August 21, 2015

10 Albums That Have Stood The Test of Time

10 Albums That Have Stood The Test Of Time.
(In no particular order..except for #1)

By Sean Claes

I've been listening to music most of my life. I have been a CD reviewer for about the last 20 years. In that time I've listened to thousands of CDs by just as many artists. So, while I'm not an "authority" on all things music, I do have a leg up on a lot of folks when talking tunes.

There are very few discs that I have listened to for more than a year. Most I listen to, review (or not), and file. And now that I'm in my 40s and have kids of my own, I'm finding myself reaching back into the catalog of my music and pulling out certain CDs, tapes and records that I want to share with my kids. These are typically the CDs I tend to grab when wanting to listen to something in my collection.

This is a list of 10 musical offerings that seem as relevant and fantastic today as the first time I listened... and ones I actually pull out and still give a listen. Some I'm sharing with my kids... some  they are not old enough quite yet... you'll know those when you see the list.

So... without further discussion, here they are:

1. Los Lobos 
Just Another Band From East LA: A Collection
Release date: August 3, 1993

Producers: Los Lobos

Label: Warner Bros. Records
This one is actually my favorite album of all time. It's my desert island music. You know "If you were stranded on a desert island and only had one album to listen to..." This would be it. It's a 2 disc compilation and represents several genres of music. You've got the bluesy "Kiko and the Lavender Moon," the conjunto of "Sabor A Mi" and "Volver Volver,"  cumbia of "El Cuchipe," rock of "Shakin Shakin Shakes" and "Don't Worry Baby," and even a little movie music with "I Wanna Be Like You" (Jungle Book) and "La Bamba" (La Bamba). There's not a bad track on the 41 track offering.

Here's my favorite cut off Just Another Band From East LA: A Collection: "One Time One Night." It reminds me of growing up in Laredo, Texas... and a good friend that I hung out with a lot in my 20s.

2. Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman
Release date: April 15, 1988

Producer:  David Kershenbaum
Label:  Elektra

From "Across the Lines" to "Talkin' Bout A Revolution" to "If Not Now" this album captures a moment in time. A moment Chapman lived in and opened up an entire different world to me as a middle class Anglo kid.

Listening to it in 2015 and in the wake of all of the recent goings on in the world, it is as relevant as it was 27 years ago. I recommend this album to anyone who wants to get a honest and raw perspective.

Of course, the mega hit off this release is "Fast Car" and it still holds up today. I still sing it loud every time I hear it on the radio.

Here's a live shot of her performing "Across The Lines" at Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute Concert... about a month before this album released.

3. Metallica
Kill 'Em All
Release date: July 25, 1983
Producer:  Paul Curcio

Label:  Megaforce
The slow build at the beginning of the first track, "Hit The Lights," was like nothing I'd ever heard before. I was 15 when I first heard this album.... they'd just released ...And Justice For All and I was hanging around with the "headbanger" crowd in high school. I remember the moment I heard this. A car full of kids cruising in Kim N.'s crusty old Camero when she flipped the tape into the player. And that day a love affair with metal/thrash/hardcore music was born.

This album is STILL better than about 75% of the metal that comes out today and is required listening for anyone who wants to play music. The genius of Cliff Burton on the bass solo "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth," the lyrics mostly penned by vocalis James Hetfield (and some by Dave Mustaine) are a mixture of punishingly brutal and epic, albeit simplistic, storytelling... and the guitarwork of Kirk Hammett and drums of Lars Ulrich are both inspiring. If anyone ever wonders what Thrash Metal is... hand them this album.

"Jump In the Fire," "Whiplash," "Seek & Destroy," and "Metal Militia" were all like anthems to a generation of young kids who weren't hearing themselves in the likes of New Order, Talking Heads and Duran Duran... who preferred ripped jeans and a black t-shirt to polo shirts and shiny shoes. And even though the album title was changed so to be less vulgar to the eye... the original title Metal Up Your Ass does nicely state what this album brought to the table.

Here's the Hetfield/Ulrich penned "No Remorse."

4. Darrell Scott
Aloha From Nashville
Release date: April 22, 1997

Label:  Sugar Hill
You may have never heard of Darrell Scott, but you have heard his music as recorded by other folks. Like.. if you've ever heard the Dixie Chicks sing "Long Time Gone," Darryl Worley do "Family Tree," or Travis Tritt  perform "Great Day To Be Alive" you've heard Darrell Scott's genius.

