Frank Gutch Jr: FREE DOWNLOADS? What? Is It Christmas Already?… Kail Baxley: Music Even Your Momma Would Like… and a Little Knowledge in the Form of Notes…..

Boy, the things some of us have to do to find the free stuff, eh?  I was sitting back enjoying college football Saturday when Erin Ivey busts down the door and starts screaming about this Emily Wolfe character and how I have to listen to her album and maybe I can get a free download or something.  I was about to throw her out when she got to the “free” part and, well, you know me— cheapest sonofabitch in the lower 48— so I heard her out, checked out Wolfe’s music and then tossed Ivey out on her keister, after which I calmly downloaded Wolfe’s Director’s Notes.  At least, that’s the way I choose to remember it and I’m sticking to it.

What really happened was that I was scrolling through Facebook and Ivey had posted a link to a free download of Wolfe’s album.  Had it been someone other than Ivey I might have kept scrolling but Ivey herself had put her own Broken Gold album on the free market awhile ago and I confess to not only downloading it but listening to it numerous times and, what the hey, eh?  I reviewed it.  I always tip my hat to Jim Caligiuri for that because he was the one to post that link and he being a music reviewer of no mean stature, I am afraid not to.  Give credit where credit’s due I always say.  Caligiuri, that’ll be fifty bucks.  You bum.

Actually, I am going to belay that fifty buck charge because the whole thing has given me a subject for today’s column— free downloads.  They’re all over the place, you know.  Here, there and everywhere as Beatles fans are wont to tell me (or worse yet, sing me).

Now, here is what I was thinking before I started this— what with Christmas coming up and all, many of you are probably scratching your heads trying to come up with not just the perfect gift but the perfect number of gifts and while music has been shoved aside by an industry intent upon destroying itself, it used to be the perfect gift.  When I was a kid, the first Christmas I had access to a real record player, I received two records— Fats Domino‘s Blueberry Hill and Elvis Presley‘s Elvis EP (the one with Rip It Up on it).  You don’t think I wasn’t ecstatic?  Halfway through that day, after breaking every toy handed to me by my cash-strapped parents, I still had the records and I discovered the lasting value of music.

The thing is, while most people are strolling around talking about music as if it has no value, not everyone is.  The Kids aren’t.  Not the ones I know.  They’re digging on whatever they find— through their friends, through the media, through social networking and, yes, through free downloads.  They’re digging it and a percentage of those kids, contrary to popular opinion, do pay for a goodly portion of what they want.

Most have told me, though, that the big problem is finding the music.  Well, how about this?  I am doing my due diligence and finding you things to check out.  For your wife or husband.  For your kids.  For your parents.  All you have to do is listen and download, if you wish.

And here is a suggestion that might make it all worthwhile.  If you hear something amongst these you think that special person might like, download it (these are, after all, FREE), put them on disc and hand the disc over on Christmas Morn.  After that, it’s up to them.  If they don’t want to listen, disown or divorce them.  Chances are, though, they will be so intrigued that they will eventually get around to slipping the disc into the computer and, on occasion, will transfer that one (or two or three) songs to their iPod or MP3 player.  Maybe even one or two or three albums.

This may be fun, but it may also be hard work for you as well as myself.  Let’s try it out.  Get ready.  The thumbnail reviews start now:

EMILY WOLFE/Director’s Notes—  Why not start with the album which put me on this track?  Before Ivey had posted the link, I had no idea who Emily Wolfe was, but I certainly do now.  I have heard her voice in a number of other recordings (meaning that I have heard voices similar) but hers is a beauty.  Soft, quiet and form-fitted to the excellent songs she writes.   Louder and more poignant when making a point.  I once had a friend tell me he wasn’t ever going to listen to another female singer/songwriter because there was just too many of them.  I can attest to the fact that there aren’t that many who are this good.  Think Pieta Brown and Ruth Moody and Amy Speace and a handful of others who have that magic touch when it comes to melody and harmony.  This is truly good stuff.  Follow this link, click on the icon and it will take you to the download page.  The deal is only available through Facebook as far as I can tell and you do have to “like” Wolfe’s page, but after hearing the songs, you more than likely will want to follow her anyway.  She’s that good.

