Frank Gutch Jr: Up-and-Comers for 2013, Why All the Covers, Mental Tracks, and Notes…..
Remember when I said 2012 was the best year ever in music? 2013 is even at this early date biting 2012 on the ass. Artists are lining up with what I am sure is going to be a run and a half of outstanding and, in some cases, mindblowing offerings. Rather than wait and write about them pretty much after the fact, let us dig in now in a sort of anticipatory way, shall we?
The Lonely Wild/The Sun As It Comes— Kim Grant played a track by The Lonely Wild on her radio program Town and Country (she has a half hour program which highlights roots indies four days a week on http://www.intraffik.com/) and provided a link, which I followed. What I found was a group of substance covering music sounding like The Ennio Morricone Rock & Roll Band(let’s call Right Side of the Road “A Fistful of Music”) to songs of floating beauty (Dead End) with its semi-Everly Brothers harmonies. Their EP, released in February of 2011, included a very limited quantity of 300 vinyl copies . It says on their bandcamp page (click here) that there are six remaining. And it is not expensive like so many LPs are these days. Check them out and if you want to purchase, pray that that number are still available. These guys are worth it. They have an impending release, by the way, titled The Sun As It Comes, and are previewing one track on a page which offers pre-orders. Once again, vinyl is offered at a low price. Click here…..
The Nadas/Lovejoy Revival— Back in the very early seventies, I shared love of a Phillip Goodhand-Tait album with my good friend Gary who owned The House of Records in Eugene. We spent hours in the store when no one else was there spinning I Think I’ll Write a Song trying to understand what it was about radio which prevented them from playing what we recognized as music of the first water. The voice was unique and the songwriting was over the top great, Well, I have been listening to The Nadas‘ Lovejoy Revival all weekend, haunted because I knew the sound, at least little bits of it, and could not place it. Just last night, that Phillip Goodhand-Tait album came rushing out of my past. Thank the gods. I was one step short of crazy. I tell you, even though the comparison is spotty, they are of the same class. Listen to The Nadas here. The album is full of straight-on rock, most of it of the smoother variety, and rock that few will be able to fault. Great melodies, great harmonies, excellent arrangements and especially outstanding songs make this an album to hear. To cap it all off, the band is from Des Moines, the home of a band I dearly love: Bright Giant. Must be the water.
Okay, technically Eric Lichter‘s Elks In Paris was a 2012 release but I didn’t really get into it until this past weekend. Needless to say, the fact that I’m writing about it here should tell you how much I like it. Lichter is a member of Green Pajamas but decided to head to Paris to work with ex-Posies Ken Stringfellow on his solo project and it was a genius move. Stringfellow has this intensity in the studio that ups Lichter’s songs from good to outstanding. On a few of the tracks, you have to listen hard to hear the layers of music and how they create the whole. Of course, Lichter handed Stringfellow a bunch of solid songs to begin with. This one is a winner of Linus’s Multiple Hearings Award meaning that it gets better and better the more you listen.
Copper & Glass/Copper & Glass— God, I love it when a band comes together. The guys in Copper & Glass do it beautifully on this self-titled album, thanks to an ever-present organ on top of what would be another of many country roots-influenced bands without it. I mean, I love organ anyway, but what it does to the already ear-catching songs makes this an album above the norm. Here’s a link…..
I think the hardest genre to work in these days is Pop. Pop has been around forever and is really the food which built AM radio in the fifties and sixties. As a result, as a Pop songwriter or performer, if you’re not on your game all the time, you take flak. Well, L.A.’s Rich McCulley has been creating Pop treats for a few years now and has it down. His new album, The Grand Design, is another collection of AM-ready tunes with no AM radio on which to play them. A good song is a good song, though, and McCulley has packed this one full of them. I’ve yet to hear it more than a few times but I can tell already that it is a winner. Visit Rich at his website here…..
While I was outlining this earlier today, Maxine Dunn‘s Edmund & Leo walked through the door— or perhaps I should say danced. I have heard the three or four tracks Ms. Dunn has posted as teasers on her Facebook page, but teasers are just that and don’t give the impact of full album front to back. I can tell you this much, though. Meteor Shower, the song chosen to end the album, is a production gem. I listened numerous times when it was first posted. I just could not get enough. I will be talking more about Maxine in future columns. Another winner of the Linus Multiple Listening Award. Here is a link to her music page…..
