Frank Gutch Jr: The Re-Return of Nick Holmes; Oami: Back In the Game; Dan Miraldi: Rockin’ Cleveland; Lisbee Stainton: Bribing Her Way Into Next Week’s Column; and a Shitload of Notes…..

FrankJr2Nick Holmes is a friend of mine.  I have never met him nor have I even talked with him on the phone but he is a friend, nonetheless.  He sends me stuff.  Anyone who sends me stuff is my friend.  Send me some stuff and you’ll find out.  It seems like only yesterday (it was over two years ago) that he sent me CD copies of two albums I, up to that time, never even knew existed:   And it seems like just yesterday (because it was) that I received his brand spanking new CD, Sonar.  There is a story behind Nick and his music and I hesitate to tell that story here because I have told it a few times and hate to repeat myself too much, but if you want to read a fascinating story about his early years in New York and how we became acquainted, follow this link.

My musical friends know I am an odd duck when it comes to music but they know me as an honest odd duck and a fanatic about what I like.  I like Nick Holmes.  More specifically, I like Nick Holmes’ music.  It was easy.  I listened to it.

My first exposure was through White Elephant, a loose experimental group of musicians which formed around future jazz maestro Michael MainieriGary Haller at the House of Records found it for me.  I say “for me” because the day it came in, I stopped by and Gary tossed it to me, saying (and I paraphrase) “Here’s something you might be interested in.”  I was, though I didn’t know it at the time.  The band was a conglomeration of artists of all types, many of the musicians the future of New York jazz (Brecker Brothers, Warren Bernhardt, Tony Levin, etc).  Hugh McCracken sat in on the sessions as did Ronny Cuber and Joe Beck and Steve Gadd and a host of others.  And what sessions they were!

Nick was the core of those sessions in my head.  He had a texture to his voice— a certain “smokey” flavor— and I found myself enamored with it.  Was Battle Royal Side One, Track One?  If not, you couldn’t prove it by me because that was the first song I latched onto and it held my hand throughout the rest of the two-disc set.  Jazz-fusion was the direction, and experimental when Nick wasn’t upfront.  When he was, it was pure Holmes magnificence.  He wrote songs perfectly fit to his voice and Mainieri and crew arranged them so well that I had no chance.  I quickly became fan.  Huge fan.  That album, by the way, has been re-released by Mainieri’s NYC Records and is available for purchase.  Originally released in 1972.

nholmes3In 1973, Nick had a string of songs he wanted to record and Mainieri set to putting together a band which included, not surprisingly, leftovers from the Elephant days, which had been fun but ended all too soon.  He dragged himself, Levin, McCracken and Donald MacDonald back into the studio and set about laying down tracks for what I believed for decades was Nick’s only solo album, Soulful Crooner.  Released in ’73,  the album suffered greatly from poor distribution and lack of focus, which is a fancy way of saying that it was way ahead of its time.  The songs were a mix of jazz and rock, Nick having found a niche few were doing it as well.  The highlight of the album, for me, was a mood piece Nick titled The Promise Suite, a modern classical-jazz composition presented in three parts.  At 4:58, it packed a wallop of emotions and even today I am taken aback by its musical direction and beauty.

nholmes-closeup1That album failed miserably, though not without its critical successes.  But back then, just as it is in today’s world, the critics packed little weight with a world wrapped up in a Rolling Stone on the verge of becoming a pop culture version of GQ or Esquire, not to mention Ladies Home Companion.  Radio was also losing its bite, FM Underground beginning to make what looked like a move to capture the hearts and minds of the young but ending up a lame mirror of the glory days of  AM.  Formats ruled and Soulful Crooner, as impressive as it was, disappeared into the depths of space, seemingly lost forever.

Forever was not what it was, but it certainly seemed like it.  I kept my eyes peeled over the years, scouring the racks at used record stores, asking people in the record biz if they knew anything about Nick and where he was, but the answer was always no, never heard of him.  Every once in awhile, I would find someone who had heard of him and that little bit was reason enough for celebration, for had I not had those copies of White Elephant and Soulful Crooner safely protected amongst my other record albums, I am sure I would have doubted they ever existed.

