Frank Gutch Jr: Psycho-Paths To the Heart (A Valentine’s Celebration of Musical Phobias and Neuroses), Deep Feedin’, What? Jon Gomm Again?, and Notezzzz…..

FrankJr2I’ve often wondered if previous generations of humans are as fucked up as we are about relationships.  I watch TV, go to movies and listen to music all the time and it appears to me we are a nation if not a world of basket cases.  We’re all self-involved and needy and greedy and sex-crazed and have so many phobias experts are identifying new ones all the time in an effort to keep up.  Growing up, I thought everything was laid out for us and it looked like gooey fun, but then when I was growing up we were in the era of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, The Three Stooges and that strange teen phenomenon which circled around a mashup of James Dean and Marlon Brando (the young Brando and not the Godfather-era).  Were we fucked up then?  I suppose we were.

Of course our parents just thought it a growing phase but they were having too much trouble relating to a world of Sputniks and that newfangled thing called TV to pay much attention.  (This could have been my life if I hadn’t been so busy running into parking meters which seemed to sprout up on a regular basis)

I suppose the older men could relate to most of what was going on even if they didn’t really understand it.  After all, the kids were just getting drunk all the time and in my home town, if you didn’t drink or smoke cigarettes you were pretty much an outsider.  The only people who seemed to react to anything back then were the uber-religious and they called wolf so many times the rest of us just plain tuned them out.  Stuffed shirts, they were, and resistant to change.  We didn’t ostracize them or put them in ghettos but we came damn close sometimes just so we didn’t have to listen to the chorus of woes they had lined up for sinners which, to them, were pretty much everyone outside their own circles.  The last straw for me was the anti-rock ‘n’ roll movement of the late-fifties, pastors and revivalists and everyone who creeped the normal teen out by calling for the banning of hip-swaying or long hair or anything else they could find that was mentioned in The Bible (which seemed like pretty damn near anything they wanted).  I just stopped listening.

dick-clark-1950s-bandstandIt was pretty much all teens back then, in my world anyway, and we would scoff and laugh but there was always a little glimmer of doubt because what if, God forbid, they were right and we really were destined for Hell.  (We were to find out years later that Hell comes in spurts and the first spurt I noticed was, shudder, disco)  Those were strange times, true, but we were so pumped up on hormones that we couldn’t hear too much for all the white noise and rushing blood in our ears and, boy, didn’t girls look swell and they smelled so good, you know?  I once made the comment that I struggled in high school because I fell in love fifty times every time I walked down the hall and joked my way through four years because I otherwise could hardly speak if there was a girl within fifteen feet.  It wasn’t far from the truth.

Love.  Love back then was The Lettermen‘s When I Fall In Love and Dion & The BelmontsWhere Or When and The Beach BoysIn My Room and Percy Sledge‘s When a Man Loves a Woman and a thousand other songs of the heart because pretty much everything important came from the radio.  Even Kaw-Liga had that poor old wooden heart and that White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation was more than than a fashion statement.  More than one of us poor saps came close to fainting every time we smelled the perfume that was a girl, perfumed or not.  We had been brainwashed into a certain way of dealing with those raging hormones— a gentleman’s way, if you will— and we tried.  Oh, how we tried.

Some of us are still trying.  We have negotiated our way through most of the infiltration course of women and life, us guys anyway, and if we can see the end of the tunnel, it is with a sense of mortality that we wish we couldn’t see but what the hell.  Like a song says somewhere (and probably many of them), ain’t none of us going to get out of this world alive.

What we will find, when all is said and done, is that we survived things we didn’t have to, that we shouldn’t have had to and that we brought on ourselves.  We became more human or less human as life slammed us against the walls, more emotional or less, more accepting or less.  The one thing, though, we all had and have (minus the psychopaths who have no emotional connections at all) is the core of who we are as humans, and that is love.  Even in the worst of times, that kept me going— even when it seemed the world was caving in.

loveboatLove comes in all shapes and sizes, friends, and is not one-size-fits-all like we were told by our parents and, ahem, Hollywood.  I have known couples who have gone their whole lives without kissing at all in public, couples who were bound together by a love intertwined with hate, couples who could not live without one another as was evidenced by their inability to survive after their significant others died.  Couples who tolerated one another but more than likely would never have found another partner anyway, and individuals who were attached more to one another than almost any married couple I’ve known.  I’ve known couples who preferred brutal controversy to a calm loving sea (“beat me, Daddy, eight to the bar”) and others who barely spoke to one another but always glowed in the others’ presence.  Sometimes it seems that this world we live in is a simple one and yet so strange and complicated that we are as confused about so many things today— especially love— that we might as well be living in the Stone Age.

