Friday, November 14, 2014

Gaetano Letizia--- Voodoo Doll--- A music review

I must be getting old.  My mind is doing pushups and double back flips trying to wrap my head around all of the influences in this new album by this cat named Gaetano Letizia, but it is difficult.  Maybe I have lived too long because I can remember when music like this was sweeping FM radio and wrapping its tentacles around more than a few million radio listeners.  Those were days of jazz/rock fusion and as much as I didn't like some of it, a lot of it made its way into my collection--- Jan Hammer, Ronnie Laws, Phil Upchurch, The Brecker Brothers, The Crusaders

Ah, Phil Upchurch.  I bopped the night away at a concert--- a George Benson concert, it was.  Benson was hot then, just about to jump into the big-time but at that time putting huge chunks of money into the coffers of CTI Records.  He was touring to support one of his CTI LPs and had a killer band behind him which included Upchurch and the night was filled with funk, jazz and rhythm & blues.  If I remember correctly, the band played sans Benson for a set and a good job they did, but it seemed everyone else was awaiting Benson.  The real concert, for them, began when Benson took the stage.  In the meantime, I was forced into a listener's hell of sorts, the majority of the crowd more interested in sharing the week's happenings at the office than listening to music.  I had to concentrate to hear the sounds being pushed out of the small amps on stage and the whole time kept thinking, who the hell ARE these guys?  They played everything from smooth jazz to straight R&B to some of the funkiest songs I'd ever heard played live.  Even the sound of clinking glasses and egotistical shouting could not dampen my enthusiasm.  It was a hell of a concert, broken into pieces by the not-long-enough guitar solos of which I found out later was played by Upchurch.  I knew Upchurch and had sold his albums, but I had never heard him--- not like that.  I heard him that night.

That is what Letizia and crew conjure in my mind.  Instrumental expertise blended with a number of genres soaked in jazz.  Smooth at times, upbeat at others, but never loud and overwhelming.  When I close my eyes during some tracks, I am once again in the theaters and auditoriums in which this style of music flourished.  And I love it.  If you didn't live those days, you might not understand, but I think you might.  Here's a taste.


Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)




Saturday, October 25, 2014

Maggie Bjorklund: Shaken AND Stirred

Ever hear of Rusty Willoughby?  Neither had I until good buddy Howie Wahlen linked me to a video a few years ago, saying that he, somehow, as talented as he was, was buried in the indie woodpile.  I followed the link because Howie seldom passed along such recommendations unless there was something there.  When I got there, I understood.  Willoughby had something beyond the norm, part of which was a band full of Pac Northwest names of distinction, though I did not know it at the time.



Ensconced in that band, I found out, were four musicians who had previously and would turn my head---  Barrett Martin I knew from his work with a personal favorite, Screaming TreesRachel Flotard, whom I had heard of but never heard (I dug her for the name alone);  Barb Antonio, whom I found out is a mover and shaker as a cellist;  and a pedal steel player who was beginning to make her way into the consciousness of those of us who embraced those swimming beneath the surface of musicdom--- Maggie Bjorklund


Indeed, just the combination of gender and instrument was enough to pique my interest, but even at that early date, I was late to the party.  Bjorklund was already gaining speed as both a session player and an artist in her own right.  She released her first album, Coming Home, in 2011.  Shaken is her second.

If pedal steel conjures up thoughts of country music or even Americana, you can tuck that idea away.  I love that kind of stuff, true, and have my collection of  Cindy Cashdollar to prove it.  It's just that Cashdollar Bjorklund is not, in any way, shape or form.  Whereas Cashdollar pushes the envelope with the instrument, Bjorklund pushes the envelope with the music.  Whatever strikes her is where the action begins and sometimes it begins in somewhat uncharted waters, as it does in Bottom of the Well or Missing At Sea.  She can be downright spooky.


Still, there is enough of the mainstream in her to bring in roots, whether they be country or early rock 'n' roll and pop.  Her voice fits nicely in whatever she does, but don't expect melodic Taylor Swift riffs here.  There is a hint of Grimm's Fairy Tales with a smidgeon of Three Billy Goats Gruff, though, and a whole lot of not-so-horrible music horror stories.  Oh, I suppose it isn't all that grim, but it sure as hell isn't the norm.  Although I have a sneaky feeling it could become so.

The videos here should give you a decent idea of Maggie Bjorklund and her approach to music.  The question is whether you have the chutzpah to dive in.  That is the question these days, isn't it?  To listen to the mundane or look for something beyond the norm?  This certainly is not the norm that I'm hearing these days.  Thank the gods. 

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NOTARY SOJAC: The Night of the Grateful Dead

By 1971, the Grateful Dead's stage setup included the legendary 'pyramid' PA system, and even though Jim Lowry had heard of it, he was not prepared for what he saw.

There were "like a million speakers--- smaller speakers they'd stacked up like two big pyramids on each side of the stage," he recalled. "It had literally dozens and dozens of these small speakers. I don't know if the idea was to disperse the sound in a different way, but it was a huge system."



At the time, Lowry played bass for Portland-based Notary Sojac, a band on its way to creating waves of their own. Popular throughout the Pacific Northwest thanks to numerous well-attended gigs, opening for the Dead and New Riders was to them huge. It would look great on the resumé and, hell, Ken Kesey would more than likely attend (he did), living a stone's throw away at the Rainbow Farm.

"It was inside this multiple-purpose facility at Lane Community College," Lowry recalled, "which could be converted to concert- or gymnasium-type environments. The stage, about four feet high, was at one end and in back of the stage was an open area where they had put together two big foam pads like those used in pole vault pits. When we arrived, the Dead's entourage was already there--- the road crew and all of the people who traveled with them. Maybe a hundred people.