And then came the Internet, that huge expanse of information-heavy ether packed into a computer-sized box, and let me tell you that in the early days, those boxes were not small.  My first forays produced nothing about Nick and his exploits, if any there had been.  I found Nick Holmes, all right— lots of them, but none the Nick Holmes I was looking for.  As the years progressed, I would occasionally stumble upon Nick’s name, always in the context of fan comments.  I made friends with the few who appreciated Crooner.  For short bursts, we would pat one another on the back in the realization that we were not alone in being fans, but those moments were few and far between.

I had almost given up hope when I posted a piece on Nick and his importance to me and received a message from someone asking me to contact him.  Brian Cullman, I was to find out, was not only a fan of Nick’s work but a personal friend.  I can put you in touch with him if you want, he said, but it will have to be his choice.  Nick, it seems, was as weary of the world as was I, at that time.  Brian sent him a note with my email address.  Nothing happened.  Until, one day, I received an email from Nick himself.  I know I am going overboard when I say that that was a glorious day, but to me it was.

We communicated a bit.  He wanted to know who I was and why I wanted the contact.  I told him I was a fan and would like to talk with him about his music.  He sat on that for some time, probably pondering the negatives which could come out of dealing with unsavory people.  We sent small  messages back and forth very intermittently and he must have sensed that I was genuine because one day he said, fine, let’s do it.  I will talk, but it will have to be through email because my situation for communications in The Bahamas is not the best.

nholmeslowballIt was fine by me.  I shot off questions and waited and when the answers came, it was worth it.  He told me about his first album, which was recorded and never released.  He told me about his life, post-Crooner, and his struggles with not only music but life itself.  He told me that he had two CDs other than Crooner, The King of 26th Street (1998) and Low Ball (2010), and sent copies so I could hear them.  I was in Heaven.  (Those interested can stream The King of 26th Street here, or better yet, can purchase it hereStream Low Ball here or purchase here)

Nick told me about a few other projects he had done over the years, some completely unreleased, including an album recorded with Mainieri not long after Crooner, or so I understand.  Don’t quote me on that because I am so anxious for Nick’s music that I might have heard what I wanted to hear and not precisely what was said.  The hazards of being a fan.

Which leads me to the album I just yesterday received in the mail— Sonar.

nickholmessonar 001I have heard it only once through because I am juggling projects like the Karamazov Brothers juggle tennis balls— transcribing and editing and writing numerous things at the same time, hoping I can finish at least one before I crap out.  Once is enough for me to know that it is another outstanding Nick Holmes album, but you always have to take such statements with a grain of salt.  It is akin to someone who says he knows music taking you home to show you his complete collection of Led Zeppelin recordings, including bootlegs and box sets.  In a way, Nick is my Zeppelin.  So you have to hear the music before you can make up your own mind because, as I say all the time, music is personal, and I mean deep personal.  What I say is not always what you hear and that goes for music too.

As an old friend who worked in a recording studio used to say, “There will be glitches”, which is not unlike Ringo screaming “I got blistuhs on muh finguhs” but more relevant to this topic.  The actual release of Sonar has been set back, but just a couple of weeks, due to— I freakin’ can’t believe it— an unworkable bar code.  So let me propose this:  Go to the links I provided above— the ones to The King of 26th Street and Low Ball.  Listen.  Get to know Nick Holmes and his music.  Hell, go to your favorite digital music distributor (as much as I hate to mention those leeches in any kind of positive light) and listen to Soulful Crooner.  In a couple of weeks, visit Nick at his own website and scope out the new album.  Because in my mind, he is legend.  Because you need to hear him, if only to cross him off your he-isn’t-anything-like-The-Beatles-So-I-Don’t-Care list.