Figuring it out, though, is not all that hard.  Not for me.  I don’t need any fancy references from psychology manuals or speeches from a Doctor of Philosophy to understand it.  I just need a turntable and a few records.  Set yourself, Jim-Bob and Marianne, we’re going on a short journey— a journey to places you probably have never seen nor heard or, if you have, have shoved aside like yesterday’s news.  Let us take a little gander, if you will, to the many sides of love…..

nholmes3I wanted to start this out with The RottersSit On My Face Stevie Nix but decorum has intervened and I will save that for later.  Instead, let me introduce to you (if you don’t know him already) to Nick Holmes.  Nick is a very special friend of mine and, like so many others of the invisible variety (meaning I’ve never met him but have listened to him incessantly for years), a key part of my life.  I found him when I purchased an album by a “band” known as White Elephant in the early seventies.  I put parentheses around the band name because in truth, they were never really a band.  They were an experiment.  Jazzman Michael Mainieri had this idea that if you put a large number of hand-picked musicians in a room and turned them loose, amazing things might happen.  Happen they did and it wasn’t long before a magnificent double album of rock and jazz creations was released into the world and while the release was accepted by many critics as a real breakthrough, it failed monumentally.  The fans who found it, though, reveled in music by many musicians who would become household names in jazz over the next number of years— Randy Brecker, Tony Levin, Michael Brecker, Ronny Cuber, Hugh McCracken, Steve Gadd and so many others.  A superstar lineup before the fact.  Nick sang on many of the songs and told me that there was a time that he looked around the room and felt incredibly small in a room filled with so much talent (you can read the piece I wrote about him when he expressed that thought here).  Ah, but to the point.  Right after White Elephant, Nick recorded a solo album for the same label and on that album (Soulful Crooner), you see, he placed one of the most amazing love songs I have ever heard.  It is titled The Promise Suite and is more composition than song, having various movements and an orchestral feel way beyond the norm.  I mention this song as a comparison to what ‘psycho’ is.  This is what a real love song should be.  You can hear three of Nick’s albums by clicking on this page, scrolling to the bottom and picking an album of choice.  He has three listed.  All are good.  Crooner is amazing.

I have always been shameless when it comes to my attachment for Amelia Jay also and I must confess that I’m not even sure if what they recorded on their incredibly stunning Like a Kite really are love songs but if they’re not, you will never convince me.  You can chalk this album up as an ethereal ear-bender but it is so much more than that.  It is a major musical accomplishment.  Two songs stick out and I have heard them too many times to count— Bird Song (the song from which the album title is taken) and Fading Breath.  They are creations of Mitch Dalton and Jeanette Beswick.  Those two songs are the epitome of love, for the music if not for each other.  The  album is available from CDBaby (click here).

jesspose1Love in its perfect form is very hard to find.  Those who have lived long enough understand that statement.  Mostly what we end up with, in spite of our best efforts, are scenes a bit sideways from Hollywood— imperfect love with a side of angst.  Jess Pillmore wrote about imperfect love on her Reveal album in 2005.  Or maybe the end of an imperfect love.  Accompanied by producer/sideman Dan Phelps (Dan recently released an album by Modular, a group which includes bassist Viktor Krauss and drummer Matt Chamberlain, who also played on Reveal), Jess takes us through various levels of life and angst but never better than on Open My Mouth, a slow poetic dirge-non-dirge about realization too late (“Right before I was ready to walk out that door, determined to call it quits, I noticed a pathetic look in your eyes that seemed to whisper, “Oh my God, what is this?”   That’s when I noticed, I never even opened my mouth…”), a lyrical and musical triumph and a story of love gone not bad but away.  It is a chainsaw massacre of the heart and Pillmore does not stop there but backs it up with the album ender, Don’t Show Me, a sledgehammer to the heart of a song which separates despair from desperation (“How much longer can the silences build up?  How much stronger can I be to the force of your nonexistent gaze.  Where are you off to, where are you, and have you decided who you’re taking with you?  Are you telling me our love has reached its limits?  There’s no hope left, our past’s become our present?  And are you already walking away?  Where are you off to…”) and uncovers an intense pain almost beyond comprehension.  The songs themselves are excellent, but the treatment given by Phelps pushes it way beyond the pale, matching the music to the pain.  In the end, it seems to say, there is no hope and yet there is because the song is a cry for rededication to a love not over.  Not yet.  Call it anti-valentine music.  I call it extraordinary.  Do me a favor.  Here are links to Open My Mouth and Don’t Show Me.  When you listen, pick and take your time.  Really listen.  These are only two reasons I picked this album as my choice for Album of the Year in 2005.