"A few of the Dead were there and a couple of the New Riders as well. There were a couple of bottles of nitrous oxide off to the side with long tubes on them. Pigpen, the Dead's keyboard player, came in carrying this briefcase which had whiskey and the like, his little wet bar, and he started pouring drinks for everyone. Of course, everyone was passing around pot and there was smoking and there was the nitrous oxide, and it's already kind of a big party, right?

"Well, we started talking with them, saying that we wanted to play, and they said why don't you guys go up and we'll do a sound check and when the doors open, you can do a couple of tunes and we'll bring out the New Riders. So we grabbed Mike Jenkins, one of our roadies, and brought in our equipment and set it up. We played two songs, maybe three, and it's pretty loud--- at concert level--- and a few more people came in. There were maybe 200 people, most involved with the concert in some capacity.

"I'm up there playing when all of a sudden I hear what I thought was an explosion. I honestly thought a bomb had gone off. I looked up and at the opposite end of this huge room, a couple of double doors flew open and a crowd of people ran through them and up to the stage. They kept hitting it and hitting it, hundreds of them, pushing and pushing. Some had hit so hard that the impact knocked them a little unconscious, but they couldn't fall down because they were being held up by the mass of bodies."

"When they hit the stage," Lowry continued, "it had knocked the wind out of them, so we stopped playing and went into rescue mode, lifting people up, carrying them across the stage to the back of the building where there was, I think, an ambulance. We laid them down outside until they could be revived. Some had to be taken to the hospital.

"That stage was big, four feet tall and a good twenty-five feet deep, right? And I don't know how wide it was, but that whole stage got moved back a couple of feet. Just from that. I mean, all bets were off. There was no security and it was out of control.

"Carl Pennington, the concert promoter, came up onstage and the Dead's road manager threw him against the wall. He was screaming at Carl, saying what the hell is going on and get this under control and Carl was yelling that it wasn't his fault, that he had no control. Carl finally grabbed the microphone and started screaming at the crowd, like, you ***holes, you really screwed this up for me and I'll never be able to promote another concert here. And the crowd got ugly real fast. They started throwing things and screaming and yelling and trying to grab him. I was actually in fear for my life at that point. I got behind my amp and looked over at the crowd, trying to find a route of escape. It was mass hysteria.

"Then, Phil Lesh walked up to the microphone and said, 'Hey, man, don't lay your bummer on your brothers,' and the whole crowd goes, YEEEAAAHHH!. Carl's shoulders dropped and he walked off the stage. The New Riders had gotten onstage and the drummer and bass player started a beat and when the rest of the band came in, everything went phhht! It calmed down. You still had this feeling that there was no authority or control over the situation, but it had calmed down enough that the concert could go on. And when the New Riders finished their set, the Dead came on and played for four hours."

The problem had evidently developed because someone had counterfeited concert tickets. The facility, designed to hold maybe three to four thousand, faced a crowd of close to eight thousand. When the crowd became aware, it was every person for him- or herself. In the melee, the tall floor-to-ceiling windows in the entrance shattered and the crowd stampeded.

"Our roadie, Mike Jenkins, was trapped under the stage for over half an hour," said Lowry. "It's hard to describe what the situation really was. You've been to big concerts and you know how without proper security, they can turn into their own beast and create this whole different environment? That was it."

After the concert, Lowry had a chance to survey the damage. The glass windows which encased most of the front of the building were gone. There was glass everywhere, the crews frantically trying to clean it up before more people were injured. It was a mess.

Carl Pennington had to go to court to defend himself against at least three groups who sued and they stopped allowing rock concerts at LCC for a long time, but that didn't bum Lowry out.

"The thing that impressed me most about it was that even though the whole situation was out of control, it didn't really matter because, in the end, music made it fine."

One might say that the night of January 22, 1971 was indeed the night of the living (and Grateful) Dead.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sage Run--- The Beginning and End of War

The Beginning:  A gramophone plays a recording of a popular song of the Civil War period as bombs and sounds of battle slowly envelop, transform and then replace all sounds except an odd aural reference to sonar and a spoken voice until all fades to silence.  There is no music, not in the normal sense, and yet it is music in its every form, striking deep into the heart and the soul of anyone within range--- not just the range of hearing but the range of feeling.  It is fear and doom and everything you might expect had you not already been trained to ignore the sounds.  Movies, television and video games have taken the horror of war out of our minds--- the sounds of the horror, anyway.  We do not die with a Bruce Willis quip on our tongues.  We die alone--- dreadfully alone.  David Stace-James, who records under the name Sage Run, makes sure it comes across that way with the ominous droning sound of music over both the physical and the mental.  The Voice is ghostly and regretful.  "Sixteen and a half years old," it starts.  "I joined the cavalry company."

This album is not about a war.  It is about War.  This is what War does to some of us.  Bringing fear.  Bringing dread.  Forecasting doom, all while life goes on.  This is, for Stace-James,the real music of War--- not Over There or I'll Be Home For Christmas or even Der Fuehrer's Face.  These songs are black clouds over humanity.  It is, after all, War.

I hesitate to call them vignettes.  Vignette connotes more of a light-heartedness and sometimes even vaudevillian attitude.  These are hardly that.  They are compositions, as rooted in drama and reality as they are in music and fantasy.  The Voice was once a person--- someone's son, maybe someone's brother or sister.  He is a ghost, a spokesman from the past, though then barely a man.  "Sixteen and a half years old..."

While the tracks all together tell a story, the individual tracks are stories within themselves.  On this one, a soldier--- a mere boy--- leaves for War, leaving a pregnant wife behind.  The further away from her he is, the less he is able to control his destiny.  The machinations of War.....  On that one, a man argues with God.  How can you not, in the face of War?  I hear the strain in my own head, "if God, as you say, was truly gracious....."  On another, a woman recollects her husband, taken by War.  It is a Simon & Garfunkel moment, a scene before...  Before his death.  Before her heartbreak.