But mostly because I ask you to.  I mean, I’m giving you a chance here— to listen to music you would more than likely miss, and will, if you don’t follow through.  Truth be told, I cannot imagine what my record collection would be like without White Elephant and Nick Holmes.  I can part with many of my albums, but never those.  Unless I am dying and want to make sure the vampires who frequent Goodwill on a daily basis don’t get them.

I love this guy’s music.

Lucky for you, before wrapping up this column I did a quick Youtube search.  While you’re thinking about what I said, listen to this.  Ladies & Gentlemen, The Promise Suite:

Wait till you hear Pass the Time Away from the new album.  Bee-yoo-ti-ful!

Oami— More Than a Day In the City…..

oamiJust before I received the package from Nick, I got an email from someone named James Bagley.  Bagley, I thought.  Only person I could think of named Bagley was Al, who pitched for the Sweet Home town team when I was a kid.  Then I read the header.  “Oami Band Activity Update”.  Oami?!!  Holy shit!  They’re still together?  I reviewed their album for FAME back in 2006 (read it here) and by the time the review hit the streets, the band was gone!  I know.  I tried to contact them.  WTF?

Turns out, the band is getting back together to support the album they put out in 2005!!!  Should be one hell of a tour!  They’ve had eight years to prepare!

I kid.  I want to kid these guys because I loved what they did and seeing it revived from the depths, as it were, has me giddy beyond measure.

Here’s what the email said (hope you don’t mind, James, but you know what they say about information when it gets to the ether):

“Frank,

I’ve been meaning to thank you for taking the time to review our 2005 album “Day In The City.”  The band had since parted ways about a year or so after moving to NYC in 2006.  Some of us focused on careers, got married and had kids while others continued to pursue the craft of music making.  Now we are planning our first reunion tour in support of the album that we never got to promote after it came out.  Let us know if you’ll be in the southeast sometime in late April of 2014.  We’d love for you to come and hang out with us!  Also, we just created our facebook page where all the updates will be posted.  www.facebook.com/oamiband

oamidayinthecityThanks again and hope all is well.”

How could it not be well, with news of the impending “continued” release of their album?  And, sure, I’d be happy to slug down a few brews whilst listening to them sling bull, a favorite pastime of all musicians I know and love.  I’m in Oregon, guys.  To which the reply was:

“Looks like the closest we can get to you is Milwaukee where it looks like we’ll be able to play the massive 2014 Summerfest.  We’re working on booking that show along with Steve’s current popular Milwaukee band I’m Not A Pilot which has played it before.  If we can get to the West Coast then we’ll be sure to let you know.  Thanks for digging our sound.”

Curses!  Foiled again!  But that’s okay.  The cool thing is that Mr. Bagley took the time and made the effort to contact me, not really knowing my situation after eight years.  The cool thing is that they are going to work the Day In the City album.  The cool thing is that the music still means something to them after all those years, enough to drop things and go on a tour, as short as it might be.

On a personal level, most of you have no idea how much such contacts mean to a writer.  We’re like musicians.  We live in a vacuum.  If it wasn’t for the contact we have with other writers, we would have little contact outside of our own family and friends.  I think The Incurables sang it best when they recorded their song F.M.  The lyrics are something like, “Is there anybody there, on the other side of my radio…” and we writers understand.  Sometimes we get responses but mostly we don’t.  No one seems to care.  Or at least it sometimes feels like it.

So thanks, James X. Bagley, for reading the review, even if it was of your own album.  You made my day.  Any chance of a new album?

You can stream Day In the City here.

Dan Miraldi & The Albino Winos— Rockin’ Cleveland One Song at a Time…..

And here is their latest song:

Why, lookee here!  Here’s an earlier one I hadn’t seen before!

The first vid is brand new.  The second is from 2011.  See why I dig this kid?  He has a fifties and early 60s rock ‘n’ roll vibe to his music that sneaks its way in whether I like it or not.  His last album, Sugar & Adrenaline, sneaked its way into my Top Ten the year it was released, in fact (that would have been 2012, sports fans).

Miraldi deserves a shot, as does any artist who works as hard as he does.  The guy is touring constantly, plugging the band at every turn, keeping the band in the limelight.  And that ain’t easy for a real Indie.