He's what is known as a "songwriter's songwriter" but he is an amazing performer and singer as well. in 2010 Robert Plant tapped him to be in his Bells Of Joy. He has written songs that have been recorded by Keb Mo, Cory Morrow, Faith Hill, Guy Clark and Johnsmith. He has written with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush, John Cowan, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Steve Earle.

This 1997 release was his first full-length. I found this one in the box of things to review that came into the office when I was reviewing CDs in college at Southwest Texas State University for the official entertainment magazine at the school: Galaxy Magazine. Instantly fell in love with his smooth Americana style and fantastic storytelling...

Epic and sad; "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" is an amazing  inclusion on this album. It's actually been covered by Brad Paisley recently (2010) in the TV show Justified. "Heartbreak Town" is equally tear jerking.

My favorite tracks on the album are "The Ballad of Martha White" that depicts a kid discovering the truth about his first love - the Martha White Flour girl and a track called "It's the Whiskey That Eases The Pain."

The quirky and funny "Spelling Bee Romance" and "Title of the Song" wrap the album up nicely with a chuckle... showing a comical side that balances things out.... and the later song is a fantastic blueprint for a boy-band song.

BUT.. the song I want to share with you off this ablum is "It's the Whiskey That Eases the Pain."

5. Terri Hendrix
Wilory Farm
Release date: June 1998
Producer: Lloyd Maines
Label:  Wilory Records
Terri Hendrix is a true treasure. I have been blessed to watch her rise up from open mic nights at San Marcos, Texas' Triple Crown in the mid 1990s to her joining forces with the legendary Lloyd Maines and launching forward to create her own DIY empire that has taken her through almost 30 years of her fantastic and heart-on-her-sleeve musical journey.

She is a member of the infamous Cheatham Street Warehouse Songwriter's Circle "Class of 1987" that also includes Todd Snider, Hal Ketcham, John Arthur Martinez, Bruce Robison and Tish Hinojosa.

Wilory Farm is her second album, created in 1998. It marks the first time working with Lloyd Maines as a producer and these songs are gems... and they show an astounding maturity from her quirky and fun first release (which I'm also a fan of) Two Dollar Shoes.

Now, not all of the quirkiness is thrown aside... her funny ditty "Albert, The Perfect Friend" about a not so nice guy is an entertaining inclusion and speaks to her ability to deal with the lighter side while also including some heavy matter ("Walk on Me" and "Gravity"). There's also the jam-friendly tracks like "Wind Me Up" and "Sister's Apartment."

The thing about Terri Hendrix is, her perspective is so entertaining and her actual live performance is inspiring every time. My wife and I make it a point to see her every so often in order to reset our life perspective. The fact is... you can't leave a Terri show in a bad mood. he simply won't allow it. It's a dancing, singing, jamming high-fiving good time with hundreds of strangers who become friends by the end of the night.

Her live show was captured in her 2001 album Live In San Marcos, but this album is the one that laid the foundation for who she is as a performer today.

The song that I find myself singing on a weekly basis from Wilory Farm is "Hole In My Pocket" which was also covered by Ruthie Foster (who didn't make this top 10 because her landmark album, Runaway Soul came out in 2002). Here's Terri & Lloyd performing it at at Piney Woods Performances (house concert) in Conroe, Texas, on March 26, 2011.

Rounding out the top 10 are the following:

6. Styx
Kilroy Was Here
Release date: February 22, 1983
Producer: Styx
Label:  A&M Records

7. N.W.A.
Straight Outta Compton
Release date: August 8, 1988
Producers: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella
Label:  Priority Records / Ruthless Records


8. KISS 
Creatures of the Night
Release date: October 13, 1982
Producers: Michael James Jackson, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons 
--> Label:  Casablanca


9. AC/DC
Back in Black
Release date: July 25, 1980
Producers: Robert John "Mutt" Lange 
Label:  Albert / Atlantic



10. John Prine
Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings
Release date: April 4, 1995
Producer: Howie Epstein
Label:  Oh Boy

 Bonus (because this one should go to eleven)
11. Kenny Rogers
20 Great Years
Release date: November 12, 1991
Label:  Reprise

These are the albums that formed me... and that I think are still relevant and amazing. The only caveat to this list is... every one of these albums was recorded before 2000. 15 years is about the right amount of "stand the test of time" time. I had to cut a few of my choices because they aren't old enough (like Living Colour's Vivid,  Johnny Cash American IV, Eminem The Marshall Mathers EP).

