Frank Gutch Jr: Sacred Cows of Music, Indies You Don’t Want To Miss, Tom House, The Fire Tapes, A Reminder About Jon Gomm’s Upcoming Canadian Tour and Notes, Notes, Notes…..

I follow Jaimie Vernon on Facebook not because he has anything to say (kidding, Jaimie) but because he has a way of pushing buttons that bring out the worst in people.  When he’s pissed or maybe just  mischievous, he can bring out more of a knee-jerk reaction than an “I Love Obama” placard at a Tea Party convention.  And he did.  Last week.  I can’t quite remember what he posted originally, but I do remember the responses, many of which make me shake my head.  They weren’t pretty.  His response to those was a bit of an I-get-this-kind-of-asshole-response-every-time-I-post-something-not-glowing-about-the-(insert iconic idol here).  In other words, he, like myself, does not love The Beatles just because they were The Beatles and God forbid he make such a statement public.

I am constantly wondering how one band curries public favor while others remain virtually unknown— how some artists are considered untouchable in a world which glorifies desecration.  If I posted a list of my favorites musicians, a large percentage of people who might stumble upon it would blast me out of the water with the who’s-thats and if-I’ve-never-heard-of-them-they-can’t-be-worth-a-craps.  Most, of course, would simply glance and move on because it would not be worthy of even a short response.  Time wasted.  I have better things to do.  But God forbid I say something not positive (let alone negative) about Michael Jackson or The Beatles or The Rolling Stones (though, oddly enough, negative comments about Justin Bieber are most welcome) without 90% of readers pulling out the guns and threatening death.

I don’t get it.  Some of what The Beatles produced was mediocre, at best, by the members of the band’s own admissions.  Yet point out the shortcomings of, say, an Octopus’s Garden or an Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and you invite hate mail?  I have to be honest with you.  Thriller didn’t thrill me nor has anything Prince.  As I stated in last week’s column, most Stones offerings after Exile are pure crap.  The Beatles’ solo albums?  El stinko, though certain songs stand up well enough.  And I key these to make a point.  These are my own opinions.  If you disagree, I understand.  After all, music is personal.  But when many of you throw it in my face and refuse to let it go, I am forced to respond.  I prefer not to.  I prefer to smile and move on, but some people seem to have this need for confirmation.

In my head, those people do not deserve a response.  What they deserve is therapy.  If something as innocuous as a less than super-positive stance toward your favorite artists pisses you off, you’re in trouble.  Judging by the handful of responses I got regarding my stance toward superstars in last week’s column, I would have to say that there are way too many loose cannons on the musical landscape.  I’m not angry, I’m just sayin’.

I’m also sayin’ that if any one of those who responded negatively have actually taken time to listen to any one of my suggestions regarding today’s music, they are one amongst, well, hundreds.  I want to say millions but days like today I feel like there aren’t even a million in the world who really gives a shit about music anymore.  And as much as I know that’s not true, I hope it makes my point.

And thanks for the suggestions, but those things are much too large to be placed where you proposed.

The Real Gift of Music…..

God, but I love it when the music flows, especially when it is not just the music that has been on the spindle for awhile but the new stuff.  There is something rejuvenating about finding or being handed something special, even if it is not groundbreaking or mindblowing.  I feel like a kid when it happens— like it’s Christmas morning or like I’ve just gotten a new hardback book that needs breaking in, the pages new and crisp and the spine crackling as I pull small numbers of pages from both front and back and carefully press them down before I do it again and again until the spine gives just enough.  This weekend has handed me a small number of albums which smell to a kid like fumes at a gas station or a newly mimeographed page (those who missed mimeographs, I grieve your loss).  Music so fresh that it will take weeks to fully assimilate, but here I am prematurely giving my thoughts and, correlatively, my suggestions.

Whispering Pines/Whispering Pines—  I knew these guys were special right off, the rockin’ Move On hounding a rolling bass and a shuffling rock beat.  No doubt these guys are rockers, I heard myself think, but no, they are more than that.  Next track, Come and Play is a country rocker, of sorts, and a damn good one.  It takes me back to the days of the seventies country-rockers I so much miss— Cat Mother (depending upon track) and Heartsfield and Country Funk and the like.  In fact, many  of the songs on the album do.  When I later looked at their promo sheet, sonofagun if they didn’t state right on it that they were going for that seventies sound.  Well, they nailed it.  Amazingly well.  Favorite tracks have to be Purest Dreams for its long jam (the feel is straight out of the seventies) and Wolf Moon with its Marshall Tucker sound and feel.  The album won’t be out until mid-September (I know, them sonsabitches) but I tell you it will be more than worth the wait.  You can stream Come & Play and One More Second Chance on their Myspace page.  You won’t want to make a final judgment until you hear Wolf Moon, though.  It is a song written for simple guitar leads and that ol’ Hammond B-3.  In my head, you can’t beat the sound for that seventies head rush.