Stace-James can write songs, yes.  His last album, self-titled, proved that, but this album is not just about songs.  It is about War.  The last song is a song, a very pretty folk ballad of sorts, but a prelude to end.  When the bugle blows taps and the ambient sounds of birds take over, War is over.  But not really.  As Stace-James writes in the booklet which accompanies the album, "How do I write about the end of war?  Does war ever really end?"

This is one of those albums which words will never quite be able to describe.  I have listened to it numerous times and still have the same reverence and confusion.  It is magnificent.  It is whole.  Yet it leaves so many questions unanswered.  I keep hoping that maybe, at the end of one of those hearings, the answer will appear.  I know it won't, but I hope anyway.

And, no, this is not just about The Civil War, though Stace-James drew much of his inspiration from it.  It is about War.  Something we all need to know more about if only to prevent the next one.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

 
(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jaimie Vernon (and friends)--- The End of Terrestrial Radio in Three Acts

I must listen to hundreds of albums a year--- at least sample that many--- and there are few which really floor me.  I try to write about the ones which do, though even then the words sometimes escape me and those reviews remain unwritten.  It isn't easy, writing reviews on a constant basis, so when an album comes along which I not only love but wish I could have been part of--- or at least been privy to some of the creative process--- it is rare.

When friend and colleague Jaimie Vernon unleashed his latest project on us a few weeks ago, it caught me completely by surprise.  It is a concept album, he explained, about the downfall of Pop radio, and then sweetened the deal with the hint that "The Iceman", Bob Segarini, was somehow involved as were a handful of friends with whose work I was familiar:  Brian Gagnon, Lawrence Ingles, Todd Miller, and Jade Dunlop to name a few.  It revolves around the last Pop radio station in existence and soon to go out of existence, he said, and.....  Well, here it is in Vernon's own words, borrowed from the liner notes:

"Nightmare @ 20,000 Watts is a modern morality audio play in three acts that postulates a 'what if' scenario concerning the slow demise of terrestrial radio. What if the corporatization of our airwaves becomes so ubiquitous that every last radio station on the planet is absorbed and reformatted out of existence?

"What would the final terrestrial radio station sound like on that fateful day when the playlist is transformed and the on-air talent broadcasts across the ether one last time? C.R.C.K. could be that station. A 20,000 Watt FM transmitter located in the remote outpost of Sachs Harbour in the Northwest Territories' Beaufort Sea at the tip of Banks Island.

"And it is here that the world of past radio glories and current radio collapse collides in a farewell to a format that not only informed my own musical growth but was the audio thread that connected nearly four generations of pop music fans in the Western Hemisphere."

Is that a great idea or does Vernon just make it sound great?  I would have to say a little of both.  I mean, the idea is not necessarily original--- I'm sure there are albums out there which have toyed with the basic idea and, of course, the Cruisin' series of albums recreated a string of albums featuring the hits of a specific year in the radio format of many of the top disc jockeys of the 50s and 60s.  But no one to my knowledge has done it exactly like this.

In the first place, Vernon not only wrote and recorded most of what made it to disc (or into digital format) but created a scenario far beyond that "actual" day of broadcast.  His liner notes, in fact, lay out the complete history of radio station CRCK, bringing us up-to-date just in time for that final broadcast.  The lead-in for the album is the dial-twisting we have heard many times--- well, us oldtimers anyway.  I grew up on it, the various stations crowding their ways through speakers as the listener searches for station of choice.  The fact that it stops on CRCK and Brian "The Iceguy" Campbell is the kickoff, Segarini then hosting a similar program for Sirius under the name Bob "The Iceman" Segarini.  Art reflecting life?  Possibly.

It is the first in a long line of coincidences and parallels to the real world.  The placing of the radio station in Sachs Harbor takes it far out of the reach of the rest of the world, that town being well north of the Arctic Circle, and while the station broadcasts, it is with a sense of isolation.  Not only the last Pop radio station in existence, but the last Mom and Pop radio station.  Think about it for a minute.  For those of a certain age, it is the darkest of science fiction.

Vernon, though serious, cloaks it all with a stunning sense of humor.  Bringing in Segarini, a good friend and someone with whom Vernon has worked with more than a bit, was stroke of genius, his off-the-cuff delivery just off enough to fit the whole concept but not drive it into serious ground.  Indeed, "The Iceguy" sounds as much Red Green as he does disc jockey, plugging everything from Sterno to beaver shooting to a store called Bill's Bait & Beer because there ain't two things in the whole world that go together better than that.  Vernon even includes a funeral home ad--- fake, of course, but oh so appropriate given the theme.

Of course, none of this would work minus music and in the end it is the music that holds it all together.  Vernon went out of his way to include songs by Lowe & Brow, San Diego's Atomic Enchiladas, The Terra Cottas, The Hudson's Bay Brothers (think about that one for a bit), and Sydney Australia's The Modern Punk Quartet, et. al.  That would be one hell of a lineup, folks, if the bands existed.  They don't, of course.  The thing is, the album is put so well together that it is hard to believe they don't.  The songs, all Vernon-centric except two (Frank Marzano's Drink Her Goodbye and Jim Lowe's I Feel the Beat), are first rate and the production the same.  You can hear influences of The Beatles, ELO, Klaatu and others, but the songs stand on their own.  In fact, I hadn't even realized that the musicians on each of the songs are pretty much the same in odd combinations until maybe my tenth listen.  I had somehow fallen into the fantasy and for me The Middle Americans and Atomic Enchiladas had taken on a form as real as any I could imagine.  In fact, I began to worry about myself.  I began having this urge to search the band names on the Net just to scope out their discographies. 

