Plugging eMusic -- a digital music store with low rates (the basic subscription works out to 25 cents per track), high bitrate MP3s (196 kbps instead of the standard 128) that will play on any MP3 player, a great selection of music from independent labels, and a staff of excellent columnists, including Ann Powers, Hua Hsu, Justin Davidson and Douglas Wolk -- is something I've been intending to do for a while, urged on by a number of reader requests. Today is a particularly good day to do it because eMusic has just announced that it will be offering the legendary Sun Records catalog for download, with the first 400 tracks posted this morning. This batch includes classic tracks by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and many more (although not Sun's Elvis Presley recordings, which are controlled by his estate), and it's the first time any of them have been made available digitally. Over the next few months an additional 900 tracks will be added, many that have previously been available only on (extremely rare) vinyl, or as part of large (extremely expensive) box sets. And it really is an extraordinary catalog of music, just as aesthetically satisfying, with that crisp, minimalist sound, as it is historically important in chronicling the early days of rock 'n' roll and a seminal period in rockabilly.
Perhaps less historically important, but still exciting, are some of the other recent additions to eMusic's offerings: Merge Records (home of Spoon, the Arcade Fire, M. Ward, the Magnetic Fields' "69 Love Songs" and much more), Vice Records (Bloc Party, the Streets), and the vast Rykodisc catalog (which includes nearly all of Frank Zappa's work). Even if you don't plan on becoming a long-term subscriber, you can't go wrong by taking advantage of the eMusic sign-up offer of 50 free MP3s. Enjoy.