May 28, 2015

Hays County Flood Information & Reflections


Howdy, all. I hope this message finds you safe, secure and dry. Please take a moment to pray for all of those affected by the flooding this past weekend.
There is a lot of information flying out there, so I thought I'd come up with a blog to steer people in the right direction if you’re interested in volunteering or donating to Flood Relief. I’m going to place some information up top… then I wrote a little update from what’s been going on in my head the last few days… thanks for indulging me with that…
Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer Centers are open San Marcos and Wimberley,
Wimberley Volunteer Reception Service,
Cypress Creek Church , 211 Stillwater, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.
SM Volunteer Center (512.753.2320)
San Marcos Plaza Park, 206 C.M.Allen Parkway, 8 a.m. - 5 pm
Coordinated by City of San Marcos, Hays County, and AmeriCorps
If you have large equipment and supplies to volunteer, e-mail

Donation Opportunities

Hays County:
United Way of Hays County - link
Hays County Food Bank:
Locations accepting donations:
Barton Middle School located at 4950 Jack C. Hays Trail in Buda
Wallace Middle School located at 1500 West Center in Kyle
Chapa Middle School located at 3311 Dacy Lane in Kyle
Cabela's located at 15570 S. IH-35 in Buda
Katherine Anne Porter School located at 515 FM 2325 in Wimberley

Some Websites to visit:

Hays County:
Hays County Emergency Response -
San Marcos:
Flood Resources/Updates via the City of San Marcos:

Updates via the City of Wimberley:

May 27, 2015

I had a chance to talk with an individual (I didn’t catch his name) who was helping clean things from a friend’s father’s home in San Marcos and he said something that really stuck to my core. He said “It's amazing how something we rely on to provide and sustain life can also be the thing that can destroy all in its path."

Every time I see a photo of the devastation in Wimberley, San Marcos, and Austin I think of those words. I wonder how can we see God amidst all of the destruction? Perhaps the answer lies within the first responders. The people who put their lives on the line to help those in need. The  individuals who have donated to Flood Relief in the form of volunteering, monetary donations, clothing, cleaning supplies, or prayers and hugs. The outpouring of support that this community has received from those who are able to help. The hands and feet of Christ. I look at the faces of those who are giving selflessly to support those who need it most. It’s then that I am certain that God is good, all the time… and all the time God is Good.

Remembering the Beauty. San Marcos River at the San Marcos Mill Tract (2011)

I cannot fathom what people who lost their loved ones, homes, and cherished memories are going through right now, but I do know they are loved and they have felt that love through the actions of people like you and I who are doing what we can to assist.

It’s amazing how the love of God can turn something that has destroyed all in its path into something that we can rely on to sustain our lives.

At Randall Vetter Park (2013). Photo by Marlee Claes


NOTE The logo at the top of this page is a modified version of the logo that Tour San Marcos made for the flood victims of San Marcos. Original Design credit goes to them... I just took the "SMTX" out and placed "Hays County" in its place. See the original version via their Facebook Page - here.

January 15, 2015

5 Steps To Becoming A Successful Commercial Country Singer

5 Steps To Becoming
A Successful Commercial Country Singer

By Sean Claes
If you follow the following 5 steps, you too can become another of those pretty-boy country singing stars that would make Hank Williams, Sr. want to come back from the dead and punch you in the chin.

Step 1:
You need something bold that stands out. Incorporate an acoustic guitar, highway sign, Texas flag, Star or filigree… or all of the above. Don’t worry.. this is just an attention getter before the label throws all that out and uses that “Bleeding Cowboy” font and renames you something that has more universal appeal.

Step 2:
Dress Code:
$150 jeans and $100 plaid shirt, or classic rock & roll shirts, or Southern Thread apparel…if you feel really bold… why not an Affliction shirt. Add a handkerchief sticking out of back pocket and a wallet chain… basically try and look like a more douche-y version of 1990s grunge and add a cowboy hat or John Deere-themed baseball cap. Facial hair is not recommended, but it doesn’t hurt early on… when you’re looking hungry. It’ll give the record company something to stick a feather in their hat saying they “improved upon your look” when they sent you to the stylist and they shave you.

Step 3:
Write your songs about trucks, Saturday night, Dirt Roads, Drinking too much and driving, yesteryear, fields, tractors, barns, blondes and tailgates. Make sure you have a chorus that is easy to remember and is repeated often… Don’t worry… your stuff will never actually make it on the radio… if you have a decent voice and look good you’ll get “label support” which means a team of writers will be penning the song everyone will assume is about your youth.