There are lots of others waiting in the wings. Hymn For Her are readying their next album for release, titled Lucy & Wayne’s Smokin’ Flames. They are in the middle of fundraising and could use a buck or two. You can pre-order here (you can also watch the video and find out exactly what they are all about). You gotta love a band using a cigar-box guitar, and they don’t play with it, they use it!….. Carl Anderson just finished his kickstarter campaign and is already putting finishing touches on his new album, Risk of Loss. I have his last album, Wolftown, and it gets airplay here all the time….. Hard rockers Era For a Moment are going into the studio next week. It has been wa-a-a-ay too long. I’ve been salivating for years. If you want to know why, follow this link and listen to Last Lesson. Shelby is hot….. Laurie Biagini is working towards completion of her next album, tentatively titled Sanctuary of Sound. More sunshine pop and surf sounds, I assume, and who knows what else she might come up with. Laurie, by the way, has agreed to be interviewed for a future column. Stay tuned….. Jim Henman, original member of April Wine, just released a topnotch album of acoustic blues and boogie music which would have had the San Francisco jug band afficianados giddy with delight. Same Old Feeling is about as far from the old psych that permeated that first A. Wine album as you can get. Click here…..
Lots more out there, too. These are just off the top of my head. Gonna be a hell of a year. A hell of a year.
The Covers Syndrome Goes Pandemic…..
If you haven’t noticed the prevalence of cover songs these days you’re just not paying attention and unfortunately in my own little corner of the world I notice them all too much. It has always been that way, of course. The whole basis for the music business has been covers until the fifties and sixties when the whole rock music business started blowing up. If you look at it closely, the original business (classical) has never been anything but covers over these past few hundreds of years, composers supplying artists and performers with their material. The whole core of the business was Handel and Beethoven and Chopin and the amazingly limited number of composers of their times supported by their respective philanthropists/royal court members of the moment. The late 1800s and early 1900s lived off of sheet music. Jukeboxes supplied the impetus for awhile and when records became the center of the music universe, it became alive and took on a personality which at first did not change all that often, not in terms of today’s world, but we learned, did we not? Now it seems like it is shifting on a daily basis, one genre battling with another and yet another for dominance in a world where the only dominance allowed is that controlled by the media and the major labels. Hence, superstar shows at halftime, viral postings of that horrible picture of Beyonce that her manager wanted deleted at all costs, a Grammy Awards program which has very little to do with music and a lot to do with antiquated Hollywood-ized ways of staging it as entertainment, and the sudden prevalence of tribute and cover bands.
Tribute and cover bands? What the hell? But it’s there in black and white on e very social media site. The Flaming Lips are evidently going to perform The Stone Roses‘ first album in its entirety. Prince wants to do an all Love show? I mean it was bad enough when these clown bands came out of the woodwork to do whole shows of a superstar band’s tunes. Randy Hansen was the first I heard of, though if you really want to get technical, drag queens were doing Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich when rock was in its infancy. Hansen used to pack out the Paramount when I first got to Seattle in the late seventies and I wondered then what the deal was. Hendrix doing Hendrix, I get. But some poser?
To be fair, a lot of the people I held in high regard were huge fans of Hansen and his Hendrix tribute. All it did was bore me. Now, superstars want to cover superstars. And I can only repeat: What the hell? I mean, I get Dread Zeppelin who live off of the kitsch and camp of what they do with Zeppelin’s music. I do not understand in any way, shape or form bands seriously performing Zeppelin songs exactly or as close to exact as they can possibly come to as Zeppelin recorded them. I do not want to hear the whole Dark Side of the Moon album replicated by Floyd wannabes, nor do I care to hear it played by any member of Floyd surrounded by high-priced henchmen.
Evidently, though, that’s just me. Bands are packing out theaters playing such tripe. While many musicians struggle to get twenty people into a bar to hear their originals. There is something sick about a society more willing to see a second-rate band play music they’ve already heard way too much than a group of musicians who play excellent originals to half full and sometimes empty halls. Give me Alcoholic Faith Mission and Picture The Ocean and Ollabelle any day. I want real music created by real musicians.
Just When I Thought I Would Give Jon Gomm a Rest…..
“Can’t wait for my UK Tour this Autumn! One important thing is I want to have LOCAL support artists for every gig. I remember trying to get support slots here in Leeds, and it was so frustrating when bands brought their own support with them, from the same record label or whatever, so no locals had a chance. And now that’s what almost always happens. Well, NOT ON MY TOUR.
“Also, for the first time ever, I have relinquished control and hired a booking agent for here in the motherland. So if you wanna book me for your venue (or hassle your local venue to book me, they love that) for my UK solo tour this autumn, his contact details are here: http://jongomm.com/contact. He’s a lovely chap called Mat and he kicks ass, BUT he is a massive scouser (that’s someone from Liverpool for you foreigners!) so I recommend emailing rather than phoning unless you have a skilled interpreter or a babelfish.