TRIXIE WHITLEY/Noisetrade Mixtape—  I’ve mentioned Noisetrade numerous times in my writings and there is a reason.  They have an incredible selection of downloads available, most or all for free if you can’t afford them.  Even if you can, truth be told.  They have a button where you can pay, but it is on a tip basis rather than cost.  You are encouraged as much to listen and download as pay, but recompense is good karma, so why not?  A tip is as good as a wink to a blind horse, eh?

I have been turned on to a number of my favorite indies through the site and recommend it highly.  They have some fairly big names participating in the “giveaway,” names like Freelance Whales and Trampled By Turtles and Steve Forbert and The Civil Wars and Dawes— artists who are packing out festivals and venues throughout North America and beyond and much of the music is somewhat exclusive (outtakes, live recordings not otherwise available, etc).  And they have plenty.

How did I find Trixie Whitley?  A lady I have immense respect for music-wise and who shall remain nameless (Sigh, okay, her name is Simone Elyse Stevens and I found her through the band Fiery Blue)has been hammering people for the past few weeks to load up on Trixie and, truth be told, I cannot resist those baby blues.  So I listened and then downloaded and haven’t looked back.  Whitley’s voice, powerful and strong, is the focal point in her Noisetrade Mixtape, which is as cool a sampler as I’ve seen and heard.  You get two tracks from her upcoming January release, tentatively titled Fourth Corner, a previously unreleased song, a track from her Live at Rockwood EP, a track from an earlier EP (The Engine) and an alternate version of A Thousand Thieves.  You couldn’t have mixed it up better if you shuffled them on a CD player.

Are they good?  If you like a strong voice steeped in blues, jazz, soul and rock, absolutely.  To listen to what you can download (and again, it is FREE if you want it), click here.  The instructions are self-explanatory.  You can learn more about Whitley at her own site by clicking here.

RESEARCH TURTLES/The Whole Damn Store—  Man, there isn’t a better deal on the Internet!  Lake Charles’ Research Turtles, have decided to celebrate the release of their latest EP, Mankiller Part 2 of 2, by allowing free downloads of their entire catalogue!  You dig Pop and Power Pop?  These guys do it as well as anyone.  You have kids who like bands like AC-DC and Big Star and The Shoes?  This is the band to hear.  To sweeten the deal, RT‘s main songwriter, Jud Norman, has tossed his solo albums and demos into the mix.  Deals like this don’t happen that often, trust me.  And talk about a breeze!  Just head to their site (click here) and click on the album or EP you want.  Download one or download them all.  I’m telling you, these guys rock the house (when they’re not serenading you to sleep in Rockville).  Parents, if you think you don’t know enough to find your kids something they might like, download this for them.  They may well be thanking you in the not too distant future.

THE BIG MOTIF/Live at Quixote’s—  Like three man rock (and I’m not talking CSN here) or have a kid who is a budding guitarist?  Colorado’s The Big Motif can fill both those bills easily.  They crunch, rock out, trip the jazz fantastic and have a well-honed blues edge.  Maybe a bit more adventurous than most of you want, but that’s the beauty of these guys.  They play a bit of everything and they pull it off!  Had these guys been playing the West Coast during the Summer of Love, they would have been right in there with the big guys— Santana, Airplane, Quicksilver and even Hendrix.  The Big Motif is a musician’s band, pure and simple.  Listen and download here.

THE FIRE TAPES/Dream Travel—  There are a number of bands right now waxing the psych fantastic and few are doing it better than Charlottesville’s The Fire Tapes.  They have a bit of a Winterpills‘ leaning (if you like folk- and rock-psych, you really have to hear the Pills’ Tuxedo of Ashes EP) with a sprinkling of late-sixties San Francisco, a sound I can’t get enough of these days.  When this album begins, I flash back to the days of Billy Shear’s in Eugene and the sound of PH Phactor echoing inside as I anxiously bought my ticket.  Ah, those were good times.  You can download Dream Travel here.  The good news is that not only do they have a 45 ready for release (on tiny WarHen Records, also out of Charlottesville), but are also finishing up a new album.  I can’t wait.