I think the best example of an anti-valentine song would have to be Maggi, Pierce & EJ‘s 706 (probably named that because it is seven minutes and six seconds long).  It is simplicity itself in both content and music (“Why do you think I’m the devil” repeated over and over with a “When all I want to do is make love to you” at the end of each verse) and has a freakout toward the end which is straight out of hell— lots of tapes run backwards and poetry of a questionable nature (the lyrics in the pamphlet are printed backwards for effect).  The main riff is raunch rock, crunchy rhythm with a bad attitude.  The question is one many guys ask, though, and needed to be addressed.  The band has, by the way, gone separate ways, EJ going solo and Maggi and Pierce putting on cowboy boots and a cigar-box attitude and calling themselves Hymn For Her (highly recommended— they put on a live show not to be missed).

Sonics2aI’m not sure if Valentine’s Day is big for teens anymore, but it sure used to be.  Of course, being teens, there is no need for emotional knee-jerk actions or reactions.  Wait!  Did I just type that?  Of course, there is!  You don’t have to go much farther than Pac NW legends The Sonics to find one side, either.  That band played Seattle recently and the old-timers lined up in depth, many friends posting their reactions on the social networking sites.  What did they think?  Pretty damn cool, according to them.  But how could it not be when you have anti-love songs like The Witch and Psycho in your repertoire.  What?  You don’t consider them love songs of a sort?  As that weird Star Trek or Star Wars character would say, “Close-minded, you are.”  Balancing out the other side of the teen coin is Canadian duo Dala who laid a foundation for their success on the hearts of young teens and young adults who still wish they were.  Teens, that is.  They recorded what I consider the best example of teen angst this side of  The RecordsTeenaramaHockey Sweater is the perfect Canadian anthem to teen love as a girl loses her love to a family move at, of all times, Christmas.  What does he do?  He lets her keep his hockey sweater.  I don’t think there is a teen girl in Canada who has heard this without crying.  Heartbreaking and so damn beautiful it chokes even an old man like myself up— well, when I’m not heavily sedated, anyway.  And don’t take the attempt at humor as any kind of negativity toward these ladies.  There isn’t a more perfect song of teen love anywhere.  I love these girls.  Watch the video…..

Long before singer/songwriters became known as such, there were musicians, which is what Thomas Jefferson Kaye was to me.  Just a musician.  But a musician of substance.  I remember laying back sipping a beer after a night listening to music and partying a bit and playing Kaye’s I’ll Be Leaving Her Tomorrow over and over because of the extended ending with its strings and groove (“Gonna pack your suitcase, throw it outside, Bye-bye, I’m all cried out”).  Sometimes there are moments you just have to let it go or go crazy.  I got tired of letting it go.

There are moments you have to accept the fact that it ain’t easy, too.  And maybe a comedy of errors?  Not too many songs point out both the emotional drudgery and an acceptance that maybe love is against you better than Kelly Flint‘s Cartoon.  Love is a struggle, she seems to be saying, and hurt is part of the process (“You must have had a bad dream that somehow involved me, But please know, please recognize, I didn’t do it, I have alibis, It’s just like the cartoon where the guy hits the guy on the head with a frying pan, isn’t it?  It’s a cartoon where the guy falls off the cliff and he’s flat”).  Is it?  Is that what we’re doing?  The coyote and roadrunner thing?  No wonder ACME’s a mega-corporation..