Any real drama must come to an end, and this is true drama in odd form, and Vernon wraps it all up with the sign-on of new kids in radio town, CWSH, and the smoother jazz format.  Pop radio is no more.

The PDF file Vernon sent me shows the insert, marked Disc 1.  Turns out that there will be a second disc.  Basically, it will be the music from the "radio broadcast" minus the radio patter and with all of the proper lead-ins and lead-outs--- just the music.  It will also include bonus tracks, from tracks relating to the "broadcast" to others written during the time period the album was actually being recorded.  Soon, he promised.  When time and energy permit.

 Am I impressed?  I am totally knocked out.  Each day I find time to listen, and always all the way through.  It isn't getting old--- any of it.  The music, the vocal palaver, the humor cheers me up.  It is radio as it should be.  The fact that the music and characters are weaving an audio tale of creative consequence fascinates me.  You want to hear it?  It's streaming here.  Do yourself a favor and pop a cold one, lay back and hear it for what it really is.  This will be in my Top Ten of the year, easy, and it isn't because I know that guy.  But, just for the record, I know that guy.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)




Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jim Suhler--- Panther Burn

It's not like I hadn't heard of Jim Suhler before.  A couple of George Thorogood freaks mentioned his name a few thousand times after catching a Thorogood show.  They said something like, "man, he give George a run for his money," with the affected accent they took on whenever listening to Southern Rock or Southern Blues.  Something like.  My friends down at swampland.com talked about him with real reverence, him being from  Texas and they being so immersed in the South that their accents had accents.  The Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson tossed his name out on occasion and you can't deny those "Best of the South" lists for guitarists in which Suhler's name shows up regularly.  So yeah, I'd heard of him.  But, truth be told, I hadn't really planned on reviewing his new album until Betsie Brown tossed one in the mail and then started shaming me for not listening.  Okay, that one was a stretch because Betsie has never pushed for anything, which is why I give whatever she is promoting special attention.  But, yeah, I had heard of him.

I think I'd even heard him, though not on one of his own albums.  Suhler's name would come up on occasion as I sat around with friends sipping ale (I sipped, they guzzled).  I don't think I ever heard him clearly, though.  Too many "wait for it" and "no. not yet" and "okay, okay, okay, now" comments obscuring the actual music, though in their defense, they usually played it loud enough in an attempt to drown out their own voices to allow the music to seep through.  So, yeah, I'd heard him, even though I really hadn't.  Not really.

Jim Suhler--- Rockin' the house.

But when I heard Panther Burn, Suhler's latest, I realized what I'd missed.  I love guitar slingers of all kinds but on the whole have found few who could really break through the white noise and standard riffs.  Tinsley Ellis made an impression during his Alligator Records days.  Bugs Henderson had a live album which I was most impressed with, one of the few truly independent releases back in those days (the ice age of the eighties).  I loved Jimmy Vaughan's playing with the Thunderbirds and, of course, Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of the few major stars I made exception for because he was just so goddamned good, you know?  I mean, I hate stars.  As soon as they make the grade, they lose it.  Stevie never lost it.  He neevr had a chance to, damn it!

Which is why I hope Suhler never becomes one.  Not that he doesn't deserve it.  This new album is packed with good stuff--- blues and gospel-oriented and rock songs to beat the devil.  And he brought in a few people to help--- Kim Wilson and Carolyn Wonderland, to name but two.  But, damn, he didn't need to.  I hear that guitar and I'm sold.

See, Suhler does this thing with grooves.  I didn't even think in those terms until I read a review of this self-same album.  The writer said Suhler rode these blues grooves and I thought, that's it.  The groove!  The band lays down a rhythm line and Suhler dances that guitar all around it.  And there is no doubt that he can play that guitar.  He bends strings and makes it squawk and on occasion strangles it into submission for a short bit of feedback.  He runs sprints with the damn thing, too.  But it's all in the name of the music and that's okay with me.  I love them grooves.

Jim Suhler.  My stack of Texas musicians of real musical worth is getting damn high these days.  State's sinking in them.  I'd live there if it wasn't for the politics.  More crazy conservatives there than you could kill with all of them weapons people have been amassing.  If it wasn't for musicians like Suhler, I'd be all for giving that State back to Santa Anna.  He would probably take it back, too, if we threw in the musicians.  I think that would be a deal breaker.  In fact, I'm pretty darn sure of it.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Zoe Muth--- A Little Piece of History

The new album is titled World of Strangers but I thought I would give you a little piece of history--- mine--- because there was a time Zoe's and my histories intersected.  It hasn't happened often, these brushes with musicians I believe will, in time, work their ways to the top.  With Zoe, it started with a road trip to the coast of Oregon (a 60-mile drive from the Willamette Valley where I live), a stack of CDs and a desire to get caught up on some listening.    The road trip was both a miserable failure and a tremendous success--- I only listened to one album but it was Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers, the first by Zoe and band, and it looped until I was once again back in the Valley, anxious to get to the computer to write something--- anything--- about this outstanding new artist and band.  I titled the "review" I Have Heard the Future of Country Music and It Is the Past and in it I raved about the band and the album.  (Read it here)  It would not be my only time.



Indeed, I have written about Muth many times since, from a review of their first appearance at Cottage Grove's Axe & Fiddle (read that here) to a return appearance the next summer (read that here) to various reviews of the first two albums (Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers) and (Starlight Hotel) and the following EP (Old Gold).  It seems every time she steps onto a stage or into a studio, I tug at the reins, wanting to write more.  Sometimes I think she reads my mind because she just handed me another album for just that purpose.