“PLEASE DON’T CONTACT HIM ABOUT SUPPORT SLOTS, I will be sorting that out personally. Everyone will get a chance.”
If more people in the music business thought like Jon does, it wouldn’t be the soap opera that it sometimes is.
The World of the Single Is a World All Its Own…..
My buddy Stanley sent me a link to Ian Hunter‘s When I’m President this past week (click here) and it got me to thinking. So many of my friends have complained over the past few years about the lack of hard politics in music these days. My generation grew up with the likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young‘s Ohio and the early folk musings of Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan and it seems strange to them that musicians are not more upfront when it comes to anti-war and/or anti-government sentiment. The whole Iraq thing blew up so quickly that one would have thought that a thousand anti-war songs would have been recorded and released overnight. Instead, we were deluged with a ton of patriotic crap, mainly from the denizens of modern uber-patriotic Nashville, with hardly a protest song in the mix.
I do not mention this to point out the lack of politics amongst musicians. I mention it because it got me to thinking of another song released during the Reagan years by Little Steven and how few took it seriously even though it was a killer song and how musicians and music listeners alike have somehow become passive rather than active in their choice of subjects. I mean, listening to When I’m President brought back so many feelings I had when I heard Vote That Mutha Out!, a plea to dump the supposed “great communicator” (who really only communicated behind closed doors and not to the benefit of the American people, as far as I could tell). I mean, I hate Reagan with a passion I hate to admit. The man was a dunce, albeit a dunce who had a machine powerful and manipulative. I remember the desire to be done with liars and cheaters who controlled the puppet strings while Reagan lovers danced in the streets. I remember the anger I felt when the students were ginned down at Kent State, too. And I hang on to the sentiment of an Ian Hunter, not even an American— not really— when he sings about what he would do when elected president. “I’m gonna lean on the one percent/When I am president/No more bargains in the basement/When I am president” he sings and it sets me to dreaming and thinking of Little Steven and his “He don’t understand the modern world/And he’s running out of time/How can he deal with the 80s/When he thinks it’s 1949” and Neil Young‘s “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming/We’re finally on our own/This summer I hear the drumming/Four dead in Ohio”. I was in the Army when Kent State happened. I slugged a sergeant who said to my face that they should line all of the hippies up and gun them down. You will never convince me that Ohio is an embarrassment like some people say these days. They weren’t there. They don’t know.
But this isn’t about politics. This is about music and how one song will lead to another and that one will lead to another, ad infinitum. Because as soon as I went through that progression, the Army days flashed through my mind and before you could say, “That damn president… look! A squirrel!” I was remembering sitting in the Red Robin Tavern (yes, that Red Robin) on the south side of the canal next to University Bridge in Seattle playing Ohio on the jukebox over and over because they only had about five songs I really liked and, truth be told, I liked that one more than any of the others. I had been drafted and had spent about a year and a half as a political dissident and was tiring of being followed around by G-2 (Military Intelligence— now ain’t that an oxymoron) all the time. My buddy Dave Gray and I hung out at the tavern sipping beer and eating a hamburger (they were just hamburgers—- the fancy menued burgers were a few years in the future) before hopping in the rental car and driving around town on a sunny Sunday just to see what was happening. Passing a small park, we noticed a few people in a picnic area setting up some amps and a PA system, so we stopped and waited. Not long after, the guys started playing and they were pretty good— good enough for us to go over and ask who they were when the quarters ran out (they had a roadie standing by the coin-oprated terminal for electrical power, chucking quarters in whenever they were needed). Turned out it was former members of The City Zu— well, a couple of guys said they were. I recognized them because I had their 45, Give a Little Bit, which had been released on Columbia Records. While they didn’t sound a bit like the 45, they cranked out some good northwest rock and it was cool to talk with them. You can check out Give a Little Bit and here is a link to another one of their Pac NW hits, Too Much Too Soon Too Fast.
Did you know that Seattle and The University of Washington worshiped their sports figures back in the day? I distinctly remember hearing The Ballad of Sonny Sixkiller one day on the radio when I worked there. And, no, I have never owned one, but I do have a couple of 45s from previous years when Charlie Browning was hitting the gridiron. Seafair Bolo Records released two 45s by a vocal group known as The Young Men. One was a takeoff of The Coasters‘ Charlie Brown. The other was a parody of Big Boy Pete and was titled (Junior’s) Backfield Beat. Huskies’ fans loved this kind of stuff. Of course, those were back when they had a team that could beat somebody.
