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Rounder Records Celebrates 41st Anniversary and 40 Years of Bluegrass Music

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Rounder RecordsIt was 41 years ago (October 22, 1970) that three unique individual college students came together to create something wonderful. Ken Irwin, Bill Nowlin and Marian Leighton-Levy created what has become the premiere indie lable that covers a broad realm of musical styles. What started as an Americana or roots label has evolved into one of the most important independent labels in music today. Rounder Records was formed when these college students released the first of many albums to follow. George Pegram (0001) and the Spark Gap Wonder Boys (0002) started the flow of music that has seen over 3500 releases. Releases that include bluegrass, blues, folk, world, jazz and many other genres. In 1971, Rounder released their first bluegrass album. Joe Val, Rounder 0003. The indie scene hasn't been the same since. The world owes a big round of gratitude for the inspiration of Rounder and its founders.

Before the Internet really took off, Rounder's catalog was available in printed format, titled Record Roundup. The label also offers their books and more recently, their "Archive" series featuring out of print music being made available again. As the digital realm took off, Rounder Records was too.

Rounder is a label that bluegrass fans are familiar with. This is the label that has not only recorded but also launched the careers of such bluegrass artists as award winning Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent, The Grascals, Blue Highway, J.D Crowe & The New South, James King, Doyle Lawson, Claire Lynch, Del McCoury, Tony Rice and others. These artists have set the bar for bluegrass quality and the measure of what constitutes quality bluegrass today.

Other genres such as the folk scene are equally represented by Rounder. Top folk talent such as Nanci Griffith, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Carr & Alan Munde, The Damnwells, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, Rosalie Sorrels, Mark Schatz, Martha Wainwright and scores more.

Unlike the major commercial labels, Rounder is selective in the artists they represent but, they leave the production and selection primarily up to the individual artist. Often the label doesn't know all the material that an artist will lay down for an album until later in the production process. It is this freedom that keeps indie artists with indie labels. Alison Krauss and Union Station is one such example. This band could use any label they desire due to their sales and popularity. They stay with the label that they started with years ago. Many artists today jump from label to label but indie artists tend to stay on their indie label.

Often popular artists with major labels find themselves on the independent labels for a variety of reasons. Once there, these artists tend to be more creative with their music. Again, Rounder finds itself in this role featuring artists like Lisa Loeb, Natalie Mac Master, Boz Scaggs, Cowboy Junkies and the like. All of these are known artists that have strong fan followings. The relationship between these artists and Rounder seems to be mutually beneficial and that keeps everybody happy.

So, here we have a label that started as more of a hobby than a world recognized leader in independent music. Rounder has certainly grown up as it has grown in size. It has become extremely professional and their catalog has become more diverse. The label has also become more involved in the enterprise of the music industry. They have become a leader and a model with a vision that is as strong as the one it started with.

Rounder started at the right time and as such was able to experience the entire realm of media available from LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes, and CD to DVDs and Internet distributed music. The label even offers their own Rounder Radio on the net playing roots music all day and night on several channels. Rounder is the complete music label and is always looking forward for the artists, the customer and, of course, the label itself.

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