Frank Gutch Jr: Loose Ends, Even Looser Ends, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, Green Monkey Christmas, and Those Pesky Notes (to which you should really pay more attention)…..

FrankJr2It’s 3:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep and part of it has to do with Spotify.  Not Spotify specifically, but all of the music subscription services that have come along since digitization:  Mog and Pandora and Rhapsody and Sony and others.  What set me off was a musician who posted on Facebook that maybe you should log on to Spotify and check out a certain artist.  Why would that set me off, you ask?  Because I have just recently turned my back to such “services”.  Because if they are a better way to find music and artists, they are also cutting off the hands that feed them.  The hands of musicians and the hands of songwriters ans indeed the hands of all involved in the musical process, for it is a process.

nospotifyThis musician attempted to make the point that exposure— any exposure— was a hand up to any musician.  That they should embrace the chance to be heard.  Get over the fact that they receive so little pay for their goods, he seemed to be saying.  Use it.  Utilize it.  For the days of actually being paid for your music are over.  The way to gain in this new world was to market and play your music, live.

I have to agree with him, but only to a degree.  Musicians do need to take advantage of the social networks to promote themselves.  It should be their responsibility to follow up every opportunity to make themselves  and their music known to the world.  I tell the ones who will listen to keep every door open because you never know behind which door that person who will make a huge difference to your career is hiding.  And yet…..

To discuss the issue, I always return to my basic philosophy of economics.  If somebody comes along who has nothing to do with the music business (outside of realizing they can make plenty of money at it) and plunks down a handful of money and an idea to make more, it more than likely does not bode well for the business or the artist.  So when the “developers” stepped into the void and basically said, hey, this is uncharted territory, so we will set it up for benefit of all, I was hesitant to say the least.  I was willing to give it a chance, if with a leery eye.

Well, the numbers are in and they do not make me cheer.  The way the “developers” made it sound when they started this whole thing, money would be trickling down to the artists and songwriters.  After all, there were millions to be made.  They made it but evidently their model did not give them much to pass much along.  Of course, the major labels received a chunk, and they should being’s how they own— lock stock and barrel— most of the music on the subscription sites.  And, of course, that music got the largest percentage of hits because, after all, the vast majority of people in the world want to hear the hits no matter how many times they have heard them before.  Three, four and five decades worth, evidently.  The publishers, of course, got their cuts because they control the vast majority of music publishing.  Indeed, the only people who got pure pittance were the artists and songwriters, who are the poor cousins in this arrangement.

southerndraw“I get $0.00171956 each time a song of mine is streamed on Spotify,” stated musician Drew Gibson, whose independent and independently-distributed albums are handled by that site.  “Something tells me this is not a good deal.”

Ya think, Drew?  It makes me wonder who came up with the numbers the various sites use to determine payment.  Terrestrial and Internet radio have jumped through a series of hoops since the whole idea of intellectual property has reared its ugly head, negotiations producing at least some kind of compensation for the artist and songwriter.  Do the numbers jibe with those of the Spotify’s and the Pandora’s?  I am not really sure.  When I try to research, I find numbers all over the place without much in the way of explanation of what the numbers mean or where they originated.  Like I said in an earlier column relating to major label payouts to artists, you would need a forensic accountant to even begin to vet the numbers.  And I don’t trust asshats.  Making numbers fit their arguments are what corporations do.

What I do know is that there have been millions paid out and the pittance passed along to the people upon whom the whole pyramid is virtually nonexistent.  All you have to do to realize that something is rotten in the state of the industry is take time to think.  Look at the numbers.  And think.

Then ask yourself just who the people are who set up this whole digital music distribution “service” and who looked at the numbers to be passed along to musicians and songwriters and okayed the whole thing.  I know this much.  There are some long noses firmly entrenched in the butt-cracks of whomever did the okaying.  This needs investigation and not the kind the music industry has relied upon over the years to steal the music for their own profit.  There needs to be some independent investigating and a serious look at how these numbers became the standard.

robberbaronsCertainly the artists were never asked.  Nor the songwriters.  I say this and I’ll say it again— if you don’t take care of the foundation, the whole house will eventually fall.  At that time, if you want to rebuild, you will have to start with the foundation.  And that foundation won’t be as easily co-opted as it was the first time around.