Allan Thompson Band/Salvation In the Ground—  Here we go again.  What I said about Whispering Pines, but less rock and maybe a bit more of a Grateful Dead/Eagles twist.  Again, these guys drag me back to a very important part of my life, a time I was discovering music daily (thanks to my good friends at The House of Records in Eugene).  If you’ve heard Uncle Jim’s Music, early Cowboy or Heartsfield, you know what I’m talking about.  There is a negative side, though.  The graphics on the insert are close to unreadable.  Thank the gods, I have my 2,000X magnifying glass so I can make out the song titles.  That’s my only complaint.  Otherwise, this is pure seventies gold, country rock-wise.

Maxi Dunn/The Neglected Gambit—  This is the real shocker in the bunch.  I have been a Net acquaintance of Ms. Dunn for a little over a year now, thanks to Laurie Biagini who spent a lot of time telling me I should take a gander.  I resisted, probably because if the music doesn’t hit my ears right I won’t write about it and, believe it or not, I hate to ignore or worse, bash anyone’s music.  Especially someone like Maxine.  She shared information with me about her experiences with Net Radio, a subject I thought I might tackle (that piece has been delayed), and has been very forthcoming with any info I have requested.

I should not have worried.  Turns out The Neglected Gambit is one of those treasures you find all too seldom.  My thumbs hurt from keeping them up every time I listen and I’ll tell you why.  It’s a freakin’ monster of an album.  Oh, I didn’t think so first time through, though I have to admit that You Took the Sunshine From My Heart put me into shock, it was so good.  And the rest of the album followed..

How it happened was that I decided to take a drive to the Oregon Coast Saturday afternoon.  I suffered from a bit of cabin fever and needed the sunshine and fresh air, so I grabbed five CDs which needed to be listened to and headed out.  I had that morning received an album by one Lianne Smith, recommended by friend and musician Brian Cullman, and I was intrigued to say the least.  Lianne received first listen and when it ended, I reached over and pulled out The Neglected Gambit, feeling sorry for Maxi.  Lianne’s Two Sides of a River was going to be a hard album to follow.  Cullman knows his stuff.

In popped the CD and out came the music and I drove and drove and became totally enthralled in not only what a beautiful day it was but how fast the music took me in.  I was high on life, my friends, and high on Maxi Dunn and getting higher with each mile.  The album ended but my player loops and I left it in and listened again and then a third time.  Each song took me in a different direction and I began hearing sounds I’d heard elsewhere, much of which it was unlikely Maxi had ever heard.  I was awash in mid-Cher, later Stevie Nicks, later Petula Clark and even heard touches of Carole King and The Shangri-las here and there.  In fact, the third time through I began thinking that Nicks might do worse than to approach Maxi about recording two of her songs, specifically Weather Warning and Make It Better, both which topped most of Nicks’ earlier solo stuff.  Make no mistake, the songs are pure Maxi, but I could hear Nicks doing great versions of each.

Don’t need to hear them, though.  Maxi does them just fine.  Does all of the others just fine, too.  You know what does it?  Arrangements.  I remember a thread not long ago in a music forum I frequent about whether arrangers should get more respect.  After hearing this, I wholeheartedly say yes.  The songs are arranged beautifully, of course, but the vocal arrangements are outstanding!  All you need do is lay a super-dense production value on top and you have something to take to the bank.  They took it.  Deposited it too.

I am loving this album right now.  I hear sixties Hollywood and seventies rock and a bit of theater music over wall-of-sound female background choruses (all Maxi) and it all reinforces the importance of arrangements.  It makes me happy.  This should not be this good, but partially due to arrangements it is.

Thanks also to a broken heart (and I mean really broken) and the musical therapy of writing this album.  Thanks to Maxi’s voice which changes at her will and fits each song to a ‘T’.  Thanks to Peter Hackett who besides percussion is the band.  And thanks to Steve Turnidge who heard the value of the denseness at a time everyone else seems to want to clean up sound.  Thanks to an amazing string of songs written by a songwriter of note:  Maxi.