FILLIGAR/The Nerve—  Chicago has a music scene right up there with the best and lately I’ve been having a good time finding my way through it.  I am entranced by Jennifer Hall, Braam, Jenny Gillespie and a whole slew of artists from there, including Filligar, one of those elusive bar bands I used to love so much.  Straight ahead rock not unlike that of Duke Jupiter, one of my all-time favorite mainstream bands, they play music that makes you want to dance.  They can lay you back and pick you up at the same time.  Solid vocals, great rhythm and electric piano that thrills me to death.  I personally think, next to the Wurlitzer and Hammond organ, it is the least utilized band instrument these days.  Got a husband who likes to slug down brew and party?  Download this (click here) and let the fun begin!

DANGEROUS PONIES/Gave UP—  Okay, it’s only one track but it’s a track I like!  There are shades of, well, Shade in this track (you can scope out head Shade Jane Gowan‘s site here), an upper of a rocker with heavy pop overtones.  Kind of Shade meets Katrina & the Waves.  It’s a name-your-own-pricer, which means you can put zero in the purchase box and get it free (click here).  Just so you’re aware, the band does have two other releases available for listening, but not for freeloading, if you get my drift.

THE STALACTITES/Dark Matters—  Like the title suggests, this trio produces mood music for progheads.  At times, they remind me of Providence’s Knitting By Twilight, the percussion and more adventurous compositions taking wider than mainstream steps but pretty much staying within the major chord structure.  What would you call it?  Folk/Classical?  Neo-Classical?  Doesn’t matter too much.  It’s pretty nice stuff.  Judging by their email address, they are evidently from France.  Click and download here.

ACTION NEWS TEAM/Sick, Sad World—  God, I love bands like this!  But evidently they don’t, or at least didn’t like these tracks.  This is a neo-retro look back to bands like The Trashmen and oddballs of that ilk— a study in the past wrapped up in the gadgetry of today.  Think deep reverb, echo and the occasional trip into Addams Family territory.  The songs are short music guitarical extravaganzas a la The Ventures minus the surf.  Click here.  Oh, it’s all instrumental too.

EMILY LEONG/Tides—  When I found Emily Leong, I was drawn to her voice and phrasing.  She has a bit of Linda Draper to her in presentation, the voice slightly disconnected on certain songs.  I love that.  Sometimes I need to get away from the intensity and urgency in the music most singer/songwriters seem to think necessary and Draper was a breath of fresh air when it came to that— a slight break from the real world, if you will.  Leong has that same approach.  Tides is a great example of “less is more,” the songs so much less but so much more for that less, if that makes sense.  The makeup is simple— guitar, voice and the occasional cello/violin accompaniment.  The result, for me at least, is pure ease.  I don’t have to work to appreciate this music.  It is what it is.  Listen and download here.

FORT ATLANTIC/Noisetrade Sampler—  If you listen to the radio (Is there radio anymore?  It’s been so long since I’ve even tried…), you obviously think that regular old mainstream doesn’t exist anymore.  You know, those bands which just play straight on rock, some harder and some softer.  I stumbled on Fort Atlantic maybe about a year ago when I first found Noisetrade.  There is a look toward song and not gimmick on this little sampler and I hear what radio back in the mid-seventies was selling to its listeners— a softer rock approach.  This is as classy as it gets when it comes to plain old heartfelt rock.  Excellent vocals, good harmonies and outstanding songs, even if there are only five of them.  Listen to me.  They’re FREE, for chrissakes!  Five or five hundred.  These five are for the whole family.  Good stuff.  Click here.

You know that you can do this yourself, right?  In fact, I suggest you do.  I always fgly by the seat of my pants when searching for music and what I choose to listen to might well be what you would not, so why not?  Here are some tips.

NOISETRADE:  As much as I distrust any site which promotes others for their own gain, Noisetrade seems to be the go-to music download site.  Not only do you get the oddities and do-it-yourselfers, you get the “major label” artists that you might not expect.  And they make it fairly easy to find them, considering how many they have in their pages.  A simple click to puts you on their “New & Notable” page which is a good starting point.  You can scroll through page after page of artists’ compilation or sometimes full albums, all free for the download.  If you have a specific request, just type the artist’s name into the site’s search engine and watch them do their magic.  If it is there, you will be forwarded to the page.  If not, you will get a “Not Found” message.