There is something about Zoe's voice which is salve to my soul.  I had pretty much given up on Country music by the time she came along.  Nashville had turned glitz and glamor and the music so formula you could make baby food with it.  The "stars" acted the same, looked the same, wore the same clothes and, shudder, played the game of Hollywood to the point of nausea. They still do.



Not Zoe, though.  She came out of Seattle performing her songs in her way and never thought about formulae.  Sure, she fits well in the Country category, but this is a Country with which I am comfortable.  I knew it from the first notes of You Only Believe Me When I'm Lying, track one, record one.  Zoe is, to me, someone very special and very unique.  It is in her songwriting and in her soul, but more than anything it is in her voice.

That voice is centerpiece of World of Strangers.  Surrounded by more production than her previous albums, her voice cuts through the slick so well that you don't even notice.  Nine originals and one song written by Ronnie Lane (April Fool) make this a smooth ride through real country and not that of Nashville.  No trenchcoats and pleather cowboy hats for her.  Simple songs written for and from the heart.



She doesn't do it alone, either.  She has a band, and producer George Reiff filled the studio nicely on various tracks with superb vocalists and musicians including Jenn Miori and Beth Chrisman (The Carper Family), Bruce Robison, and Brandy Zdan

Is this her best album yet?  I can't say because everything she has released is top shelf.  Chances are that people who buy the new album are going to want to backtrack and the people who have earlier albums will want this one too.  They are that good, as is she.

Note:  The music in the videos posted in this review besides Mama Needs a Margarita are not from World of Strangers, but they will give you an idea of what that album holds.  They are true Zoe Muth without embellishment.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tinsley Ellis--- Get It! and Midnight Blue--- Album Reviews

Tinsley Ellis.  Hell of a name.  Maybe not Phil Villapiano or Biff Pocoroba, but it is doubtful that either one of those guys could play guitar like Tinsley.  Of course, Tinsley probably can't play football or baseball like either one of those guys, either.  Doesn't bother me as long as ol' Tinsley keeps putting out albums like Get It! and Midnight Blue.  'at Tinsley's got a touch, he has.

I first heard of him back in the late-80s when he signed with Alligator Records.  The label hyped him like he was the second coming of the blues or something and I have to admit to be pretty damn impressed.  He could sing and play guitar.  And he had the blues in his soul.  Electric blues.  Rockin' blues.

I lost track of him shortly after '90 or so, leaving the record business behind for more immediate concerns.  Occasionally he would put a blip on the radar--- enough so that I knew where he was.  Early last year, though, he blasted onto the scene with an instrumental album which caught me by surprise.  All instrumental, all the time.  When I was a kid, instrumental albums were all the rage, but that was back before rockers learned how to sing, I think.  Artists and groups like Duane Eddy, Dick Dale, The Ventures, and Floyd Cramer built musical dynasties on the backs of the instrumental, as have Ingwie Malmsteen, Gary Hoey, Buckethead, and Steve Morse in more recent days.  In those traditions, Tinsley pulls strings on a plethora of musical styles while featuring the guitar on a variety of levels, though always upfront.  No show-off stuff, though.  The music stands on its own and, yes, Tinsley bends strings and crunches chords, but that is what he does.  He spans decades in his choice of styles, preferring his own compositions over the standards with the exception of Sonny Thompson's Freddy's Midnite Dream and Ellas McDaniel's DetourGet It! is 50s-to-present in less than an hour, but not much less.  Tinsley gives you your money's worth and lovers of guitar instrumentals should love it.

The Tinsley I knew back in the 80s had a Chicago or Southern feel to most of his tunes, the guitar edgy, the band electric.  While the music was blues-rooted, the sound was rock.  He's still rocking, but there is more of a maturity these days--- more of the modern masters in his tones.  Surrender borrows as much from B.B. King as anyone, It's Not Funny from New Orleans artists such as The Neville Brothers.  Tinsley trips around the edges of soul and early R&B as well as decades of blues and rock to get the mix on Midnight Blue.  Ten original tracks, all with plenty of guitar and Tinsley's patent vocals.

Get It!--- Production: A-.  Performance: A-.  Choice of Material/Songwriting:  B.

Midnight Blue--- Production: A.  Performance: A.  Songwriting: A-.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

She's a Little Lonely and Freakishly Good

That's what she calls herself, Julie Cain, and you can't blame her for picking a bit of an outlandish name in these days of white noise.  There are seemingly ten thousand records recorded and released a week and finding the ones worth spending your time with can be a chore, if not a tremendous mental challenge.  The name could help, so Little Lonely it is and after hearing her new self-titled album, I'm finding that I really don't care.  As always, the truth is in the grooves and this album is as groovy as it comes.


There are some beautiful songs in this package--- the almost Bali Hai-ish in feel Buttonwillow;  the steeped-in-lonely The First Time You Left Me with the guitar almost crying in its cradle of reverb and echo;  Interstate Hum which caught me right off with its Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers aura (Zoe, you want to cover anything, please cover this);  the midtempo and flowing rocker, Jesus Is In My Swimming Pool, very Sarah Borges in its separation of verse and chorus.  Penny's First Available has a slight fifties feel and could as easily have ended up on a Drifters album as anywhere.


 I suppose one would have to label this Americana if for no other reason that there are so many different influences.  Country, when the pedal steel dominates.  Pop, when melody is the focus.  Folk, fifties and sixties.  Always within the range of Julie's little girl voice on certain songs, her perfectly mature voice on others.  She reminds me of an early Brenda Lee, altering said voice to fit the songs.  And, as aformentioned, the songs are outstanding.


There is a new video of Interstate Hum, by the way, an exclusive at this time, being previewed at turnstyledjunkpiled.com.  It's pretty cool.  So is the ezine, one of the first to hop on the Little Lonely bandwagon.  What can I say?  They obviously have taste.