jimwaiveThere’s not a genre that takes love more seriously than Country.  If they’re not crying in their beer, they’re running over their girlfriends or boyfriends with large trucks— never to kill, just to maim.  What the hell is it about rednecks that makes them so melodramatic?  I used to hate that music.  Then again, I never heard much of it done right, I think.  I can give you three examples of country songs which have turned my head around on the subject.  The first is Zoe Muth & The Lost High RollersIf I Can’t Trust You With a Quarter (How Can I Trust You With My Heart).  I crack up every time I hear it, but it’s such a great song, I can’t laugh.  It’s the story of my life.   You hand a quarter to someone for the jukebox and they play the worst song possible.  Trust me when I say that more than a few possible relationships were torpedoed by bad musical choices.  (Listen hereDave Gleason is what I would call a West Coast Country performer, having a bit more Buck Owens than Ernest Tubb, if you will.  One of my favorite songs he does is from his Turn and Fade album.  Here is a live version (click here) recorded at The Cafe du Nord in SF of If You’re Going Through Hell (imagine a full country band with pedal steel upfront and you really get what it’s like on the album).  With lyrics like “If you’re going through Hell, then stop by and see me”, it’s an automatic.  Now, Jim Waive is something else.  I found him whilst doing research about the Charlottesville music scene a few years back and all it took was one track for me to get him.  That track is Why I Hunt.  It’s an O. Henry type of a track and if you don’t know O. Henry, think Twilight Zone— stories with surprise endings.  Ol’ Jim came up with this song which you swear is a story about givin’ the ol’ wife a half hour head start, but it’s not quite like that and—- oh, hell, I can’t give it away, can I?  Tell you what.  I’ll give you the link and you can hear it for yourself.  (Click here)  I will tell you this much.  This is a twist on the clever country songs I’ve been hearing since I was a kid.  This one has bite.

buckinghamnicksNow, where were we?  Ah.  The Rotters.  Huh.  Now, put all of those phobias about sex behind you when you listen to this.  I’m betting that there is hardly a guy out there who was around when this was released who didn’t relate to Sit On My Face Stevie Nix.  I even got a couple of year jump on those old horny toads, having picked up the Buckingham Nicks album upon release.  Not that single album package that Polydor Records released after the success of the Buckingham- and Nicks-fueled Fleetwood Mac, but that beautiful gatefold jacket.  Why, I can even remember the day I bought it.  I walked into the House of Records in Eugene one day in the early seventies and Gary tossed me the album and said, “Here’s something you might like.”  I was sold at first glance.  Not at the picture of a beautiful Nicks on the front (Lindsey wasn’t looking too bad back then, either), but the picture on the inside— the one in which Buckingham and Nicks were caught actually laughing— or was it just smiling?  Whew!  That picture popped my cherry, album jacket-wise.  Sad thing is, by the time they hit Fleetwood, they stopped smiling.  They became— well, posers is not the word I’m looking for but it’s not far off.  They just never recaptured wholesome again.  Still, that day at the House of Records, I was convinced.  And it only took ten million listens to Rhiannon to undo it.  Thanks to those ten million listens, I don’t think there is a better Valentine’s Day song anywhere than Sit On My Face.  Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, you cannot deny that for a few years, all of us guys were thinking it.  It just took The Rotters to put it on record.

Hey, this was kinda fun!  What’s next?  Easter?  I’d better get back to you on that.  Not too many bands fitting into the whole Easter theme, you know.  Wonder where my metal albums are?

Live From the Calapooia Brewing Company, Ladies and Gentlemen, DEEP FEEDER…..

It’s Friday night and I just got back from a show featuring three members of Xenat-Ra with a side of bass and am still digesting what I just heard.  You may have read a few things I’ve written about Xenat-Ra, this prog/hip hop/jazz rock fusion band out of Corvallis, a band I confess to having adopted somewhat.  Just a few weeks ago I stepped into the Calapooia to catch what was billed as a John Cage Fight, a night of experimental electronics/jazz/prog from Xenat-Ra drummer JD Monroe and keyboardist Dave Trenkel.  I listened along with maybe twenty other fans and heard some forward-looking dalliances around everyone from Robert Fripp to what sounded to me like free-form Ornette Coleman on electronics and percussion (hey, squawking geese is squawking geese, if you know what I mean) and walked away impressed enough.

xenat-ra2Tonight, it was Monroe and Trenkel with Xenat-Ra saxman Matt Calkins and supported by Page Hundemer on bass.  Was it good?  I’m still not sure.  Their propensity for free-form noise was a bit off-putting for my sensitive ears (meaning I couldn’t quite figure out what the hell they were doing at times), but they sandwiched those between grooves and actual songs my ears did pick up, especially the second song of their first set, Frank Zappa’s King Kong.  I have more than likely heard it (most of my friends had copies of Lumpy Gravy in their collections among other Zappa titles and more than likely played it).  My real acquaintance, though, comes from an old album by a band named Good God out of Philadelphia which I found through the connection with Duke Williams & The Extremes (Cotton Kent had played keyboards for Good God before joining Williams and crew).  Years later, it is that version I remember and, truth be told, I could not tell you anything about the rest of the album.  If not for Kent, I would more than likely have passed on it altogether.  Their version of King Kong, though, garnered much attention at my house in the early seventies and there was Deep Feeder, giving it their all and I was impressed.

