hey, aren't we all?)

Originally from San Diego, Jenn's played in pubs from the UK to the San Francisco Bay area. Now based in Brooklyn, she diligently labors to build an anti-folk fan base in the NYC area, which by her own admission is as easy as nailing Jello to a tree.

Jenn is not only a musician, she is an activist as well. She's lent her talents on several occasions to support causes involving feminist, lesbian/gay/bisexual and domestic violence issues.

Jenn's music conveys a very strong sense of imagery, reminding me very much of Michelle Shocked. When she sings you can almost smell the stench in the subways and feel the grime of the city in the air. My personal recommendations are:

--"I'm Not Going Home Yet", an anthem for all those who have moved far away to the Big City to make it on their own,

--"4 Million Dollars In My Shoe", highly recommended to anyone who has ever formed a close personal relationship with a bill collector, and...

--"Got My Baby", a tongue-in-cheek portrait of Jenn's truest love.

Jenn's newest CD, Gotta Lotta, was just released last month. She also has MP3s available for downloading on her website. So again, check before you charge!

Here are some other interesting items of note:

WWW.SPINNER.COM

Spinner is an AWESOME internet radio station with ZILLIONS of channels playing every type of music imaginable. And maybe even YOUR music!

When you go to the site, click "Get Player" at the top of the screen. This will download Spinner onto your computer. (Don't be frightened, it won't hurt.) After you've downloaded it, you'll get a big graphic on your computer screen that kind of looks like a radio. Play around with it for a while so you can see and hear all the cool stuff that's on it. You'll see and hear many different kinds of music--everything from folk to hair metal to country to Celtic to hip-hop to jazz--and everything in between! You can even shrink the graphic so you can listen while you net-surf. WARNING: this is HIGHLY addictive!

"Gee Cheryl, this Spinner thing is really neat. It's a great way for lots of people to hear cool music they might not otherwise know about. I wish an independent artist like myself could get involved with that." Well, funny you should mention it. Go back to the webpage and click on "Company". Then click on "Music Partner Program". You see, the people who formed Spinner did so because they were fed up with commercial radio and how it's darn near impossible to get airplay unless you're a mega-famous superstar signed to a major label that can afford to pay zillions of dollars in promotional fees to the radio stations. As a result, they are very receptive to independent and unsigned artists. They even have a few channels specifically dedicated to independent artists. Cool, huh?

You can nose around the website and read the fine print for yourself, but I'll give it to you in a nutshell. Under "Music Partner Program" there's a legal form that you can download and print. You print it out, fill it out and sign it, and mail it to them along with 2 copies of your CD. And if the powers-that-be like your stuff, they'll play it. And the cost? FREEEEEEEEEEE, baby! That's sure to please anyone!

Now, just because you send them your material is no guarantee that they'll use it. But again, there's no cost involved. Worst case scenario is that they take one listen, decide that you suck, and use your CDs for coffee coasters. And if that happens, your only loss is 2 CDs and postage. You can't beat that with a stick, my friends.

As for the legal form, I ain't no attorney, but it seems pretty straightforward. By signing it, all you're doing is giving Spinner permission to play your stuff (which is kind of what you want them to do, right?). You don't pay them anything, they don't pay you anything, and you retain all rights to your material. And Spinner is very concerned about copyright protection. This is not like an MP3 site where people can download stuff and copy it. It's specifically designed so people can't download and copy anything. Also, they absolutely won't play anything without written permission from the artist and/or his/her/their record label. This is why you (and/or a representative from your record label, if you have one) have to fill out and sign the form. If you're a music freak, this is a bonanza. If you're an artist, you've got nothing to lose. So go check it out!

DUETS WITH DENI

"Duets With Deni" is a new cable program that will run every Friday night/Saturday morning beginning September 27 at 12:30 AM on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (Channel 56). Hosted by violin diva Deni Bonet (a future subject of this column), it will feature live performances and chat with musicians from the NYC area and beyond.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. "Hey Cheryl! Y'know, some of us don't actually LIVE in the Big Apple! How the heck are WE supposed to watch this show?" Easy. If you've got internet access (and you must if you're reading this column), simply go to www.mnn.org and you can watch a live stream of the video.

AND FINALLY...

Congratulations to Sean Altman on his recent engagement to the lovely and talented opera singer Inna Dukach. To the happy couple--yay, hurray!


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