So I say to the person who told us all that we should just accept the system as presented and work around it, no.  I do not accept people making millions off the backs of the people who produced ON THEIR OWN that which those people are now making those millions.  I do not accept numbers produced behind closed doors and without the inclusion of artists and songwriters and presented as the model that works for everyone.  I do not accept major labels taking money for music they have in their possession without a full vetting of the financial records relating to each artist and song!  I do not accept venture capitalists dipping their fingers into the musical pie just because they see a financial opportunity.  It is against every principle I hold dear and it is a slap in the face of what music means to each and every artist and craftsman in music.

But that’s just me.  If you care to argue the point I am always ready to listen, but come loaded with actual arguments and not the crap the labels and musical money moguls have been passing around.  Prove to me that this is fair to the musician and I will quiet down.  Or not.

The Social Media—

FacebookI spend one hell of a lot of time on Facebook.  I steered clear for years and then was dragged into it by Scott Boyer (Cowboy) who thought it might be a good way to keep in touch.  At the time, I was putting together notes for an article about Cowboy, a band I have much revered over the years (I will get to it soon, I promise, Scott).  It turns out that it is a good way to keep in touch and I use it regularly.  And I try to use it right.  We’re all promoting something when we visit any site like Facebook— our famous sense of humor, our love of music, our neurotic penchant for cats— but most of us miss the boat.  See, this “like” button, it just doesn’t mean much for most of us.

It took me awhile to realize that hitting “like” is a way of letting the other person know that you saw their post and that it also gives semblance of support for the subject and/or person.  Still, I think we need to be taking things one step further.  No, it doesn’t mean that we need to “share” every post which comes down the pike, but I think that if we really like something, we should repost.

See, I deal with music all the time.  It is my main reason for being on Facebook at all.  So when something comes along I think should be seen or heard, I share it.  For those unfamiliar with the Facebook experience, sharing is simply a way of passing a post along.  Mostly, for me, it involves music to some degree:  music videos, music links, band info, etc.   If I think it deserves it, I pass it along.  That’s the way to spread the word.

I have had certain people tell me they don’t share because they don’t want to bombard their friends.  Even musicians show a reluctance for self-promotion.  I say it’s about time we all got over that whole attitude.  In this day and age, self-promotion is about all most of the bands have.  Self-promotion and promotion through their friends and fans.

So I’m saying this:  If you see a video or hear a tune you like, share it.  Pass it along.  There is a good chance that you have contact with only five or ten of the musician’s 432 friends and that they have contact with only five of your 178.  That leaves 173 friends who might find the music much to their liking.  Even if only two like it enough to repost, those two could have 782 people as friends who might like it enough to repost.  If only two of those repost…..  And on it goes.  It’s called sharing the music, people— spreading the love.

Lisbee Stainton—

lisbeeI knew it.  Post a “best of” and you’re sure to leave out someone.  My best of 2012 was, I thought, a comprehensive list but…  What am I saying?  I knew it wasn’t comprehensive.  I knew that I would miss someone and that the list would change depending upon mood.  Still, there is no reason for me to have left Lisbee Stainton off the list.  Go, her latest album, is as good as anything on the market.  In fact, she impressed enough for me to have taken up her cause in this review.  Please follow the link if you haven’t already and read why I feel less than happy about the oversight.  Lisbee, I’ll take fifty lashes before the mast.  I deserve it.

Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin—

When Rita Hoskingspeaks (and even better, when she sings), I drop everything and listen.  She has had a string of excellent albums, the last of which (Crash & Burn) floored me.  There is a real grassroots feel to her music which is mostly of the acoustic bluegrass/folk/country variety.  She also has a feel for the past.  So when she passed along a video by Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin, I watched and listened.  Closely.

fearlesskincropped1What I heard was music to my soul.  I grew up on all different kinds of music but the one thing my father and I shared was a deep love for vocal bluegrass.  We had a very limited selection in our house but it didn’t bother me because I never tired of hearing Blue Sky Boys lament the loss of the one true love on Tears On Her Bridal Bouquet or The Louvin Brothers embrace love unconditionally on When I Stop Dreaming or, even though I am not personally religious, any of the stars of the day who sang about the glory of God.  My musical beginnings took place near the mental images of that little church in the wildwood and those early images, both musical and visual, are now my safe place.  I go there when the world presses its thumb on my neck and makes me wonder where we as a species have gone wrong.