Step 4:
Oh.. Just hire some session musicians to play on the album… it’ll save you from firing your best friend when the record company decides they are only interested in “carrying” one person.
Anyways…all you need is your acoustic guitar to play the radio stations and tour until the record company buys you a backing band.

Step 5:
 Oh.. I guess I should have mentioned that before… you need the deep pockets of a record company to make it… you know.. so your amazingly polished sound (that has the same sound as 4 other bands with songs in the top 10 this week)  can make its way to corporate radio (cha-ching) and begin a serious rotation (palm greased). Or maybe you can go on some music-based reality TV show. That might work.. if you can get on there... Oooh... or just marry a music exec’s daughter.

So there you have it. Follow these easy steps and you too might just get yourself a duet with the next American Idol winner. All it takes is style, money, a little talent, and a total lack of self-worth.

(Note: If you’re a commercial country singer and you read this… don’t worry, I’m talking about the other ones.. not you. You got it honestly… we can all see that. Love you… have all of your albums).

Good luck out there.

Sean Claes has been a music journalist for about 20 years and he doesn't actually believe the above story to be true… but writing it made him chuckle. I hope it does for you as well. It's humor...OK? Breathe. 

Thanks for reading. 

If you're ACTAULLY looking for advice on being a successful musician... I did a 52-week series of advice for DIY musicians here - link

January 1, 2015

Writing Samples - Sean Claes

Where Have You Been, Sean Claes?

Thank you for taking the time to look at my resume. Some examples of my writing can be found via my Website and blog. I’d like to point you to a few of my favorite links.

  1. In 2009-2010, I decided to write 52 Weeks of Austin-based CD reviews: Link
  2. In 2010-11 I wrote 52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice: Link
  3. 3. My current mission (which has been put on hold due to other obligations) is to interview 52 Austin-based bands: Link
  4. I have also had a photo-blog promoting my town of Kyle, Texas since 2008. I include this because it gives an idea of creativity + short & snappy posts. Link
  5.  For the 2008 Buda Lions Club Weiner Dog Races, I wrote this commercial and voiced it as well.
    The theme of the year was "Nacho Weiner," a play off of the Jack Black movie Nacho Libre. See YouTube video below

December 24, 2014

The Kyle, Texas Shop Local List - 2014

The 2014 Shop Local List
Keep Kyle Charming - Buy Local

Go Karting at Central Texas Speedway

By Sean Claes

I have lived in Kyle, Texas for the last 12 or so years and have watched it grow and grow. Kyle now has the numbers to support stores like HEB, Target, Ross, Lowes, Home Depot, and a slew of others... The awesome thing about THAT is when larger business move in, it makes way for the "little guy" to open up shop... but without a big national advertising budget, small owner-operator businesses sometimes struggle to let people know they I thought I'd make this list of some of the most fantastic local-to-Kyle shops. 

I wrote this thinking of shopping for Christmas presents. 

  1. For salsas, honey, photos, beautiful crosses and other stocking stuffers try Cross Plants and Produce
  2. For getaway present, consider Sage Hill Inn Above Onion Creek
  3. For an awesome go-kart racing coupon: Central Texas Speedway
  4. For the kiddos, how about a gift card to The Jumpy Place or music lessons at Curious Chords Music Studio at Plum Creek
  5. Shopping for a lady? Try Tiaras
  6. Buy a friend a hookah from The Pipe Lion
  7. Bring a drinkable gift to a party for the host from FriDaze Liquor
  8. Have a hunter or gun enthusiest on your list? Gun Guys & Gals
  9. Maybe a massage from Hands On Healing
  10. Everyone loves flowers... and Lutricks Florist is awesome.
  11. Funky furniture from the past? Try Sway Vintage
  12. For anything else... and I mean ANYTHING.. check out the Kyle Flea Market
  13. Find Gardening supplies and cool stuff from Sustainacycle's Sustainable Living Center at Kyle
  14. Awesome Kettle Corn goodness can be found at Lone Star Kettle Corn (soon to open a storefront.. but contact them direct for now)
  15. Satisfy your BBQ lover with a gift certificate from Milt's Pit BBQ
  16. Have to bring some dessert to a gathering? Check out the The Texas Pie Company (I prefer their Peanut Butter Pie, FYI)
  17. Help your friend/family reach their fitness goals with Elite BodyWorks of Kyle
  18. The gift of news year round? Buy your loved one a subscription to The Hays Free Press.
  19. Are you buying for someone who needs a computer diagnostic or a fix or an upgrade?  Maybe an awesome new gaming computer? Get them a gift certificate for Blue Computer Solutions.
  20. Buying for someone who needs that adrenaline rush? Go Karting from Central Texas Speedway is a great option.