I swear to God, musicians are an untrusting lot.  More than a few albums have included hidden or secret tracks and I would not be surprised to find them included just for writers, for we are a lazy lot and famed for needle-dropping (a term used for listening to the first five or ten seconds of a track rather than all the way through).  So musicians and producers set traps.  On this album, it is set visibly as the album-ender.  Old US 40 is, oddly, a recording of ambient sounds recorded on, I assume, Old US 40.  Ambient sounds.  Wind.  Thunder in the distance.  No music.  No vocal.  I picture Julie sitting by her computer rubbing her hands in delicious anticipation of the review which mentions it as an actual song.  Devious.  Very devious.

I know the big dream is the major label deal, even in an industry imploding on itself.  This album is as good as anything the major labels have put out in the past fifty years.  Excellent production by Sean Hoffman and a crew of sidemen perfect for the job.  And Julie is certainly no slouch herself.  She writes like a pro, sings like an angel and has a sense of humor about life.  As far as I'm concerned, she is already a star.  She doesn't need a major label.  She just needs to be heard.

That sense of humor?  Watch this.  Cracks me up every time.


Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Miss Quincy & The Showdown--- On the Road to Recovery

What goes well with a new album release? A video of course! And Miss Quincy & The Showdown worked really hard shooting TWO new videos to go with the release, but improbable disaster struck. The drive containing the video footage was stolen in Vancouver in a vehicle break-in, and the back-up drive that contained a copy has mysteriously gone missing. The search for the missing drives has been extensive but it's looking like the amazing videos that could have been, are lost forever...




Sounds like a conspiracy to me, but then practically everything does these days.  Even the music, sometimes (I mean, Robin Thicke?  WTF?), but you get the lowdown from The Showdown (okay, it sucks, but I've had thirteen cups of coffee and have been streaming Roadside Recovery for the past four hours and am scrambling to finish this review before I collapse in a pool of caffeine and sweat, so cut me some slack).  I would delete the beginning of this but I hate to lose four hours work, though work it wasn't.  What it was was a trip through the fifties to present day via a blues-influenced trio of ladies who rock.  Well, not really blues, but Rhythm & Blues, which is not quite the same thing.

I always shudder when people confuse blues with R&B.  To me, they are very separate genres, though they do overlap in places.  Such is not the case here, though.  From note one of Roadside Recovery, Miss Quincy rares back and let's us have it with both barrels, Bad Love straight out of George Thorogood territory--- basic and primal.  If this isn't R&B, it's rock.

A personal favorite is Talkin' Trash, a throwback to the late fifties and early sixties R&B ballads helped along by just the right amount of guitar echo and reverb.  The sound is pure nostalgia for myself, having grown up with that sound of pre-soul R&B in my ears.  This is AM gold, if only AM were what it used to be.

The best lines in a song are from Damn You.  Slower and vampish, Quincy sings "This one's gonna hurt/This could be the worst of it/This could be the time when/My heart up and bursts/Oh, this one's gonna hurt."   Wrap it in the over-reverbed guitar and slow plodding rhythm and you have a hit.  Or what would have been when hits weren't designed by machines.

The band works out of Vancouver and once again I shake my head at the thought of so many worthwhile bands confined within the province of British Columbia.  The city and surrounding areas are loaded, I tell you.  Almost makes me want to live there, but I don't think I could adjust to putting "eh?' behind every statement.  And it seems like only yesterday we got rid of the embarrassment of George W. and The Dick.  I'm sorry, but as much as idiots down here don't like Obama (the operating word here being 'idiots'), I wouldn't trade him for Harper.  Not even with future draft choices thrown in.  


Frank O Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Terry Quiett Band--- is Taking Sides!

I like the blues as much as any average white guy who grew up in the fifties and sixties and came to really appreciate the blues in the seventies.  I knew of (and still know of) John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf and them Chicago blues dudes.  I have heard the likes of Mississippi Fred McDowell and Leadbelly and Bukka White.  I have even suffered through many a conversation listening to people  (most of whom have made their blues purchases courtesy of the various blues-albums-you-have-to-have articles written by so-called experts) who very seldom listen to blues extolling the godfatherness of Robert Johnson.  Well, let me say this about that.  I may not know the blues but I know what I like.

I like Stevie Ray Vaughan.  I like the early Bluesbreakers.  I like Kenny Wayne Shepherd.  And I like the Terry Quiett Band.  Those of you who have heard of Quiett, congratulations.  You are on the tip of a career about to bust wide open.  For those of you who haven't, pay attention.  This guy is worth reading about and, more importantly, worth hearing.  But before I type on, watch this video to acquaint yourselves with the man and the band.


Get the drift?  Blues ain't always the blues, Roderick.  Sometimes it is way more than the blues.  When it is done right, anyway.  And Quiett and his trio do it right.

They do it doubly right on their latest, Taking Sides.  They rock and slide their way through twelve blues-to-rock-to-soul beauties, capturing that feel of the early Allman Brothers here and Stevie Ray there but always with a look to the rhythm--- the rhythm of the blues.  

That rhythm varies, track to track.  They rock, these guys, enough to plant people against their seats in a theater setting and more than enough to get people on their feet in a club.  They roll, thanks to drummer Rodney Baker, who is solid if not flashy, and bassist Nathan Johnson, whose fluid fingers trip over the strings lightly when necessary, with force when called for.  

The real key, though, is the guitar and voice of Quiett himself.  He has a bit of the South in his voice but never lets it overpower the song, and oh, that guitar!  Quiett runs the gamut from sweet and smooth to uplifting to downright raucous without skipping a beat.  He bends strings, works the slide and coaxes notes from the guitar only very accomplished guitarists can create and if that doesn't mean anything to you, you're not listening.  Toss aside all of those years of Rolling Stone magazines inane "100 Greatest Guitarist" lists and listen to the music, fer chrissake!  Terry Quiett is one.  And if he's not on your list, he's on mine.  He can freakin' play and it is all over Taking Sides.

