Roots on Vinyl exhibition is truly a wax museum

Vinyls on display; photo: Terrilynn Meece

By Gary Spencer

It’s no secret that vinyl records are making a comeback in terms of popularity and availability. There’s something intangibly attractive about holding a 12” by 12” record jacket in hand, contemplating the artwork or lyrics printed inside while listening to a fuzzy warble’s warm sounds burst forth from the turntable needle and out through the speakers. The history of the record album is a long and winding road as much as it is for the history of American music as well, and they are strongly intertwined.  The Troy-Hayner Cultural Center’s Roots on Vinyl exhibition going on now through late September examines this very concept through with over 100 classic album vinyl and record covers presented like the historic artifacts that they truly are.

“One of the things constantly mentioned whenever one reads an article about vinyl’s resurgence is album cover ‘art’”, says local music historian and collector Tim Kozul.  “Coffee table books have been written all about album covers – I know as I have a couple of them.”

Roots on Vinyl is the brain child of Kozul, who while having no formal education in the subject, is still a wealth of knowledge due to his simple love of music and the history behind it all.

“My knowledge about older forms of American roots music such as folk, blues, and bluegrass has been acquired through listening to the music and research,” Kozul explains. “I reveled in the Beatles era music of the 60s, saturating myself with all of its forms from garage to country-rock and soul through British R&B and folk rock, and ultimately psych and progressive rock. I was obsessed with wanting to know what it was that made this music so diverse and great. My research always seemed to lead back to the influence various roots related American music.”

This quest for knowledge and wanting to know how it all intertwined led Kozul to become a rabid record collector, amassing quite a library of wax over the years.

“I have been collecting records for over 50 years,” Kozul says. “At first it was just about acquring music that I enjoyed. Sometime around 1982 there was an article in the Dayton Daily News about record collecting. The article mentioned some LPs I owned that were quite valuable. This prompted me to purchase a price guide in order to find out what other valuable records I might own. Then around 2005 when vinyl rebounded, I really got serious about collecting. Since then, I have extended my knowledge of collecting considerably, learning that all those letters, numbers, symbols, and codes in an LP’s trail off can be used to determine such things as whether a particular record is an early or later pressing, etc. I currently have about 2000 LPs – my collection is very roots based.”

Roots is the operative word when diving into the concept of the “Roots on Vinyl” exhibit which features over 100 records and jackets from Kozul’s private collection across a total of seven different showcases with each focused on a specific form of American-based roots music.

“The seven genres of American roots music represented are folk, blues, bluegrass, traditional country, folk-rock, country-rock, and Americana,” Kozul explains.  “The exhibit is spread across three rooms, (and) the sequence is intended to be roughly in a chronological order as the various genres developed. Within each genre, I tried to pick a range of albums that represented the development of the genre from its origins through today.”

To aid visitors in further appreciation of the Roots exhibit, Kozul has written and printed a book full of fun facts about each record and it is valuable and/or important in the history of American roots music.

“As I was deciding which albums to exhibit, it occurred to me that many of these artists are not going to be familiar to the general public, so I thought it might be beneficial to prepare a booklet to provide information about the albums and artists,” Kozul explains. “The exhibit and accompanying booklet visually present the various genres from their origins to the present in an easy, informal style, and I believe will significantly enhance the exhibit by adding the ‘humanizing’ dimension to all of these cardboard jackets. The booklet is about 80 pages long and is being sold for five dollars – an incredible value.”

The Roots on Vinyl exhibit will serve as a precursor to the Troy-Hayner Center’s annual Rhythm & Roots Festival taking place in late September. For those wishing to hit up both events at the same time, Kozul will be giving a guided tour of his exhibit during the Festival on September 23 to give even further first hand insight into the music and records represented within. According to Kozul, the vinyl exhibition and the Festival go hand in hand.

“I wanted to do something to increase awareness and appreciation for American roots music and Americana in particular,” Kozul says. “The festival gives attendees a chance to listen to contemporary bands that are continuing these traditions. I urge anyone that enjoys American roots music or would like to learn more about it to attend – it will be worth the trip to Troy.”

Roots on Vinyl will be on display now through September 23 at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, 301 W. Main Street in Troy. Admission is free. For more information please visit www.TroyHayner.org.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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