Not everyone will get this right off, which is why I give it the coveted Linus Repeated Listening Award.  Hell, not everyone will get it at all, which, truth be told, upsets me a mite.  That’s okay, though.  I’ll just drown out the thought by playing the album loud, front to back.  By the time I get to the closer, the stunning Winter Ghost, I will once again be carried away by the music and temporarily unavailable to the real world.  I couldn’t ask for a more perfect closer.  So I won’t.

An afterthought and a hint:  I find it very intriguing that much of Maxi’s background vocals are straight out of Alcoholic Faith Mission‘s playbook.  I’m pretty sure Maxi had not heard them (or most likely of them) when this album was recorded, but there it is.  Intense, deep harmonies from the deep end of the pool.  Sometimes, the stars align, you know?

The Tom House Conundrum…..

I sit in a small room with bare cement walls, a single high-watt light bulb suspended from the ceiling and blinding the eyes and someone behind that light asking questions.  Intense questions.  Personal questions.  I’m tired.  Haven’t slept in forever and have no hope of sleep now and my eyes hurt and my head hurts and I realize I am in a hell of my own making.

The voice behind the light is recognizable and it sings more than questions.  “Late at night,” it moans, “whiskey sings like angels, sings like shadows, seems like something might need forgiving, maybe never needed nothing like it, come the light of day,” and my eyes want to close and I fall into a deep, dark hole of my own making, a hell of glaring light and grays and cement.  I am tortured.

I am tortured because I promised Tom House after hearing his amazing Winding Down the Road album that I would carry the standard for the oncoming battle to get his music heard and I have failed miserably.  Not that the battle is over.  The album is still new and the music is still as vibrant as ever and I am again gathering my mental forces from wherever they have been hiding and am ready to meet evil head on, should it come to that.

I am not the only one who believes in this album.  Keith Morris (of The Crooked Numbers fame) and Lance Smith (still sinking in that creek) believe in it enough to have put together an outstanding video showcasing Whiskey Sings Like Angels (watch it here) and have committed themselves to the cause and are currently tilting at windmills, Don Qixote-style.  Not for money or riches.  Not for fame.  More to gain respect for a musician much talented and so little heard.

To find out more about House, follow this link.  The man is unique.  The musician is in a world all his own.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fire Tapes…..

I am trying to remember who found these guys for me— it was either Charlottesville’s WarHen Records or music geologist/drummer Stuart Gunter.  It means something because they mean something and I always feel the need to give thanks when the music discovery warrants it.  The music of The Fire Tapeswarrant it.

They harken back to the days of Flower Power and The Fillmore and The Avalon while reflecting the values of The Winterpills, a band which has more than captured my attention.  They walk ground broken by the likes of The Jefferson Airplane and Frumious Bandersnatch and a handful of today’s bands treading water in the psychedelic pool— for instance, The Soundcarriers.  They are loose but cohesive.  More than that, they are damn good!  Damn good!  Don’t believe me?  Tell you what.  I will pull all of my resources together and force them to give you a download of their last album, Dream Travel, free!  That’s right.  Free!  I know.  I’m one hell of a guy.

Just follow this link to download heaven or to just stream the music.  I recommend spending five bucks and getting a physical copy, though.  I dig these guys and wonder when we will get more.  Soon, I hope.

Once Again, Canada— Jon Gomm!

You are probably beginning to think that I am on Gomm’s payroll.  Not so, Cheeseheads. (and could someone please tell me why people in Seattle referred to Canucks as Cheeseheads back in the eighties?)  I’m just trying to keep you from kicking yourselves in the ass later.  Jon Gomm is breaking out everywhere (largely because he’s so goddamned talented) and this may be the only time you will have a chance to see him in a smaller venue.  Here is his schedule, dates which start August 1st and go through the 18thClick here to see if he is playing anywhere near you, then treat yourself.  This guys is on his own planet!  And trust me, if he had any gigs stateside, I’d be browbeating United Statesians too.  Evidently, he’s been following the political posts on Facebook and is delaying a US tour until the stink fades.  It’s no wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re crazy.