My favorites on the album are, me being a Motown fan, Two Hearts, which blends the edges of Motown with rockin' blues, and a cover version of Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On.  They call the Gaye cover a "bonus track."  It is, in more ways than one.  It shows the feel Quiett has for his music, it gives him guitar room (I love the horns as well), and it highlights Quiett's surprisingly soulful voice.  

This, in fact, has reawakened my thirst for superior blues rock.  I have pulled his Just My Luck album (read my review from a couple of years ago here) from my stacks and plan on listening to it tonight.  As busy as I have been, I seem to have lose, now and again, the reason that I write in the first place--- the music.  Time to reacquaint myself.

You can check out the Terry Quiett Band on their website, www.terryquiettband.com.  I recommend it.  First, though, watch this video recorded a couple of years ago.  Maybe it will spur you to see these guys when they come through your area,


Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)




Thursday, March 13, 2014

It Was 50 Years Ago Today--- Canada Catches Up To the Beatles

I remember the sixties like it was yesterday and one thing I remember is that The Beatles were strides beyond the vast majority of bands/artists, worldwide.  I knew it simply because of all the cover songs being cranked out in the clubs and teen dances, they were the least covered.  Not because kids couldn't dance to their music but because it was damn hard to recreate the sound.  Well, after the first couple of albums, anyway.  Sure, I Want To Hold Your Hand and It Won't Be Long were well within reach of the better bands of the period, but a sure way to go down in flames was to try to replicate, say, I'm Only Sleeping or Dr. Robert and by the time Sgt. Pepper hit the streets, the music was not so danceable anymore, was it (not to mention it being way beyond the expertise of even the real pros).  No doubt about it.  The Beatles were a benchmark band.  If you could cover them, you were good, if still just a cover band.

Well, the world has caught up with them.  Finally.  It took a few decades, but musicians have finally come into their own, as have athletes, rocket scientists and brain surgeons.  I know because as I work my way through Volumes 2 and 3 of Bullseye Canada's It Was 50 Years Ago Today, I can hear it.  The slick guitar tricks, the production values, the  stacked harmonies so important to The Beatles' unique sound.  It's all there, on most of the tracks anyway, and not one Beatle contributed a thing to the recordings (nor was one harmed during the whole entire process).

Consider this an addendum to my review of the first volume of this "series" (it was released as, shall we say, a box set ten years previously), which you can read here.  It is a breakthrough set of songs for me on two levels.  One, while I am not really enamored of The Beatles anymore (I have heard enough for ten lifetimes), I am surprised to find that I am not done with their music--- rather, their songs.  I find this collection of songs rather refreshing, in fact.  Two, I am very surprised at the quality of musicianship involved.  I have heard a few of the artists represented here, but most I have not.  All get my thumbs up, if only for lack of pretension, if nothing else.  The songs are presented straightforward and honestly.  The "gimmicks" used come across as experiments at the least, highly successful recordings at the peak.

What it really comes down to these days are the songs, am I correct?  I mean, if we live in this supposed new world of soundbyte mentality and the song is the key, it has to be all about the song.  I am finding songs throughout these three volumes which intrigue and impress me.

I mentioned Sun PK in my earlier review, and The Kings and The Lolas and The Dons and even the art school angle taken by Figures at Dawn on their version of A Day In the Life.  All present their chosen Beatles songs with a flair beyond the average club band and, truth be told, strike a gong at certain points of their presentations.  Volume 1, to my ears, is a beauty.  Volumes 2 & 3 continue with a string of greater and lesser covers, all worth hearing.  To wit:

Popdudes crank up the guitars, rhythm-heavy, and toss in a bit of punk on the side to give Helter Skelter a punch in the stomach.  Credit the power and the basic and bottom-heavy rhythm guitar.  Give the vocalist credit, too.  It takes lungs to spew like that.

What could you possibly do with Hey Jude that hasn't already been done?  I have no idea, but Eight Seconds lay it out smooth and sweet and I don't miss McCartney at all.  The concert piano helps as do the eerily Beatles-style harmonies.  They nail the ending too.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Dr. Lotech & Mrs. Hippie (featuring Terry Draper)???  Folk-Punk hipster Taxman?  I didn't get it either, until I heard it.  Odd but strangely pleasant take, in fact.

Dexters take I Want You (She's So Heavy) for a test drive at the local pub and make it work like crazy, complete with clinking glasses and background bar talk.  This caught me completely off-guard.  The organ and guitar freaking kill me.  I would have loved to have been there to see this performed live.  And, yes, it was recorded live.

The Dudes were genetically created to recreate songs like Please Mr. Postman.  Swear to God.

Not my favorite Beatles song, by far, is Blue Jay Way, until now.  Dee Long is true to the original to a large degree, but the chunky rhythm guitar and rolling bass (plus the extremely well done vocals, background and otherwise) has me rethinking my lack of appreciation for the song.  What can I say except, I'm impressed!

Anger Brothers get a pass just because they cover And Your Bird Can Sing, a song which cut deep when I first heard it.  A great song is a great song and in this case, The Angers perform it just fine.

Perhaps it is just this period of The Beatles, but I'm Only Sleeping is another song of great importance to me.  And Phil Angotti performs it with reverence, I'm convinced.

Receiver drags Mean Mr. Mustard across the punk line and beats the crap out of him just for the fun of it.  Them crazy punks, eh?  Sometimes, they make me smile.

I have wondered where musical ideas come from sometimes and am wondering right now as Steve Barton assaults my senses with the damnedest version of She's Leaving Home I've ever heard.   If tribute bands showed this kind of attitude toward the songs they covered, I would pay for a ticket.