There were other moments, aural glimpses behind the mask as it were.  Like when they struck a groove and rode it out.  Like when they freestyled into a progrock theme.  Like when three fell back while one took a solo.  Those were good moments.  I sat there and watched the crowd (and it was a good turnout) bob  their heads and move their bodies in a fashion.  I think they got it.  I think they wanted to get it if they didn’t.

Which all by itself made this a night worth remembering.  Last week, I sat through a Marc Cohn concert and was blown away by the response of the crowd— the singing along, the recognition of songs, the yelling and screaming and active response to Cohn and his music.  This week, I watched a fairly large crowd immersed in a listening experiment while the band experimented with the music and occasionally, just occasionally, saw a real melding of musician and listener.  It renews my faith in the “listening public”.   I was beginning to wonder if people actually listened anymore, you know what I mean?   Tonight they were, and listening close.

Jon Gomm vs. The World…..

jongommpassionflowerI write about Jon Gomm every chance I get so it should be no surprise I’m writing about him now.   I’m writing about him writing, as a matter of fact, and there is a reason.  Gomm has just posted a blog on his website and it is full of a few hundred things you might want to know.  Okay, only a few, but the few are well worth it.  He writes about a variety of things, most relating to his recent tours.  He posts videos of himself and others— interesting and musical videos.  He basically includes anyone who even has a remote interest in his music and his attitudes toward music.  As he stated in the link he posted on Facebook, it took him a long time to get the words down.  You should read them and you should watch the videos.

I stumbled upon Gomm a few years ago when I reviewed his last album (he has a new one on the way).  I listened closely to that album before I wrote that review.  He could tell.  We struck up a conversation through the Net and I occasionally would send him a thought or two and he always responded.  We talked about a handful of things—  how hard it was to survive as a musician, major labels and the minefield they have created over the years, public performances and fans— subjects germane to the world of music as both he and I recognize it.  We even log in on the same side on the issue of “digital streaming services” (Spotify, etc.— we hate them).

The point is, when Gomm writes, I read and I think you should too.  Check out the blog, watch the videos and when you’ve done that, head to YouTube and type in “Jon Gomm Passionflower”.   Whether you already know him or not, you will be treated to music of a different color.  To read Gomm’s blog, click here…..

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Just in case you didn’t know, Poco is still around and crankin’ out the music.  I’m not sure who is left in the band from the early days but I do know one is Rusty Young.  The band has a new album scheduled for release this March.  You can follow this link to see the songwriting credits for All Fired Up…..  His name is Charlie Parr and I’m thinking about making him write a couple of reviews for me because I just sat down to watch two or three minutes of a video a few days ago and ended up sitting through forty-two minutes and would have watched again but for the fact that I’m behind enough on my writing as it is.  He’s a folkie, is Charlie, and not a folkie in terms of today but in terms of what I term the Modern Folk movement of the fifties, sixties and early seventies.  Lots of finger-picking and folk roots like you don’t hear that much of these days.  If you like folk music the way it used to be played (and still is by the likes of two few of this quality), head on over to Charlie’s site and click on the video.  Give yourself plenty of time because it is a concert, not a song, and a concert you might well want to sit through.  Excellent sound, guitar, light bulb and voice.  While you’re there, take a gander at his new album,  Barnswallow…..   You say you like psych and you haven’t picked up on The Grip Weeds?  All I can say is, if you haven’t, you don’t.  Here’s a bit of cheerful news.  The Weeds are back in the studio.  Cheers me right up.  Click here to learn more…..  Dig chicks and electric violins?  I do.  That’s why I’m a hoskingcrashburnbig Lunic fan.  While she might not be as attached to the violin as she opnce was, she still has the chops.  I recommend you check her (Kaitee Page) out at her website, here…. Speaking of Rita Hosking (What?  We weren’t?), here is a video of her doing a beautiful live version of my favorite track from her excellent Crash & Burn album:  The Coyote (click here).  Rita just keeps getting better and better all the time.  She has a new album titled Little Boat you really should check out…..


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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