Look out! Time warp! As soon as I slipped Ric Todd's Drawing Lines into the CD player it was suddenly the seventies all over again, only better. Those were good days for rock, my friends. Larry the K and I worked at Licorice Pizza in L.A. and San Diego and, man, we were digging the music! We would get shipments in, put on a rocker like, say, the first REO Speedwagon or a Scorpions album, and we would rock the store, bopping heads with an armful of records, heading from section to section restocking the bins. One time, we passed one another, each playing a stack of albums like air guitar, leaned back and played a dual lead together. As soon as the guitar break was over, we headed toward the racks, laughing.
K and I recently renewed our friendship after a few decades of little contact and I think we both realize how golden those days were. We loved the same music and when we didn't, we tried. We shared our music like people share air. It just came natural. So when I heard Todd's EP, I thought of the K. This is classic rock with roots not unlike that of Pat Travers and Lone Star and early Aerosmith. True, Todd does not look like the bands of that era (if I didn't know better, I would have expected Americana or standard singer/songwriter fare) but he sure as hell sounds like it. And it's only partially in the guitar.
Most of it is in the groove because that replaced the ol' hook when pop gave way to rock. Think Savoy Brown and Foghat and Climax Blues Band--- louder and softer. Upbeat, unplugged on one of the five tracks, the other four pure groovers. Like the opening track, Red Letter:
Got the idea? Hell of a track with lyrics right up there with Shakespeare and Longfellow (seriously, this is possibly what they would be writing if they lived today). Dig this:
I stand up/Heavy is the hand that's had enough/I stand up/Bury me in lies and cover me in flies/I stand up/Blacken out the sky with anger/I stand up (red letter)/You cannot control what I do not submit
You getting this? That's not all. There's a chorus:
A bird in flight to your quicksand/A hammer strike to your nail/To live a life that you can't have/Bend now I won't to your will
Man, them's lyrics, Skeezix! None of this rhyming love with dove or blue with you. This cat stands up! And it doesn't stop there. Check out the chorus on New Religion:
Because every time you put your hands on me/I find a new religion/And I just gotta get my hands up
Beats the hell out of the lyrics of those ol' rock ballads.
The band backs it up, too. Two guitars (probably one of the guitarists playing bass at times)--- Todd and Dale Heib. Drums and percussion courtesy of Casey Smith. And they come ready to rock! Todd handles the vocals and does a damn fine job, Heib nailing down the high harmonies. They even have a hint of Trower on End of My Rope.
Sad thing is, this may be my only chance to write about Todd and crew. I write only about the music I like and then only because they need a leg up. By the time this album is available everywhere, everyone will get into it. He will no longer need me to help spread the word. It will spread on its own.
The dude is from Fargo, sports fans. The last musician I heard from Fargo was Lucy Black who put out a solo album right after Betty Does Veronica split up. You might have been watching the TV series. Now you can hear the music. Buy this EP. Consider it an investment in happy.
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. 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 gracefully.)