Lonesome Onry and Mean: An Open Letter to Ed Shane, Publisher of Best In Texas

Some time back I was honored to be roasted, along with the “sanctimonious Houston Press,” in Best In Texas music magazine for a review I had written about local songwriter Dan Crump’s album Truth Is.

In a rambling full-page editorial slyly couched in terms of his deceased mother’s instruction “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all,” publisher Ed Shane (the Shane of Shane Media Services here in Houston) claimed I was “an insensitive writer” who “skewered” Crump in a “petty attack.” According to Mr. Shane, “no artist deserves the treatment the Houston Press imposed.”

Shane, who at least owned up to the fact that Crump is an advertiser in the magazine as well as “a good guy and a great conversationalist,” went on to say he thinks Crump is “pretty good.” By way of further establishing Crump’s artistic credentials, Shane opined that Crump can make “people notice the music, sing along if they’re so inclined and order another beer if they feel the music fills a hole in their psyche.”

More from Shane, wherein he waxes New Age:

All this makes me think about the reviews we publish in Best In Texas. Have you noticed they’re all positive? Sometimes, they are even gushing syrupy confections from enthusiasts for the music and evangelists for the artists.

OK. Tell me that’s wrong.

See, this isn’t about Dan Crump. It’s about letting artists who want to make their music be who they want to be and who they can be, to sing what they feel in their hearts and souls. And letting listeners make their own decisions about what music moves them.

As my own mother would have said, what a load of horse hooey. The idiocy of the whole thing is … well … the idiocy of the whole thing. Where Shane crosses the line with his disingenuous babbling is in his poor effort to camouflage his own manipulative part in “letting listeners decide what moves them.”

Mr. Shane winks his way past the contradiction between claiming he is in favor of “thoughtful legitimate analysis” versus the fact that he is proud his publication only prints positive “reviews.” He’s obviously never considered what author and critic James Boswell wrote in 1778 on the subject: “he who praises everybody praises nobody.” The frightening thing about Shane and his puppet Best In Texas is the de facto admission that they don’t give a damn about the quality of an artist’s performance – hell, they don’t even PRETEND TO THINK ABOUT IT FROM ANY CRITICAL POINT OF REFERENCE! To Best of Texas and Ed Shane, Dan Crump is equal to Townes Van Zandt. Or Milli Vanilli.

And what about Ed’s disarming good-ole-boy “OK. Tell me that’s wrong”?

Uh, Ed, it’s wrong when you make money off the same people your “magazine” purports to report on, especially if the “reviews” are intentionally slanted to convince readers a pile of cow poop is actually a rose. It’s wrong to represent Best In Texas to the readership as a genuine journalistic endeavor when it is actually operated as a tool to sell advertising and to promote artists represented by Shane Media or by Best In Texas advertisers. Of course, those are the very reasons Best In Texas has all the substance of a high school newspaper.

Mister Ed claims he’s pro “legitimate analysis,” but legitimate analysis is the last thing he’d ever want Best In Texas to print. It might piss King Cone off if Ed took his advertising money and then wrote that he’s a glorified hack.

Case in point: the May 2008 edition of Best In Texas has Cory Morrow on the cover. Flip over to the back cover and guess what? There’s a full-page ad for (drum roll) Cory Morrow’s new record. And inside, there’s a three-page interview feature on Morrow that contains more softball questions than a week of Larry King shows. That thing is such a puff piece Morrow’s publicists probably get an erection reading it. But I suppose Ed’s writer was only letting Morrow be who he wants to be.

Based on a rereading of what I actually wrote about Crump’s CD that brought on Ed’s learned dissertation on Texas music and sound journalism practices, I reckon Ed must’ve studied propaganda at the Joseph Goebbels School of Mind Bending and Overt Prevarication given the way he reconstructed various elements of the article to make them apply to his tortured purpose. Ed says I complained, “that Dan Crump isn’t Mickey Newberry” [sic]. (You might want to bone up on your Texas songwriters spelling, Ed; and, oh yeah, you misspelled Crump’s name once in your article too!)

What I actually wrote was:

The great country and folk songwriters who were touched by Houston or touched it -- Mickey Newbury, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Eric Taylor -- had a blue, dark side that kept returning to the messiest of messes. Love, hate, indifference -- whatever the subject -- the job was to write and sing something that caused a raw nerve to twitch. Many of their songs contained an approach-with-caution edge, and even the love songs made us gasp at their elegance of expression. This never happens with Dan Crump's debut, Truth Is.

Ed says I skewered poor Dan because he’s not Townes van Zandt. In fact, I skewered him for writing a lot of mush that never causes a nerve to twitch and for a sophomoric lack of elegance of expression, something that runs rampant in the whole Texas music genre that Ed and Best In Texas champion. I also wrote and still believe, “Much of the album sounds like it was written while munching a box of Goldfish during an episode of Dr. Phil.” Judging by the quality of writing in Best In Texas (including Ed the Editor’s), Goldfish are a dietary staple at Shane Media headquarters too.

Ed further dissembles with his disingenuous (but totally transparent to anyone who reads above a sixth grade level) “this is not about Dan Crump” propaganda. Of course it’s not about Dan Crump. Shane doesn’t give a damn about Dan Crump or his music. His entire screed is a defense of the journalistic bankruptcy of Best In Texas.

True enough, this is not about Dan Crump. I’ve met Dan a few times, seen him play at West Alabama Ice House, even been at a house concert with him. Dan Crump is a guy who served in Iraq, probably holds down a responsible job, pays his bills, and buys a round when it’s his turn. But none of that comes into play when the Houston Press assigns a review of his music. The Houston Press doesn’t assign “evangelists for the artists” to review records.

I don’t wish Dan Crump or F. Co or anyone else I’ve ever written negatively about any ill will or bad luck. And if they ever sign a deal and sell some records and fill the Mucky Duck or the Continental Club with fans who are not either:

a) related to them
b) frat brothers of theirs
c) colleagues from work, or
d) editors or advertising sales personnel of Best In Texas

I’ll be the first to say I was wrong and buy one of their records. Hell, I’ll even write old Ed Shane an apology too.

But until that happens, let’s not confuse Best In Texas with legitimate music journalism, because it has no more to do with journalism than Greensheet does. – William Michael Smith


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