Searching through the site is an adventure.  Many artists have chosen to release their odd material through the site— say, a live recording they are only making available for a short time or maybe an earlier EP, recorded before their current (and probably only imagined) success.  Filligar found their way onto my MP3 player through this site as did one of my current favorites, Hannah Miller (Her O Black River sampler was an eye-opener).  Fort AtlanticBlitzen TrapperRichard Barone (Man, where has he been hiding all these years).  Brandi CarlileMatthew Sweet.  And what seems like a thousand you will not know until you take a chance and listen.  It is fun if you have the time and, boy, if your kid or significant other or just good buddy really loves the music and not just the star aspect of it, you can be handing them a whole new world.

Of course, this comes with a caveat.  Beware of karma.  If you take from these people, you have to give something back, but that part is easy.  All you have to do (besides take the time) is turn someone on to the site or page or pass the music along with the understanding that if the music hits home, you owe it something.  It works easily with me, this passing of karma, because music is important to me.  When I cannot afford it, I find it and write about it.  Maybe you can’t (or won’t) write, but you can talk about the music.  You can pass the word along.  And you can support the artists when they pass anywhere near.  Sometimes there is nothing better for your karma than to step into a tavern or lounge or small theater to hear someone who handed you music for free.  It’s called full circle, sportsfans.

BANDCAMP:  I think of all the sites I visit regularly, Bandcamp (alongside Soundcloud) is my favorite.  It seems that a large percentage of the bands I write about have gone the Bandcamp route:  Shade, The Violet Archers, Marshburn, Picture The Ocean and so many more.  True, not all of them put music up for free, but they have at times done so.  To get people to listen.  To make it readily available for writers and potential fans.  To make it visible.  So I use it a lot.  For streaming as well as downloads.  The cool thing is that they have made it easy for you to find the free stuff.  Yep.  They put up a series of pages listing artists who have downloads for free (or on a Name-Your-Own-Price basis).  What more do you want?  For them to hand it to you?  Send it to you by mail?  You have to do some of the work, Skeezix, or you won’t appreciate it, don’t you know?

It’s simple.  Click here and watch the Bandcamp world become your oyster.  You’ll notice that the vast majority of the albums, EPs and songs will have a “Free Download” or “Name Your Own Price” button.  Click on the album jacket of choice, listen and, if you likee, clickee.  They couldn’t make it better if it was a game.  But it isn’t.  It is music and it is a few clicks away.

To show you how well it can work, I now have this lineup of artists to check out for review just from my prep work for this column:  Marya Stark, Chris Rubeo, Lautaro Feldman, The Epithets, Jay Fraser and a few million others.  Okay, not million, but it might just get there by the time I have followed the connections which seem to go on forever.  God, but I love what I do.  It might not pay as good, but it is a lot better than slingin’ hash.

KAIL BAXLEY:  Fair Warning—  You didn’t think I would let you get away without forcing another incredible musician down your throat, did you?  And this one is special.  No, wait.  They’re all special.  But this one made Eric Corne set aside his new album for awhile to help Baxley make his splash.  It didn’t make me all that happy, either, because I am a Corne fanatic and have been awaiting the followup to Kid Dynamite & The Common Man for too damn long, but after listening to the preview tracks which were so humbly passed along (Corne knows better than to mess with me), I understand.  Turns out Baxley is a head taller and a song further than most.

His voice has a quality not unlike that of Bill Withers in texture and tone, but Baxley’s songs are a bit outside Withers’ comfort zone.  He writes with the fervor of the musical theater and the heart of the troubadour.  He weaves simple themes into an intricate cloth, embellishing them like colorful lyrics on canvas.  And he covers a spectrum— soft and intimate to knock-the-doors-down brilliant.

How do I know this guy has the goods?  I’ve been listening to him for a few weeks now and I have yet to find the bottom.  With most artists’ music, you brush a layer or two away and you are done.  In some cases, that is all well and good.  Some of my favorite songs have a simplified quality to it.  With Baxley, though, as you peel back the layers, the songs begin to show themselves not as what they are but as what they can be.  The music is not that complicated.  It is what he does with it that counts.

