Review of Rust Belt Fields by Slaid Cleaves

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Happy New Year all!
This is the first in a new series of monthly posts. I’ll pick one of my favorite songs and write a little mini-review-analysis of the song and provide a link to a video on YouTube of the song.
Analyzing songs is a real good way to learn what makes a song tick. Taking a song that you really like (or really don’t like) and figuring out why is a fun and useful skill to have. It is also a great tool in your own songwriting. Something not quite working? This exercise helps you figure out why.
This month’s post features Rust Belt Fields by Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picott.
This song is a very well constructed song both lyrically and musically. Its imagery is very stark and the language is very simple. The thing that really impresses me about the song is how without using much metaphor it paints a very complete picture. What I mean is it tells a very complete story with just a few lines.
Example: The opening two lines = what the whole song is about. Also the first verse tells the bigger picture of those blue collar jobs in middle America just drying up out from under thousands of people who had generations of steel and auto workers. The language “we were banging out Buicks and Oldsmobiles” is brilliant. Again not many words painting a very complete picture with simple language. All because the business found a more competitive labor market outside the USA. The workers were surprised. The line “But I learned a little something. About how things are.” Really shows how all those people came to the realization how fragile their lives were with regards to the effect a corporation’s decision causing their lives to go into a tailspin.
I also really like the music. Very simple harmony and melody but a very concise harmonic language and driving rhythm.

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Art Davis Studios – Free Offer

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Free offer from Art Davis Studios

Mix/Master one song 100% FREE

Offer good through 3/31/2018

Do you have recordings of your music that sound OK but not all that spectacular? A really good professional mix/master of your song can make all the difference between OK and amazing.

I’m launching a new business in Q2 of 2018. Art Davis Studios will offer mixing and mastering services.  I need to build up my portfolio. If you want to hear what a professional mix/master will sound like of your recording this is your chance. 100% FREE until 3/31/2018.

My only ask is your permission to use the mix in my portfolio. You help me and I give you a pro mix of your song. You get full credit for your work. I will include your bio and link to your band page on my portfolio page.

How it works:

Send me your raw multi-track STEMS and I’ll give you a professional mix of your song as a 24bit WAV file. Can also work with guitar/vocal demos.

Contact Info:
Check out for bio and examples of my work.

Please “Follow” Art Davis Studios to receive email notifications of future posts and video content.


Guitarist Review – Daria Semikina–Guitarist, Composer, Arranger

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Daria Semikina

This is the first installment of a series of blog posts I have planned. I want to publish one review a month as part of Art Davis Studios Blog. I will review a guitarist and provide links to some videos of their work.

This first installment features Daria Semikina. Daria is a Russian acoustic and electric guitarist that has an extensive catalog of videos (107 videos) on her YouTube Channel and on Facebook.

I’m not sure I remember exactly how I discovered Daria’s work. I think it was on YouTube. Her videos are top shelf. The audio recording is excellent and her video production is simple and elegant. Her biographical info on line is (intentionally I assume) sparse. She has a very broad and wide set of stylistic interests.

Her playing is very controlled and demonstrates a light touch that is very expressive. The recordings are first rate and her Ramirez 130 Años (spruce top) nylon string guitar is a good match for her sense of touch. She has very delicate tone. Her phrasing is very thoughtful and contemplative. I find her music mesmerizing.

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Composition/Songwriting: Add Variety To Your Chord Progressions Part II – Mapping Functions To Modes

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The the previous post Composition: Add Variety To Your Chord Progressions Part I   we looked at how the seven chords in a major key fall into three categories or Functions (Tonic, Sub-Dominant, Dominant). And we explored how any chords in a given Function are interchangeable with each other exemplifying the concept of Chord Substitution.

This post assumes you understand the concepts in the previous post sited above.

So as a next step:  In this post we will take a look at how to do the same thing using different modes. In addition, we will examine different ways of using modes to expand your harmonic palette.

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Composition/Songwriting: Add Variety To Your Chord Progressions – Part I

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This topic will be presented in multiple parts as separate blog posts. Part I will start out with a very simple concept and in subsequent Parts the concepts will gain in complexity and build on one another.

In Part I we will look into a very simple concept of chord function and explore what the alternatives are for that function and different ways to think about chord function. If you have studied this concept as part of traditional classical music theory or as part of jazz theory what I’m going to share won’t track 100 percent. The reason being:

Popular music for the most part doesn’t follow those paradigms 100 percent. Classical music theory uses the Bach Chorales as a model and presents a set of rules for chord movement and individual chord part movement. Jazz theory involves a much more complex harmonic language than most popular music makes use of. So what I’ve done is taken some of the concepts from both these traditions and adapted them to the musical language used in folk, pop, rock, blues, fusion, and other popular styles.

Continue reading “Composition/Songwriting: Add Variety To Your Chord Progressions – Part I”

Creating Contrast by Changing Your Compositional Process

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Whether you write folk songs, rock songs, jazz, jazz/rock fusion, progressive rock, or compose chamber music most musical forms make use of the idea of contrasting sections.

While the idea I’m going to talk about in this blog has to do with writing music the concept works in other forms of creativity (painting, dance, cooking, gardening, etc…) .

I’m going to focus on the most basic of musical forms – the 3 part “Song Form”. Way over 90% of all popular music uses this form or a variant. The concept does translate into more complicated forms as well. I’ve chosen this form as it demonstrates the idea in a simpler context.

First I’m going to give a quick description of Song Form.

Song form is recognizable in music we hear every day. It is everywhere. It is annotated as:


Where A is typically referred to as the “verse” and B is referred to the “chorus”.

A driving force that makes this form successful is the contrast between the A and the B sections. This contrast can take many forms. It will usually go to a different chord center, the arrangement will change, may include harmony vocals, or more dense orchestration.


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