Frank Gutch Jr: Sheldon Gomberg: One of the Good Guys, Too Slim: Hot!!!, Charlottesville: WarHen and County Wide… The Phoenix Rises, My Father’s Day, plus Notes (you really should be reading them, you know)…..

FrankJr2I wasted 75 minutes of Sheldon Gomberg‘s time last week.  Do I feel crappy about it?  You bet.  I suppose 75 minutes doesn’t mean that much to many of you but then you probably don’t work as much as Sheldon does.  See, Sheldon is a recording engineer and runs his own studio and after talking with many of that ilk, time is always of the essence.  You’re working when you’re not working— going over the day’s session(s), preparing for tomorrow’s, organizing, always organizing.  What?  You think those albums just appear on your shelves?

Wait.  I know.  You think engineers should be paying people to do what they do, it’s so much fun.  I hear it about musicians all the time and I’m sure those people would take it to that extreme with engineers too.  I wonder when the world got tipped on its ass.

sweetrelieflogoAnyway, I interviewed Sheldon about the upcoming release of Sweet Relief III, an album Sheldon put together for charity (Vanguard Records just moved its release date from July 9th to September 3rd, claiming they wanted to give it more visibility and would be in a better position to promote it at that time— and they may be right, but…).  Like I said, we talked for 75 minutes and when it ended, I hung up to discover that the interview was unusable.  I have this digital recorder which plugs into my computer, but I cannot make it work sometimes.  This time, it didn’t.  It didn’t when I interviewed Laurie Biagini a few months back, either (and I apologize once again, Laurie) and I should have known, but being the optimist I am, I dove into the deep end only to find the pool dry.  I could have kicked my ass.

Why?  Because, as Sheldon so eloquently put it later, that was, ahem, “75 minutes of pure genius.”  Sheldon talked about the album, how it came about, how he became a recording engineer, even how he became a musician (he is quite accomplished as a bass player).  He talked about growing up in Seattle and the early influences he had, about life on the road (he has played with a surprisingly varied group of musicians over the years) and various recordings on which he played.

And we talked about business.  Not business itself, but the ethics of business.  Doing things right.  Doing things for the right reason.

Here is what I remember him saying about the new Sweet Relief project.  The charity, at some time in the past, had helped him out and he had been trying to come up with a way to pay it back.  He came up with a number of ideas which just wouldn’t work for one reason or another and then stumbled into the most obvious way of all.  Why not, he thought, put together another album?  They had not released one since 1996 (Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation) and only one before that (Sweet Relief: A Benefit for Victoria Williams).  It wasn’t like the idea had been worked to death.  So he approached Bill Bennett and Rob Max and said, why not?  They couldn’t come up with a reason, so they outlined what had to be done and Sheldon went to work.

It took him a couple of years to complete the project.  He lined up musicians willing to take time out of their already busy schedules to record.  He waited while those same musicians and their lawyers wrangled with the legalities of the situation.  He organized sessions.  He recorded.  He mixed.  He did everything but change their diapers (okay, that’s an exaggeration) and he came out with an album of which he can be proud.

sheldongombergHe talked about the sessions, but not in great detail (thank the gods, because we will have to revisit those sessions when my new recording program is up and running).  He mentioned each artist in turn, talked about his previous connection to them (if any) and praised each for their commitment.  Not once did he mention himself outside of his role as friend to a few of those who play on the album and as engineer.  The album is about helping musicians who need it.  The album is about doing the right thing for the right reason.  It is Sheldon’s baby.

One thing which struck me as we talked was that Sheldon is one of the truly good guys.  He knows he is lucky to have spent his life in and around music.  He also knows that it couldn’t have been any other way for him.  He is extremely thankful.  Extremely.  Every time I talk with someone like him, I am thankful just to know them.  I would say that he reminds me of me, but I am all too chock full of holes.  I’ve always said that I try to be better all the time, that I incorporate in myself the best parts of my friends and acquaintances, hoping to build a better person.  I learn from people like him.  You can always tell a really good person by the people who surround him/her.  Sheldon is surrounded by some of the best.

sweetreliefalbum3As for the Sweet Relief III album, he brought in some of the best here, too.  How can you fault a lineup of Jackson Browne and Rickie Lee Jones and Shelby Lynne and She and Him and Ben Harper and k.d. lang?  More importantly to me, though, are the artists I have yet to hear beyond a track or two:  Ron Sexsmith, who has gotten the huge thumbs up from so many of my trusted music friends for just being a great guy;  Joseph Arthur, whom I have never heard but about whom I’ve heard a lot, all good;  Sam Phillips, whom I remember from the days when she wasn’t calling herself Sam Phillips;  Victoria Williams, who I did not hear until Gary Heffern told me the story behind the first Sweet Relief album (since, I have heard and enjoyed her a lot);  Genevieve Toupin, about whom Sheldon waxed poetic and who pronounces her name Jen-vee-ev, evidently;  Tina Schlieske, a lady I was not aware of until I visited her website and listened (with many more listens scheduled for the future); and Eleni Mandell, one-third of The Living Sisters, who I missed completely until Sheldon browbeat me into listening (Thanks, Sheldon.  They’ve become a guilty pleasure).