The Fearless Kin take me there.  There is something about their two- and three-part harmonies that bring me peace while making my soul soar.   And, oh, those songs!  Paige Anderson may be young— in fact, way too young to be writing with such depth—  but you wouldn’t know it if all you had to go on were her songs.  There are six of them on their new EP, Wild Rabbit, and every one a gem.  And in case you’re thinking the group is all Paige, it is not.  Sister Aimee and brother Ethan, fiddle and mandolin respectively, add sweet harmonies to the vocal mix.  There is something special about voices from the same family, especially when they harmoize.

I will be writing a full review in the very near future, but I wanted to put out the word now.  These kids are on their way to what I hope will be a long and fruitful career, carrying the vocal bluegrass flag far into the future.

I had to laugh when I reposted the video link to Facebook and friend and musician Paul Hood shared it with his usual to-the-point comment.  His “Durn kids!” said more than a thousand words possibly could.  Paul has always had a way with words.  Here is a link to the video Rita posted.  You can check out the band on their own site.

An aside:  Rita just announced new music of her own in the works, this time featuring not only husband Sean Feder but daughter Kora.  Recorded by Rich Brotherton, who also lends a hand instrumentally.

It’s a Green Monkey Christmas!!!

gmfrothingYep, it’s that time of the year again, time for Green Monkey prez Tom Dyer to push the button on GM’s fourth annual Christmas album for charity.  This year, he decided to put the word out and take all submissions before whittling them down to the handful worthy of inclusion.  Frothing the Nog is one hell of a mix, too, from the humorous and oompah-ish Jim of Seattle‘s Merry Christmas to Jimm McIver‘s Brit-poppy Let’s Fall Asleep to Laurie Biagini‘s girl group take of Can’t Wait For Christmas  to Toxic Socket‘s semi-punk Merry Christmas Capitalism (them crazy capitalists, eh?).  All proceeds will go to charity (The Millionair Clubin Seattle).

So how good is it?  I would pick it up for the Green Pajamas track alone.  Couched in ’60s farfisa-infused pajamadom, Chrfistmas All the Time just plain rocks!  You do realize that I am a sucker for those guys, right, and that I cannot understand why most others are not?  Set that aside for a moment and give this a listen and I swear you have to hate the ’60s to deny it.  Listen here.

Dyer stepped out of his comfort zone when he allowed a track from Vancouver BC’s Laurie Biagini on the compilation, but then BC is the Northwest, isn’t it?   Yeah, I always thought The Collectors and Chilliwack part of the Pac Northwest, so why not?  Laurie does her usual bangup job of capturing the whole ’60s girl group/sand/surf thing on I Can’t Wait For Christmas, but she always does.  She’s a trip!

Who is Rich Hinklin?  Until I heard Silver Bells (Post-Apocalyptic Dance Mix) I had no clue.  Still don’t really, but this is the damndest version of Silver Bells I have ever heard.  Beat heavy, it is more Blade Runner and hip-hop than anything I’ve heard, Christmas-wise.  Still, the idea of it makes me not only smile, but follow the beat.

Toxic Socket takes nasty to another level on Merry Christmas Capitalism, sounding more late ’70s New Wave/Punk than anything else.  For some reason, I dig the attitude more than anything.  But then I hate capitalists, don’t I?  (If you don’t know, you don’t know me, obviously)

You would think Jim of Seattle is a standup comic disaster waiting to happen after hearing Merry Christmas.  Well, he’s not.  He does have just a bit of Jonathan Richman in him humor-wise though, and the whole oompah thing pushes the tune right over the top.  Listen with the right attitude and this will make you smile.

Speaking of Farfisa (or at least, organ), Seattle’s The Young Fresh Fellows toss in Down By the Pharmacy, but I’m not sure it’s Christmas-y enough for most.  I really don’t care.  They have more ’60s pop in them than most bands which played back then.  Great track.