It's good for the businesses for you to shop local.. it's good for the local economy and blah blah blah... but what's even cooler is you can buy something that is unique.. you may even meet the person who made it... you can find that thing you never knew you needed... and meet your neighbors all at the same time. It's like a shopping adventure.. because shopping should be fun.. right?

Happy Shopping Kyle, Texas.

(I originally wrote this in December 2014 as a Local Christmas List... please feel free to shoot me a note when this needs updated if I don't catch new business openings and/or closings... thanks. seanclaesATseanclaesDOTcom.)

September 13, 2014

52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews

 Another of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks Projects
52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews
I'm Sean Claes. I like turtles... and my marshmallows on fire... and Austin music.

Week 1: Scott H. Biram (1/10/12) 
Week 2: Heather Bishop (1/17/12)
Week 3: Ransom Jack (1/24/12)
Week 4: HONEYCREEPER (1/31/12)
Week 5: Alpha Rev (2/7/12)
Week 6: TRES (2/14/12)
Week 7: Jeremy Steding (2/21/12)
Week 8: DSGNS (2/28/12)
Week 9: Art Versus Industry (3/6/12)
Week 10: Butcherwhite (3/21/12)
Week 11: Will Porter (3/28/12)
Week 12: The South Austin Moonlighters (4/3/12)
Week 13: Granger Smith (4/11/12)
Week 14: Oh Look Out (4/29/12)
Week 15: Dave Madden (5/7/12)
Week 16: Snake Skin Prison (5/9/12)
Week 17: Midgetmen (5/11/12)
Week 18: Righteous Brisket (5/16/12)
Week 19: Emily Wolfe (7/21/12)
Week 20: Mark Allan Atwood (7/31/12)
Week 21: Moonlight Social (8/8/12)
Week 22: Sheer Khan and the Space Case (9/26/12)
(long pause... life happens)
Week 23: Deserts of Mars (3/5/13)
Week 24: Say Hello To The Angels (3/15/13)
Week 24Zane Williams (11/13/13)
(long pause... life still happens)

January 2012: I'm embarking on a new challenge in 2012. I'm attempting to feature 52 Austin bands in 52 Weeks. Let's see how long it takes...

September 2014: Well... the 52 weeks will take more than 3 years as we're in September 2014 now and about to publish Week 25. Sorry.. but I swear I'll get this done at some point. I've been spending time at my full-time job as well as getting a new concert series off the ground in my hometown of Kyle, Texas Concerts for a Cause can be found at Bear with me... I committed to 52 interviews and I'll deliver. 

Are you a musician or member of an Austin, Texas Band?

Want to be interviewed?
What I Need:
1. You to reach out to me at with a Subject Line that reads "52 Weeks Interview." We'll touch base with each other and schedule a date for publishing. 

What I'd LIKE to have happen is, the interview is published within a week of you playing a show. That was it's some promo for you. If you'd like to shoot me your poster for the show, I will try and promote it as well.

Timeline: On or before Monday of the week before your interview will publish, I will shoot you an e-mail with 10-15 questions, and I ask that you return it asap, or at least a few days. I publish every Tuesday by end of day. Example? Let's say I'm publishing an interview with Art vs. Industry on March 6, 2012. I'd have the questions to them by February 27.
You may be wondering why I'm doing this. Well, I'm a big fan of Austin music. I have been an entertainment writer for about 15 years and a magazine owner for about 5. It's never been about the money (although I wish it was a $100k a year job), but about advancing the music. In 2009-10 I did 52 Weeks of Austin CD Reviews. In 2010-11 I completed 52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice (Both of which are fully archived via those links).

The interviews will be published on INsite's Webpage .

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

June 3, 2014

Sunset Electronics - My horrible experience dealing with a business that sells via Amazon

Sunset Electronics - My story of a Cracked Lens and Cracked Customer Service


By Sean Claes
I’ve been a FujiFilm camera owner and advocate since 2003 when I bought a Fujifilm Finepix 3800. Sine then, I bought the more professional FujiFilm FinePix S9000 (I liked it so much I bought it twice) then the FujiFilm FinePix HS20exr.