Yup.  Sheldon Gomberg is one of the good guys.  To those of you who don’t know him, you heard it here first.  For those who do, it is just accepted.  Guys like him keep me writing and keep me pumped about the whole music scene.

By the way, you don’t have to wait until Sept. 3rd to delve into the album.  Sweet Relief has put a few samples on their page.  To entice you.  What can I say?  It’s a good cause!!!  Click here.

Too Slim & The Taildraggers:  Hot! Hot! Hot!

tooslimblueheartSlide guitar doesn’t necessarily mean it’s blues, folks, and although Tim (Too Slim) Langford definitely leans that way, there is rock in his veins.  Hard rock.  Solid rock.  I knew it, but the earlier efforts didn’t quite go far enough for me, so I took his latest, Blue Heart, on a long drive to the Coast this past week, cranked it up and, voila!  Too Slim rawked!  Now, I’m not saying that he didn’t hit high points before because he definitely did, but here I was, flowing through this tunnel illuminated only by headlights listening to some bluesy rawk, you know, and I kept having to look at the speedometer because, damn!  I was speeding up all the time.

I dig Too Slim.  I dig his guitar and his attitude and am thrilled with this album.  Of course, it probably helped that I was playing it at decibels ten times the recommended dose, but what the hell!  Oh, he didn’t desert the blues altogether, but when the rock side dominates…  So I was looking on Youtube and sonofagun if I didn’t find a fairly recent video of Slim playing a song off the new album.  Turn it up!  Dig that slide guitar!

Guesting on the new album is Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie fame— at least it sounds like that Jimmy.  Sings on one track, plays harp on another.  He’s still got it.

WarHen and County Wide: 

Just brought to my attention last week by Keith Morris (of Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers):  No longer is WarHen Records the only real label working out of Charlottesville.  They are doing a crackerjack job, countywidefor sure, and have given locals Sarah White, The Fire Tapes, Red Rattles and Dwight Howard Johnson a place to hang their vinyl (not to mention Sons of Bill, who stopped off for a 7” licorice pizza ride), but new kids County Wide have now stepped in to help shoulder the weight.  I have always said that per capita, C-ville has more musicians than just about any town/city/county and while regulars Danny Schmidt, Paul Curreri, Devon Sproule and a few others have stepped into what they hope will be greener pastures, a whole new generation has filled the void alongside John D’Earth, Keith Morris and the like.  Rather than releasing albums on their own labels, as so many do these days, some have teamed up with County Wide.

The “rise” of WarHen and County Wide is not restricted to the Charlottesville area.  At Canada’s NXNE fest, indie labels are banding together to market their goods carte blanche, the various small companies splitting promotions somewhat equally.  Supposedly, each would sell goods as well as promote their own labels.  A string of labels such as True North, Paper Bag, Six Shooter and KELP have signed on and are ready to wow fans.  They are calling it Independent Label Market and it will take place this June 15th from 11 to 4 on the Ryerson Campus Common in Toronto.

What is going on in the underbelly of the music industry should not be surprising to anyone.  The majors planted a neutron bomb when they ignored digital music and forced the implosion of marketing music the major label way.  For awhile, it was all chaos, musicians and labels scrambling for that dwindling piece of the entertainment pie.  Slowly, though, we have seen a paradigm shift allowing smaller labels and even individual artists to market their own music successfully.  It ain’t easy, folks, and the way has been fraught with potholes, but since the majors proved themselves barely survivors themselves, people have been finding their own ways.

For awhile, it was survival of the fittest— extremely streamlined companies and individual artists struggling to hang on.  The ones which survived, though, are as strong as they could possibly be at this point in time and business is once again growing.

warhenWarHen, for instance, jumped on the wagon with extremely limited edition 7” singles.  The first, Sarah White‘s Married Life, was pressed in such small quantities that they were immediate collector’s items (90 on white vinyl— sold out— and 210 on black).  They quickly followed that up with Red RattlesUh Huh (150 on opaque red), The Fire TapesSkull Xbones (150 on what they call randomly mixed splatter— mostly green), and the Sons of Bill Record Store Day release, Bad Dancer (500 on opaque red, with insert and screen printed outer jackets).  Their impending release of Dwight Howard Johnson‘s Take Anything album will include 200 copies on more of that randomly mixed splatter vinyl.  There has been no mention of quantities or colored vinyl on a new The Fire Tapes album, to be titled Phantoms, but I’m sure there will be.