Corne says they are looking at a January or at least early 2013 release.  They are at this moment gathering forces, readying themselves for battle.  Over the past few weeks, I have come to think like they do— that Kail Baxley deserves that little extra push, not to make money but to give people a chance to discover him.  There is a difference.  Stay tuned.

I know.  It has been a long and difficult trek through the record stacks, but never fear.  There is always time for…..

Notes…..  As if Arboreawasn’t enough for us, that band’s Buck Curran spends a lot of his time listening to and promoting other artists of the traditional folk and folk/psych bent.  Just today, he posted a link to a review of one Allysen Callery, a lady who revisits much of what was good about the UK folk scene of the late sixties and early seventies.  Think Sandy Denny and the softer side of early Steeleye Span with a hint of Marianne Faithfull.  Evidently, she has a new album, a compilation of two earlier EPs, and judging from the two songs I have heard, it is exceptional.  You should check her out yourself.  Here is the link to the review Curran posted today.  Take a listen to the two tracks posted at the bottom of the page.  You can check out Callery herself at…..   Virginia’s Freedom Hawk, hard rockers of stealthy but solid repute, this morning posted a shot of Sandy hitting land at Kitty Hawk.  I guess yesterday was an All Hawk Day.  I can’t even imagine the trouble East Coasters are facing.  I only hope they all keep their instruments and amps above the water line…..  This just in— a video titled Colony Collapse featuring the haunting (and I mean haunting) music of Arborea.  You have to see this.  Click here…..  On my turntable this week:  Picture The Ocean, which has not been off since I received it, what, months ago?  These guys are flat out great!  Research TurtlesMankiller Part 2 of 2, like that will surprise anyone.  The RTs rock!  Emily Wolfe‘s Director’s Notes— I can’t help it.  Consider it guilt for having stolen (okay, borrowed) the album.  Tom Dyer‘s  I Ain’t Blue Anymore— Tom is rearranging my brain cells, but he has been since he reintroduced me to The Icons, the mighty, if you will.  Javier Escovedo‘s City Lights, as good a conglomeration of late-fifties and sixties Pop and Power Pop and late-seventies punch (because it ain’t quite punk, my friends) as there is right now.  Wrinkle Neck Mules, because as much as I love hearing them, my brain won’t wrap itself around a review— coming soon, guys.  Ken Stringfellow’‘s Danzig In the Moonlight, a stunner of an album, having a depth I would not have thought possible when I first heard his old band The Posies what seems like a few million years ago.  Sean Kelly and a bit of The Samples because I can’t get his music out of my head…..  I’m on a Crushed Out tear lately.  I stumbled upon Frank Hoier‘s self-titled album a few years ago and became enthralled with his guitar style (you can stream the album here), so imagine my surprise when he shows up with Moselle Spiller, who had done the cover art for that album, in a band originally called Boom Chick and now called Crushed Out (There was a name dispute).  They are coming to Eugene on the 10th and I’m planning on heading to Sam Bond’s Garage to catch their act.  I may be old, but I’m not crazy…..   Whether you’ve heard of Jeff Price or TuneCore or not, if you have any interest in the digital music service hoo-hah going on these days, you should read this.  Price talks about being shoved out the door at The Core which convinces me all over again that corporations are evil by design.  I know five assholes who don’t think so, but some of them are getting to be older than dirt and, God willing, will soon be replaced by others of a more humane persuasion.  I don’t know Mr. Price, but I have had my leanings on display for some time and would rather take my chances with him than all the black-robed idiots the world sees fit to put in places of power, regardless of lack of soul…..

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.”

2 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: FREE DOWNLOADS? What? Is It Christmas Already?… Kail Baxley: Music Even Your Momma Would Like… and a Little Knowledge in the Form of Notes…..”

  1. you owe me 50 bucks. but seriously my experience with Emily Wolfe has been less than impressive so I’ll pass on liking her on facebook to get some free music. that sounds backwards btw. let me listen to the music first and then I can tell you if I ‘like’ you. sheesh

  2. […] to his voice (and his songs) which set him apart from others while fitting into the mainstream (read it here), the mainstream being the hardest nut to crack right now in the music biz.  Given a break or two, […]

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