My collection of FujiFilm Cameras

For my 41st birthday, my wife bought me a Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR Digital Camera SSE Bundle Kit from The SSE Bundle Kit included a bunch of lenses and carrying case and stuff that I might use… and it was put together by Sunset Electronics (SSE on Amazon).

Sunset had a good rating on Amazon and seemed reputable. They have a really nice “about” section on Amazon that states:

Sunset Electronics prides itself on offering excellent customer service to all of its customers.  Everyone in our entire on-site staff had been trained rigorously in the art of, The Customer is Always Right, and we all have the clear understanding that whether it be a $100 order, or a $10,000 order, each order is of equal value to us, no matter the bottom line.

Our first class customer service is ready to solve your problems

Where it went bad:
So, my birthday was in early February. The camera came in around the 10th. When I opened the box, I set out to take photos. Like I said earlier, I've owned five FujiFilm cameras in my lifetime so I'm very happy with the brand.

I took a few photos of little events in town, but I used my older camera (the HS20) to do my non-essential shooting since I wanted to protect the HS50 for my freelance photography gigs. I had no issues with the quality, I really, really like the brand and how easy it is to get great shots and be professional without spending a mint on gear (the lens and body are one piece).

So, I didn’t notice anything wrong with the camera since it sat in a camera bag for a bit. In early May I finally had a big photo gig.
After taking photos of a family, I noticed in the editing process that there was a sunspot in the middle of some photos.

I took a closer look at the camera and there's a tiny crack in the middle of the lens. So small I didn't notice right away. So small the imperfection only shows up at a certain angle when shooting into the sun. I’d not shot with that angle, so I’d not noticed the issue.

Besides, When you open a factory sealed camera... you don't really expect to see a cracked lens... right?

So, although my wife bought this at the end of January and here it was May, I thought I'd contact Sunset Electronics because I was sure they'd do the right thing and replace the camera. My wife contacted them through her Amazon account since she was the one who ordered it.

So… here is the e-mail exchange…

Message 1:
May 5, 2014:
I received this product in January to give away as a gift to my husband for his birthday.

He just used it yesterday to shoot photos of a family (he is a freelance photographer) and noticed that, at a certain angle, the photos were not taking well. Seemed like a blurry spot or a sun reflection. When he looked at the lens, there's a fine crack in the center of the lens. He has never dropped the camera and when not in use it's placed in the bag, so this lens had to have been cracked before he used it.

Other than the cracked lens, he is VERY happy with the camera and the kit.

I would like to return this camera to receive a new one without a cracked lens. Please advise.
Thank you.


So just to be clear the lens is the issue not the actual camera correct?

Sounded like something was going to be done. Yeah Steve!

My Reply (I took over since I could explain a little more):
Answering your question... (Not sure how this is all working through Amazon...)
It is the lens that is attached to the camera...  it's an all in one body. All of the extras that came with the camera are fine.

This is Sean Claes (______ husband who discovered the crack after a photo shoot)

I've uploaded 3 photos to let you see exactly what the issue is. The actual lens that is built in as part of the HS50 is cracked.

A clip of the photo where I noticed the "sunspot"

Me pointing to the camera
The crack is in the middle

 I noticed it when shooting from a certain angle during a professional shoot this past Sunday. You can see the blur in the image (LensIssueExample (NOTE FOR BLOG… I SENT THEM A FULL PHOTO, BUT I DON’T WANT TO PUBLISH THE FAMILY IMAGE ON A BLOG), I also included an iphone photo of both the closeup of the lens (it's hard to get a good lens crack photo... it's small which is why I'd not noticed it earlier). I had, however noticed "sun spots" at certain angles when I took other photos... only now realizing that those were the crack and not a neat nature effect.

It is my hope that I can receive a replacement camera and a way to ship this camera back to you.
I do have another professional shoot in about 2 weeks and I'd love to have a non-cracked lens to shoot with.

At this point, I'm having to pull out my old camera for that shoot... which I'm not thrilled with the quality.

Thanks for your time. Look forward to hearing from you.

Unfortunately our return policy is only good for 30 days after you receive the camera. I don't mean to sound rude, but whats to prevent a customer (not you) from dropping their camera and then trying to return it well after the 30 days? I do feel bad but my hands are tied. it puts me in a very tough position. You should try contacting FujiFilm and see what your options are. If you would have told me this a week after you received it, I would be more than glad to sends a replacement. I'm sorry I couldn't do more to help you. 
Customer Service

So….They first said it was out of the allotted time for returning. Then they accused me of trying to rip them off... insinuating that I must have damaged the camera and now I want them to pay for it. Then they said FujiFilm had to take care of it... and I didn’t even shoot with it until a few weeks after I received it… and the blemish didn’t show up in photos until much later… anyhow…

Now I’ve got to reply and prove I’m not a rip-off artist. Awesome.