I discovered Fotheringay while I was in the Army through my love of everything Sandy Denny. For a long time, I swore there was no more beautiful song than Who Knows Where The Time Goes, so when I found out that she was in an actual group again (she had spent a short stint with Fairport Convention earlier), I was on board. One of my favorites on the album was a light folk-rocker titled Peace In the End. When I heard that song, I knew I had heard something very special. Written by Denny and future husband Trevor Lucas, it stacked harmonies to the ceiling. I reconfirmed how great that song was a number of years later when I found a promo 45 of the song by Keith Cross & Peter Ross. Cross & Ross had released it on an album released, as far as I know, only in the UK and though I searched, I was never able to find a copy. Here is a link to a song from that album, though, and just so you don’t think I’m blowing smoke, here is a link to Fotheringay’s Peace In the End. My heart breaks every time I hear it. Out of all the music Denny wrote and performed, the work she did with Fotheringay was my favorite. Tell you what. For comparison’s sake, here is Ross & Cross’s Peace In the End (click here). I think they do the song justice and more.
Know what? I may take a trip through the 45s again sometime soon. There is something about the mental process which is so different than albums or even digital tracks. Until then, though, we have a ton of…..
Notes….. I constantly receive requests to listen to music and a large percentage of the requestees preface them with comments about the recording quality or some other comments regarding lack of studio time, etc. Well, The Curtis Mayflower didn’t request (I found a link through No Small Children‘s Lisa Parade) but had they done so, any comments would have been quickly shoved aside. They recorded four tracks, crowd noise and all, on a hand-held device got more off of those recordings than I do from many fully and beautifully produced projects. I’m not really sure who these guys are but you can bet that I will be finding out over the next number of days. You can download the tracks on a name-your-price basis from their Bandcamp page. Click here, keep an open mind and be ready to be impressed….. Good news from Michael Fennelly (The Millennium, Crabby Appleton)— in his own words: “there is gonna be another Michael Fennelly album pretty soon. I’m just waiting for the word from Sundazed that mastering is finished, and a release date is set… it’s comprised of unreleased recordings I did from 1967 thru 1973 – there are a number of demos that were recorded for Crabby’s albums and a few that were recorded on the Lane Changer LP… plus some songs I did with the rhythm section from The Millennium soon after that group disbanded… “ This will be one of those “vault” projects worth picking up, especially for collectors….. I can’t believe I am doing this, but Lisa Parade just posted a note about tracks from her old band Bigwig being available for listening on Spotify. What I can’t believe is that I’m giving Spotify a plug at all. They are evil incarnate as far as I’m concerned. At the same time, I cannot fault people for digging up music there whenever they are the only source. I, however, will exhaust every source known to man before I visit the site ever again. Not that I’m not tempted. Everything Lisa has done (she is now with No Small Children, as I mentioned before) has been outstanding….. This morning I woke up feeling like exploring a little in spite of being behind a year or so. I clicked upon a bookmark titled “Norrish Reaction by Arsdivina”, arsdivina being the nom de plume (if that is even a word or phrase) of one Steve Turnidge, Seattle mastering engineer who has been the source of so many of my favorite music finds (Thomas Hunter and Sage Run being just two). Turns out Norrish Reaction is another listen-worthy artist/band under the mastering fingers of Mr. Turnidge. I’m on my first run-through of the album-long post and admit to being quite impressed, but how could I not be when the kickoff track dragged me back to the late sixties and early seventies in an AM radio/Pop way. Thousand Roads earned NR a complete listen and as I sit here, I am slowly realizing that this album warrants much more than that. If I was a music director or program director at a radio station, I would be adding Thousand Roads to the playlist with a recommendation for the jocks to listen to the complete album to find followups. Good, good stuff. Listen here….. Every time I hear another song from Maxine Dunn‘s brand new Edmund and Leo album, I’m more impressed. This track, Meteor Shower shows a kind of prescience, wouldn’t you say? Listen here….. I have been following Sunday Lane for a few years now (despite restraining orders) and was thrilled when I saw that she tied up with another lady I have been following (Jessy Greene) to form Fauntella Crow. I have been anxiously awaiting something more from them than this demo, but the demo will give you an inkling of what is in store should they continue as a duo. If I had a label, I would sign them in a second. Listen here….. If you haven’t heard Hem and you like the ethereal side of acoustic music, you should. Right now, Noisetrade is featuring a full album download of one of their albums, and older one but a real beauty, titled Funnel Cloud. It is free (though they request a tip for the artists— you do not have to) and is well worth any trouble. I have had it and have been listening to it for a few years now. Features a voice I rank right up there next to Jeanette Beswick late of Amelia Jay: Sally Ellyson. He Came To Meet Me and Not California are two songs for the best-of-all-times archives. Click here to be taken away on that cloud…..
Frank’s column appears every Wednesday
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“Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”