And there are more.  Sixteen in all.  By Stevie Nation & The United States and Wild Hares and IQ9! and Henry Boy Jenkins.  And The Life‘s Jimm McIver, by golly, who serves up an outstanding Brit-pop version of Let’s Fall Asleep (Under the Christmas Tree).  That’s McGiver, not McGuyver.  Different channel altogether.

Here’s the thing.  You want to hear the album or at least some of the tracks, go here.  If you don’t, it’s coal in your stocking, you sorry excuse for a human being.  I did say it was for charity, did I not?

Vinyl Watch…..

vinylI have been leery of the whole return of vinyl thing since the mainstream media heralded it as the second coming of The Industry, but I’m having second thoughts.  More and more, the truly independent labels and artists are edging their way into the vinyl realm, pressing (at times) incredibly small amounts of what will surely be collectable items of the future.  Because totally cool bands like Ticktockman and Freedom Hawk and even Xenat-Ra have decided to go the vinyl route, I will next year start pointing out the best of the best of vinyl items as I find them.  I’ll call it Vinyl Watch and will hopefully find enough to make it worthwhile.  We’ll see how things shake out, but I can see this column being a warehouse of vinyl info.  And don’t expect major label items to be mentioned here.  I will, the way things are looking, have my hands full covering the deep Indies.

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Friend Gary Heffern, an accomplished musician in his own right, passes along this beautiful pop tune by one Paul Roessler, a musician to follow if anything else he has sounds anything at all like this.  Nice, nice tune.  Click here…..    Stealing Jane’s Bryce Larsen is readying his first solo album in years.  Tentatively titled Here’s To You, it features excellent songwriting and Larsen’s classic voice.  This may not be Stealing Jane, whose Signals EP completely knocked me out, but what I’ve heard so far has me wondering if this won’t slide right alongside after a few listens.  Here is a promo video for you to check out.  Do yourself a favor.   This guy is the goods…..  Through a series of fortunate incidents, I have been reacquainted with Seattle’s Jim Basnight and am trying to get caught up with his music.  When I first met him, he was working at Peaches Records in Seattle and putting together The Moberlys, a band which gained him a bit of national recognition.  He has had many bands over the years and has made music his career.  Recently (very recently, in fact), he put out a collection of songs which pretty much cover those years.  Titled We Rocked and Rolled (The First 25 Years of Jim Basnight: The Moberlys and Beyond), it is a retrospective of a brash, in-your-face rock ‘n’ roller trying to find a sound.  Had there been an alt category back then, he would have fit right in.  You can check the album out on CDBaby (click here) and find out more about Jim, his career and what he is doing now by linking to his website (click here)…..  Cowboy fans will be delighted to know that there are two T-shirts for sale at  Hittin’ The Note but more importantly, there are two Scott Boyer albums available.  One, All My Friends, was recorded some time ago and has some Boyer classics.  The other, O.K. How About This, was recently released and features Boyer and long-time writing buddy N.C. Thurman.  I know the music is good on both albums and boy do those T-shirts look sweet.  Hit the note here…..  Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver are Christmas crazy and have made two holiday tracks available for free download:  It’s Christmas Time (and I’m still alive) (click here) and their version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (click here).  Not only is free a good price, the songs are worth downloading, easily…..  Because I can, here is a link to Ray Brandes‘ music kavanaghsringthebellsvideo for A Lucky Man.  You guys have The Beatles.  I’ll take Brandes.  Click here..…Like clockwork, Argentina’s The Kavanaghshave just released their annual Christmas single (What is this?  Their fifth?).  Ring the Bells has a light Beach Boys-style feel to it and is very pleasant, but Christmas Letters is a major chord Hi-Lo’s delight.  Sung a cappella and sung beautifully.  You have to appreciate their persistence and the devotion to the holidays.  Listen here.  And don’t forget their 2011 album, Love Conquers Pain…..  In case you missed it, here are live recordings of The Shook Twins, Elephant Revival and BrownChicken recorded this past summer at The Oregon Country Fair.  Good stuff.  Click here…..  Here’s my jumping off point.  Bob is running an older column next week, but I will be back the week after.  Here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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DBAWIS_ButtonFrank 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.”


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