Spongetones perform For the Benefit of Mr. Kite like they wrote the damn thing.  See what I mean?  Musicians have come so far since the old days.

I have no idea what these people were smoking when they recorded these songs, but I would mortgage my house for a semi-full.

Beatles fans, put your idolatry aside for a minute and listen to these songs with an open mind.  All of you others, just enjoy them.  Presented by Bullseye Canada, which is slowly opening its vaults to present us with treasures we probably didn't even know existed.

To the page, Bosworth!

Volume 2:  http://bullseyecanada.bandcamp.com/album/it-was-50-years-ago-today-a-tribute-to-the-beatles-vol-2

Volume 3:  http://bullseyecanada.bandcamp.com/album/it-was-50-years-ago-today-a-tribute-to-the-beatles-vol-3

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)






Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cabin--- Louisville Hasn't Sounded This Good Since The Louisville Orchestra

Back in 2005, a little known band from Florida (though I believe they lived in NYC at the time) calling themselves OAMI released an album (Day In the City) which swept me away with their vision of music--- a conglomeration of rock with beautiful but rarely used chord progressions and always a tinge of jazz (or maybe the unknown).  A few years later, 2009 to be exact, Fisher released Water, another unique adventure into the harmonious side of the aural.  And then, a few weeks ago, I happened upon a band from Louisville which brought elements of both bands to their music without probably not having heard either.  In fact, the first track from Cabin I heard melded the sounds so completely that I felt a tingle run up my spine.  I knew the band had not heard either of the previously mentioned groups but I could not put the similarities behind me.  Eerie?  A little, but more like mysterious.  How, I asked myself, do musicians so separated in time and space sound so similar on certain tracks?  Especially when the sounds are not part of the mainstream of whatever genre they play?  I don't know but they do, and they do so in spades with OAMI, Fisher, and Cabin.  And, no, you won't hear it right off.  Listen a few times and you begin to hear it, though--- the subtle touches which make a band more than just another band. 

Take, for instance, Cabin's It Is What It Looks Like, which does not borrow heavily but has the virtual same aura as Fisher's Water Burial in the beginning before morphing into an OAMI-like riff.  I don't know.  Perhaps that is the only song that gives me this overwhelming feel that the bands are similar, but I can't lose it.  The Oceanographer, another Cabin track from the album It Is What It Looks Like, continues my belief that OAMI lives under the skin, save for the killer violin solo break which is as good as it gets.

Maybe I want the bands to be similar because I love these bands and want something to grasp as a unifying writing idea.  A way to get people to listen to all three.  A way to pass long this music which is not receiving its fair due.  I don't know.  I just know I like it enough to write about it, and I don't write about music I don't like.

I like Cabin because the musicianship is above the norm, the songs are on the fringe and there is a cohesiveness to the music sadly lacking in a lot of albums these days.  I remember a buddy back in the old days calling albums like this "smo-o-oth."  I mean, everyone is on the same page.  Everyone plays a part.  But the whole....  the whole.....  It's, um, smo-o-oth.

Lucky for you, you don't have to take my word for it.  You can actually (and I mean actually) hear the band--- on the Net, if not live.  Check the tunes out below, and be sure to watch the "Five Days With" video.  Call it 'meet the band.'  It impressed me enough to make me listen closer.


A bonus!  Here is a track from an earlier album.  Man, these guys freak me out, they're so good. Makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with the rest of the world.
.


Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Burning River Ramblers--- {:to color a fool}

You have to wonder what people are thinking sometimes.  An example:  You're leafing through the record racks and you come across an album by The Burning River Ramblers.  Has to be Bluegrass or Country, right?  Guess again.  These ramblers are mainstream rock (from Cleveland and Athens, they say on their website).  Well, maybe not straight ahead mainstream rock, but mainstream enough.  But seriously?  With literally thousands and maybe millions of combinations they could come up with, they settle on Burning River Ramblers?  What's next?  A folk duo called Amplified Baby Puke?  A death metal band called Flowing Sequins?  Maybe I'm out of line here, but shouldn't the name of the band give you a clue as to what sort of music they produce?

That aside, if I have to listen to mainstream, please let it be to a band at least this good.  I think I've had a stroke recently because a handful of bands have sounded like Oami to me lately, and I'm sure you are asking who that is.  When I returned to writing music reviews after a long layoff, Oami's Day In the City was among my first.  Recorded and released in 2005, the album steamrolled me and I never really understood why.  I found it fresh and just outside the mainstream, or at least that's how I choose to remember it.  God only knows what I actually wrote (you can read the review here), but I'm sure I meant every word of it.  I listened to that album a lot back then and still occasionally pull it out to refresh my memory, usually with the thought that I should revisit it more often.

The reason that I bring that up is that {:to color a fool} steamrolls me today in the same way that Day In the City did back then. Both bands have that ability to tap dance around a song with light rhythmic touches--- sometimes syncopated, sometimes latin, sometimes just jazz-riffy--- and those touches make the difference.  Surround those rhythms with smooth vocals (and a slew of vocal hooks), flowing backup, and an attitude which reminds me more than a bit of early Steely Dan, and you have a band worthy of attention.

Cleveland.  The home of another favorite, Dan Miraldi & The Albino Winos.  Home base for The Damnation of Adam Blessing, The Raspberries and The Euclid Beach Band.  A city full of riffmeisters  and chooglers (The Burning River Ramblers qualify in both categories).

The cool thing is, in this day and age, you don't have to take my word for it.  The Net supplies links for those musicians smart enough to use them.  Here is a link to the band's web page where you can stream five tracks from this album and a string of other tunes.  Even better, scroll down to this video which captures one of my favorite songs on the album, Don't Wait On Me.


Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)