Do you see what the guys are doing here?  They are not only marketing the music, they are marketing the vinyl.  Is that good?  I say if it sells records, it ain’t bad.  Check out the label and make up your own mind.  Click here to visit their Facebook page.

County Wide, it appears, is approaching the business from a bit of a co-op angle.  Here is how they describe themselves on their FB page:  “County Wide is, at its heart, a gathering of talented friends whose mission is to collectively enrich and serve the Charlottesville and Central Virginia music scene through their own unique expressions.”  Yeah, we’ve heard things like that before.  But before we shrug it off, let’s look at their situation.  They are a small, insulated company working with a growing stable of C-ville (and close to C-ville) musicians to record, market and promote music.  The fact that Keith Morris is even considering signing with County Wide speaks volumes.  Morris is no more a friend of major labels than myself and is leery of any promises handed out point blank.

sallyroseAnd Morris is not the only one.  Sarah White, a perennial C-ville favorite, has signed on.  Mister Baby is there.  The Sally Rose Band just released an EP titled Oh My Stars!.  Add to those Chamomile and Whiskey, I See London, Pantherburn, Beako, Holy Bear, Josephine and BC and you have some starter dough going there.  Not only that, but the label is also working with ten or fifteen other bands.

It’s a trend.  Only I hope it is more than a trend.  I would love to see this become the norm.  If artists want the help and if the companies can help them.  Artists are always telling me that they can only go so far by themselves.  They should know.  I just hope they stay more on the indie side than the industry side.

My Father…..

dadalaska 001Normally, I am not one to talk about personal things, but this Father’s Day, there is one story I want to tell.  It has to do with my father during a not so great period in his life.  In fact, just a few weeks before he died.

Dad had had a stroke, you see, and I had given up whatever it was I had going (not much, really) to return home and care for him.  For a good fifteen years, I would go home on vacation and at some time during the visit, Dad would go out to sit on the porch and smoke a cigarette (he stopped smoking inside when Momma was diagnosed with emphysema).  Inevitably, I would go outside to sit with him and sure as hell, the subject would come around to nursing homes.  Dad was deathly afraid of being put in one and after visiting a few myself, I could see why.  Anyway, at some point, he would ask me to do him a favor and even though I knew what was coming, I would ask what it was.  “If I ever get to a point that I can’t take care of myself,” he would say, and he was serious, “put a bullet in my brain.  I don’t want to live like that and I don’t want to be a burden on anybody.”  I would always semi-chuckle (my way of handling stress is, unfortunately, to laugh) and say, “I can’t promise you that, Dad.  But I will promise that you will never live in a nursing home,” and that always seemed to be enough.  He would let it drop until the next visit at which time we would go over it all once again.  It bothered him that much.

Well, Dad eventually had a major stroke.  He lived two and a half years after the stroke and couldn’t walk (one of his “symptoms” was that his balance was off so that he would fall backward, so we kept him in a chair or physically helped him get around until he was too weak to do even that).  It wasn’t a bad two and a half years, considering.  I always call it a best case of a worst case scenario.

Toward the end, he developed a type of leukemia common to the elderly and in order to live had to have transfusions.  We allowed it twice and then realized that keeping him alive under those circumstances was unfair to him.

The last time we took him to the hospital, he was so wasted that he looked like a stick man.  The hospital told us that we could leave him there, that he did not have much time left, but we did not want that.  We brought him home late at night and I could tell he was glad to be there, though more than likely he did not recognize it as home.  We sat him at the table while we prepared his before-bedtime medicine and I grabbed the mail I had picked up on the way in.  One was a package from my good friend Frank Peiffer.  I opened it and was quite thrilled to see that it was Volume Three of a book series titled The Forgotten War. “A pictorial history of World War II in Alaska and Northwestern Canada” was the subtitle.  Frank knew that Dad had spent a portion of the war in Alaska and when he saw this volume, he bought it and sent it along.  I opened the book and was helping Dad look through it when I stopped.  “Momma,” I said, “come look at this.”  Right there on Page 1 stood Dad, dressed in what was then full battle regalia for the Alaskan soldier.  Momma and Dad started crying and I was freaking out, wondering if Frank knew and sent it because of that picture.  All it said on the picture was “A prewar soldier at Fort Richardson.”

I called Frank the next day and asked him if he knew.  He had no clue.

My father died a few weeks later, a couple of months short of his next Father’s Day.  He is the best man I will ever know.