Notes…..    I’ve been talking about Dala‘s Best Day album for a few weeks now.  Here is a video from that album titled Lennon and McCartney.  Featuring the Dancing Honeybears and (gasp!) vinylWatch it here…..  This just in from Australia’s Pete Fidler:  “Water costs more than Coke at Brisbane Airport.”  And you thought it was easy to be a musician…..  Her name is Amanda Rogers.  Their name is Vegas With Randolph(who are, not surprisingly, not from Vegas).  The music video is Supergirl, the song taken from VWR‘s new Above the Blue album.  Spring is a wonderful time of year…..  Cowboy‘s Scott Boyer is back on “vinyl”, having just recorded an album alongside cohort N.C. Thurman titled OK, How About This.  You can hear the southern roots and everything else those two have picked up over the years.  Here is a link to sample songs…..  When Austin writer Jim Caligiuri inadvertently turned me on to Erin Ivey, I had no idea it would lead to something just short of obsession.  I have listened to her Broken Gold album a few hundred times now and have just become aware of a FREE download of four tracks she recorded live at St. Matthews Church— just a girl and her guitar.  There is an immediacy in the sound which immediately captured my ear.  You can listen or download here, if you like…..  The MinnowsMichael Rafferty hamstrung me after sending a rough mix of the band’s heavily orchestrated (for a reason) Where Were You.  Because there is no link to the song, you will have to take my word for it that it is a hauntingly sad song (something Rafferty seems to have down pat) and worth waiting for.  Does this mean a new album is over the horizon?  I’ve been hoping that since I first heard their excellent Leonard Cohen Is Happy Compared To Me album.  I guess good things come in their own time…..  A couple of weeks ago, DBAWIS‘s Jaimie Vernon pointed to two bands in hopes that people might at least scope them out.  I did.  Both the J David Bandand The Well Wishers, I am happy to report, are worth a side trip on the Net.  JDB has a bit of eighties (the good side, thank the gods) and uses a Sho-Bud pedal steel on certain tracks.  Luckily, the eighties touches take a subversive position to the rock they play and, in fact, adds to the final mix.  The Well Wishersare a bit more rock and roll and punchy, tripping along the edges of what used to be called New Wave.  I give each a thumbs up…..  Remember my ranting and raving about Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers?  Allow me to continue.  Here is a preview listen to her upcoming EP— one original and the rest covers.  Courtesy of No Depression and Signature Sounds Records.  You’re welcome!…..  Also, Signature Sounds stalwarts Winterpills have just posted an exclusive viewing of their new video, Sunspots, taken from their latest album All My Lovely GonersFollow this link to Blurt, click on the video link, lie back and relax….. You lucky Montrealers and Torontons have Sydney Wayser coming your way, too.  She will be in Montreal on July 24th at Divan Orange and in Toronto at The Supermarket on July 25th.  Doors open at 8 both nights.  Don’t miss out!  Her Bell Choir Coast album remains in my Top Five of this year and word has it that her live show is really something worth seeing.

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.”

5 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Sacred Cows of Music, Indies You Don’t Want To Miss, Tom House, The Fire Tapes, A Reminder About Jon Gomm’s Upcoming Canadian Tour and Notes, Notes, Notes…..”

  1. Frank,
    The moronic argument on my Facebook page – one of many to commemorate the Music War of 2012 – was that kid on YouTube vilifying Hendrix and deifying Skrillex. Or what I like to call “Your music sucks because you’re old and fat and ugly”. Nothing like a redundant wrestling match between music lovers that are two generations apart. Sigh. I’d rather read YOUR column…promoting new music or re-discovering long-lost and overlooked “could have been” classics.

    And I too am a Maxi Dunn convert. She is the epitome of Do It Yourself – she writes, she sings, she performs and she makes her own very inventive home videos. This woman has more taste AND grace than any indie performer I know (though on any given day I might be inclined to give that trophy to Laurie Biagini in a tie).

    Keep them coming Frank!

  2. frank you’ve clearly never insulted justin bieber on twitter. i did once and I thought i had to enter wit-pro. great piece!

  3. Great review of Maxi’s CD Frank! Im pleased to be able to work on the songs on the albums, quite often the demos I get to work on already suggest the sound ( and style )of the song, all I have to do is just play em then. All the way through Maxi says yay, or nay, to whatever way the songs going, and often has a cast iron idea for individual sounds, even to whistling the solo’s on occasions! Already more or less finished album number 3, cant see anyone being disappointed with it, as its got light and shade, drama, and a VERY positive outlook to it! Glad to be able to produce em! 🙂
    Cheers! Pete H!!!

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