My reply:
"I don't mean to sound rude, but whats to prevent a customer (not you) from dropping their camera and then trying to return it well after the 30 days?"
Because I am a fair person and I'm looking for a replacement camera for a camera that was never dropped and never damaged once it got to me... and since I didn't think about checking the center of the lens on the camera (because I assumed I was getting a brand new camera) I'm now stuck having gotten a $400 gift from my wife for my birthday that I can't use.
Steve, I'm not the guy that's trying to take you for your money or slip one by you. I'm a person who tries to make a little extra money on the side doing freelance photography... I am the communications chair of my church... I put on charity concerts... I'm not trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
I'm perfectly certain that you were not aware the camera was damaged when I received it.... the box was sealed... but I assure you... the crack was not caused by me and was there when I first began using the camera (recalling what I thought was odd "sun spots" that I attributed to the angle... it was the crack)
If you choose to help me out with this issue (I know it's a choice and I'd appreciate it if you would say yes... (and I know as soon as you see the crack you will know it couldn't have been caused by me... and you'll also see how easily it could have been missed).. I'm sure your contact with Fuji whom you order the cameras will be happy to replace the damaged piece.  
If you are not interested in helping, perhaps you could give me a good contact at FujiFilm who might be able to assist me.
I know you hold the cards.. you can make the choice.. and you have the ability to help me if you choose to do so. I hope you will.

The reply:

Ok I read your message and showed my manager. He wants to know if the scratch is on the outside of the lens or inside the lens?

And me…

It is directly in the center of the lens. After running my finger over it... seems that it's a crack on the surface.
Still.. it's never been dropped or manhandled... so it must have been there from the beginning. I've owned 5 Fujifilm cameras over the last decade and have never had any issue with them.
Just making sure.. you did get the images I attached with the previous e-mail, correct? 
Hope you can help.
If you'd like to take this off the Amazon page, please feel free to e-mail me at [e-mail address removed] or call me at [phone number removed].
I'd love to get this solved before my next shoot. I've got some graduation photos scheduled in late May.

I will discuss this with my manager. And yes I did receive the photos and showed him. 

That was 5/7.
I heard nothing for a few weeks… and assumed things were being taken care of…. So on 5/27 I sent a message.

My message:
I've not heard back from you on this. Really, I'd love some closure to the matter.
Last I heard from you was almost 3 weeks ago.
I was reminded about the crack yesterday while shooting the Memorial Day Service in town.
My favorite shot of the morning was ruined (for me) by the lens crack.
Please let me know if you are willing/able to do replace this camera.
I hope you do.

You are covered through the fujifilm warranty. Please contact them and they will be able to help you as this is 2 months past the 30 day returns period.
Thank you,

OK.. looks like Adam has taken over for Steve. And he just kind of replied to one message…. So I thought I’d give him the benefit and recap for him and allow him to read the background.

I've been going back and forth with "Steve" for the last month.
I don't know if you know or are privy to the larger story.
Was hoping to get this taken care of with the store I bought it... not the manufacturer. If I do need to go through the manufacturer, please supply me with the contact information.
I will use this e-mail exchange to drive my case home, as it's been ongoing.
Thank you.
- Sean Claes
(______ husband / she gave me this camera for my birthday this year)


Toll free: 888-424-FUJI (3854)

So.. I called that number.. and it seems to be for the FUJIFILM North American Corporation Motion Picture Group… not the people I needed to talk to at all.

BUT… with the power of Google I did call the correct number for FujiFilm and I got some young man who pretty much told me that they’d fix it but it’d cost me. It’s not their problem. They don’t have any warranty on lenses. The person I bought it from needs to take care of it… and when I was asked if there was anything else he could help me with, I said something like “You haven’t helped me with a single thing so far… and I started to ask to talk to the manager.. he hung up on me.

So… I got a little angry… and fired this one off back at Sunset Electronics.

