Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spotlighting the Best! - A Prescription Bluegrass Editorial

While Sarah Harris celebrates only her 21st birthday this coming Saturday (May 3rd), the Bluegrass world is going gaga over her family's (Trinity River Band) latest album cover!

To say that it has “wowed!” the industry is an understatement of the most magnitude. When the album cover artwork was released to the media three weeks ago, immediate reactions were over the top of the positive scale.


Initial comments from different members of the Association of Bluegrass Disc Jockeys, such as, “This album cover speaks volumes...”“...For me it was the expression on her face that caught my attention...” and “Attention all Bluegrass artists, let this inspire you and your management to step it up to this level!” caught the family by surprise. Even though they liked the concept enough to make a last minute switch from the originally planned and more traditional cover design, they still weren't convinced that the bluegrass industry and the fans were ready for something this different.

Fan reactions from comments posted on the group's Facebook page don't seem to differ from the broadcaster's impressions, such as,“I love this album and can't wait to show it off to the world...” “...A truly high end professional grade project that don't get any better than...” Even other musicians are saying things like,“Best cover ever.”

At a time in the bluegrass world when many albums, and some may say “too many,” have been released with minimalistic design and minimalistic color schemes to the point of almost monochromatic or sepia tones being the limit of color, Trinity River Band's BETTER THAN BLUE album comes as more than just a breath of fresh air. It may be that little whisper of air to an industry that seems to have been trapped in the darkest parts of the album design dungeon.

Because we often focus on, or call attention to, that which may need some improvement in one way or another, we asked the Harris family if we could put the spotlight on this album to show as a hallmark of excellence and a model that can be held up as the benchmark for others to strive for in their own attempts to be creative in their marketing and packaging.

We're glad to say that Sarah and her family were quick to agree to being the subject of our weekly editorial page, but only if we'd mention the team effort that it took to get what Sarah calls a “happy accident.” First on their list of folks they'd like to give credit to is Anthony Ladd of Kneelindesign who sent them a proof, well after plans had been underway for a completely different design, with a message that said he'd been “playing around” and hoped they liked what he'd come up with. According to Sarah, it didn't take 'em long to abandon the former and put full steam to the machine to crank out the new even though they had apprehensions about the public reaction.

The family, according to what Sarah told us, has long held the concept of using professional members on their team where they can, but she can remember when they did try to do things on their own and discovered that the end result isn't usually what they had wanted. She says, “it's better for us to do the music and let others do the parts that they're really good at.”

We had to learn our limits,” she continued. She mentioned their photographer, David E. Coffield, who captured the magic pose at just the right time while she was goofing around and threw up a heel kick. She said, “A lot of photographers might have missed that opportunity because it certainly wasn't planned. We had a whole different concept in mind when we started the shoot and even when we picked the location.” (The actual planned location for the shoot was across the street.)

We asked her what is important about an album cover and why everyone seems to be making such a fuss over theirs. Her answer was quick and precise. She said, “Marketability. The album cover has to grab your attention immediately and build the hype. It has to lead you to want to listen to the music inside.”

You also want to be unique,” she said. “You want your album to stand out from all the others on the rack. People want to see something different – it's the same as wanting to hear different bands.” She did agree that there seems to be too much sameness in the Bluegrass world today and plenty of room for improvement and said that her family always tries to be a bit different even with their stage attire.

Unfortunately Sarah's “happy accident” captured by David E. Coffield and transformed into the Bluegrass album cover of the year may not be the cover of the year for this year. The album wasn't released in time before the deadline for consideration in the International Bluegrass Music Association's 2014 Awards. It surely would have been if judging were done by the folks who've seen it and commented on it. Now that their album is out on the market and the rest of the Bluegrass world has another year to hold it up as an example to follow, who knows how many contenders will be in the running for the 2015 awards? But something tells me this album will be one that stands the test of time and will be used as a teaching model in photography classes and design schools for years to come.

Hats off to Sarah and the Harris Family and everyone on their team. Thank you for the professionalism you exemplify and the best of everything to you in the leadership role you have now acquired!

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