Sometimes I think things happen for a reason.

Music Notes smallNotes…..   I’ve mentioned Morning Ritual a handful of times over the past few weeks and there is a reason.  For one thing, Ben Darwish has gone the extra mile with his composition of The Clear Blue Pearl.  It is a wonder, this story of a search for water in a world of seemingly none.  He pushes it into the spiritual at certain moments, into fantasy and/or science fiction at others.  OPB Music recognized the unique work and decided to put the band into a studio for a live recording.  Included are an interview and a new track, So Cold, available on the page for free download.  Here they are— Morning Ritual.  Live.  In the studio.  Click here*****  Seattle’s Henry Boy Jenkins, to bolster the release of his new album  The Big Parade has put three outtakes from those sessions up for grabs.  The boy is a power-popper and whereas I have yet to give it a listen worthy of a review, what I’ve heard sounds pretty damn good.  The free download is available at Jenkins’ Bandcamp page.   Just click here*****  Tom Kell.  Didn’t I just write about him recently?  The former Skyboy (well, member of Seattle’s early seventies country rockers Skyboys, anyway) has a documentary available for viewing.  While all I have seen is the trailer (click here), it looks like it will look at Kell’s journey through his years in the music biz.  He has led an interesting life thus far.  The documentary will be well worth seeing, I am sure.  He has a new album out, by the way, recorded with Emiko WoodsGlory Bound is the second release for that duo.  Check out Tom’s site by clicking here*****  Yet more hype for the vinyl resurgence.  The New York Times recently posted an article which would make one think that vinyl is back with a vengeance, and yes, it is back, though it never really went away.  Sure, the major labels abandoned the format, but many Indie labels did not and one can thank the Indies for keeping the pressing plants open.  There is a lot to be said for the information in the article, but one has to be careful with the numbers.  The numbers, for instance, count out 19,000 vinyl copies sold out of Daft Punk’s first week total of 339,000.  Small potatoes, even though the article goes on to talk of gains.  The point is, though, that vinyl pressing plants are busy and that cannot be a bad thing.  Of course, when major labels throw albums out at $20 to $30 a copy, one need not guess as to why the rebound is not quicker*****  Did I supply a link to Hymn For Her‘s latest video?  I meant to.  After hearing these guys, it’s a wonder more bands aren’t picking up cigar box guitars.  Watch it here (and not just before bedtime)*****  This posted just yesterday by DBAWIS’s Jaimie Vernon— “”For artists performing in Hamilton beware of the Stowaway Bar & Eatery on King. They ripped off singer Lori Yates by not paying her at the end of the night for the gig she had just played.” Boycott the venue, kids.”  Roxanne Tellier, also a DBAWIS regular, after hearing that Lori had been payed, followed it up with “always two sides .. BUT .. she said she got paid AFTER her husband went down to the place and made a fuss. That stinks on two levels – one, they think they can screw around with musicians and two, they think they can screw around with women.”  I hate to say it, but Ms. Tellier is onto something.  When I found out that Coachella’s artist lineup consisted of only 10% female artists, I started questioning everything.  Those things don’t happen by accident, even when the people responsible don’t realize it’s happening.  It’s called AWARENESS, people!  Wake up!*****  This just in jimcolegrove3QuarterDimefrom the Coolgroove himself, Jim Colegrove (okay, his wife, Susan).  Newly released instrumentals which take Jim back to his days with his first recording band (at least, I think it was his first) Teddy & The Rough Riders.  I just got the news and haven’t had a chance to research it yet, but I think these are tracks recorded recently of the songs the band recorded way back when.  Regardless, I am sure it will be worth it.  The album is titled 3 Quarter Dime.  Colegrove is a legend, having played not only with the Rough Riders, but Bo Grumpus, The Great Speckled Bird, The Juke Jumpers and, more recently, Lost Country.  You can check out the release by clicking here*****


Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

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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.”


2 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Sheldon Gomberg: One of the Good Guys, Too Slim: Hot!!!, Charlottesville: WarHen and County Wide… The Phoenix Rises, My Father’s Day, plus Notes (you really should be reading them, you know)…..”

  1. Colleen Gutch McCloud Says:

    He’s my brother and I know just how good a guy he is. He also took care of our mother during her last two years when she had dementia. When he tells you a group is worth a listen you should take a chance and listen. After all, he listens to every CD at least 10 times so he can give the best review possible to the artist. Every song at least 10 times. His investment means more quality listening time for you. Try it! You just might like it!

  2. […] people on the same page(s).  Sheldon did it.  I covered a lot of the story in a previous column (click here) and wrote a track-by-track review of the album (click […]

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