This has gotten fairly ridiculous.
This is Sean Claes... the recipient of the camera as a present. I'm writing from my wife's account (who bought it for me).
Fact - The camera was received with a crack in the middle of the lens.
I've sent photos. you have seen them.
I have never dropped the camera... and the crack is so small that I didn't notice it existed until I was shooting a family (I'm a freelance photographer) and the images came back ruined because of the way the sun reflected off the break. It only happens in certain angles when it hits the sun right.
I talked to Steve... it's been 3-4 weeks now.
I replied asking for an update. Adam replied with a generic "can't help you"
Then he replied with a "you need to call Fuji"
I called Fuji. They are going to charge me to fix it and said you should have taken care of it when I explained the situation. 
I'm losing my patience.
I've been accused of trying to rip you off.
I've been accused of breaking the camera myself.
I've been brushed off to the larger company... who volleyed the ball back to you.
I'm a very patient person... but this needs to be solved.
I need to send the Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR Digital Camera back to you.
You can take care of it from there... and deal with FujiFilm because a sealed box was OBVIOUSLY their issue to begin with...
I know you can send it back as damaged... and not have an issue.
You have every ability to send me a new undamaged camera.
If you have any issue with this....I need to talk to an actual manager.
- Sean Claes
512-787-0308 (cell)
Make this right. I've got my wife who feels horrible that she gave me a $400 camera for my birthday that was damaged from the factory that I can't use.. and am getting the runaround.

They responded with a:
You only contacted us, May 5th (4 months later). I apologize we cannot take back the product.
Thank you,

If you want to be technical.. it’s been 3 months… Received in February… then March (month 1) April (month 2) and May (month 3). But that’s not what this is about.

It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about a customer that is not trying to be a jerk.. and just wants the product his wife paid for and gave him as a present.

I sent this one from my personal Amazon account… this morning (June 3, 2014).

You have sent me a faulty product. When I noticed it, I contacted you.
Order # [number removed]
I have explained myself well, and you have understood that I'm not trying to pull a fast one over on you.
I intend to make sure as many people as possible know what you have decided to do in light of me being upfront, honest and just wanting to get a product my wife paid for and gave me as a gift that works.
You have sent me a $459.99 useless product.
Make it right.
Here's my first review.
I promise to be fair and only include the actual conversations we've had....and my understanding of what "Customer Service" actually means to you. The last reply you have me didn't even have a name for clarity. 
Make it right, please.
- Sean Claes
[phone number removed]
Please reply to [e-mail address removed] as I don't check [e-mail address removed] any longer.

Then I started writing this blog.

This whole thing could have been avoided by me if I’d just taken a good look at the product when it arrived. That was my bad. I assumed that a brand new product that was factory sealed and took good photos was not damaged. It was only when the camera caught that odd angle that I noticed. I understand that.

The fact remains.
  • Sunset Electronics sent me a faulty product.
  • I contacted them as soon as I noticed.
  • They had the opportunity (and duty if their “About” section I quoted from their Amazon page) to make this right.

After doing some research…
  • Sunset Electronics is NOT BBB Accredited (but they have had 6 complaints filed against them and they have failed to respond to 4.  - Link to BBB Page
  • Sunset Electronics has a Facebook page (Since 1/31/13) that has only 5 likes (one of them me to bookmark for this blog… there will be 4 soon) and seems to never have been used – Link to Facebook
  • Apparently in March 2014, Some guy by the name of Jeff Snyder was fairly upset with dealing with Sunset Electronics. He posted a YouTube video about it.
  • Sunset Electronics has a Webpage that I get “access denied” when I try to click the link.
  • Sunset Electronics (as of June 3) had a “4.7 star” rating on BUT at Yelp, they have two 1 star reviews.. and that’s it – Link to Yelp
  • Sunset Electronics has made people unhappy enough to publish complaints on a site called “The Ripoff Report.” – Link to Sunset Electronics Ripoff Report Page

They still have the chance to make this right.

9/15/14 UPDATE

Sunset Electronics has never, not once, in no way tried to contact me and make this right. I stand by everything I said about them.

In June 2014 I posted a Review - here.
Within hours, FijiFilm contacted me and offered to make it right.
They mentioned that Sunset Electronics was not an official reseller as well. That might mean is someone tries to register for warranty work with the maker of the camera, it might me considered a "Grey Market" camera and will be denied.

Anyhow...I worked with FujiFilm and they, for the price of shipping and handling to their North America repair facility (Digital Camera Service & Support), fixed the camera...and offered to take a look at 2 of my other cameras to see if they could be fixed as well (the S9000s I have... unfortunately they weren't fixable).

BIG Thanks to Dan Scarola, National Manager w/ Fujifilm North America Inc. for taking such good care of this situation.

Unless Sunset Electronics steps up and acknowledges me, this will be the final update.