The new “mini-LP” (meaning six songs, or so I understand) is another step toward breaking out of the region surrounding Cleveland, his home base.  It’s another solid album, titled Devil At Our Heels, but let me leave you with this tip.  If you haven’t picked up on Sugar & Adrenaline, start there.  I put that sucker in my Top Ten for a reason.

Learn more about Dan and the Winos here…..

Lisbee Stainton, Bribing Her Way Into My Heart, One Check at a Time…..

lisbeecheque 001I wanted you to see this picture.  It is of UK songstress Lisbee Stainton writing a check to induce me to mention her in next week’s column.  Only over there in the UK, I hear that they call them cheques.  Go figure.  (Like my daddy used to say, “as long as they cash”)  It took some negotiating, being’s how the space in DBAWIS fills up so quickly, and she was anxious to cut a deal being’s how her new album, Word Games, is ready for pre-order.  The proposed release date is November 4th, but I’m not going to tell you that until the check (erm, cheque) clears.  I’m also not going to tell you that what I’ve heard so far is damn impressive, but I’ve been a sucker for Lisbee since hearing her 2010 release, Girl On an Unmade Bed.

It wasn’t until her next album Go hit my player that I realized her depth of talent.  There were moments on that album which gave me adrenaline rushes, the song and production was so damn good.  (Read my review here)

She has a touch, does Lisbee, and I look forward to making my way through Word Games slowly, because hurrying would be a fool’s errand.  I learned that with Go, which got better with each listen as the layers slowly presented themselves.  Listening, for me, is a process.

Next week, I will review the new album, or something akin to it (the review, not the album).  You have received fair warning.  Oh, as a teaser, you can download Lisbee’s new single, Red Dog Running, here.  And no, this one isn’t free.

Speaking of free, here are this week’s…

Music Notes smallNotes…..  There is a movement to get John Stewart into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  I have received numerous notices, probably due to the large number of musicians and music people on my various “friends” lists and I heartily endorse the cause.  The thing is, that hall of fame means little to me, personally, and John Stewart does.  Yes, he may have tripped off this mortal coil, but his legacy remains in both his music and in the way he lived his life.  I had the pleasure of visiting with him a handful of times— all too few, to be honest— and I cannot say that I have ever met a better man.  Extremely talented, humble and giving, he was a template of a man, someone anyone would have been proud to have known.  Hall of fame?  Yeah, he deserves it, if only to keep his humanity and musical legacy more alive.  Stewart and his philosophy cross my path on a regular basis, though— in dealing with the foibles of everyday life— and a hall of fame are walls too small to hold him.  Still, I cannot argue against the cause.  If you would like to put your name on the growing list of people who support it, here is the link.  My feeling is that he deserved more while he was among us.    Keep that in mind the next time you deal with good people.  He was a hell of a good man.  You can quote me*****  Seattleites will be happy to see that the SkyboysTom Kell is still cranking out the tunes.  He is discussing the possibility of releasing some tapes from back in the Glory Days of Seattle.  We can only hope.  Here is a living room video of him and singing partner  Emiko Woods laying down a beauty of a song.

Jesse Dee & Jacquie B got married recently.  If you don’t know who they are it’s because you have been stuffing your ears with crap instead of my pick for last year’s album of the year, Picture The Ocean.  They keep telling me a new album is on the way and it might be, but I wish they would have decided to get married after the album was completed.  I am kidding, of course.  Sort of.  A hearty congratulations!  Now, get back to work*****  No Small Children are still at it!  While this is not an “official” video, it is another step towards world domination.  Ably recorded by, evidently, one Johnny Jnerebel at The Silverlake Lounge in, I guess, Silverlake.  That’s in L.A., Bosco.  F.U. In Any Language:

Randy Burns recently reminded me that he will have a new album coming out on Wepecket Records.  I know Randy from his days fronting the Skydog Band.  Stay tuned*****  Speaking of reminders, if you like the old rockin’ guitar instrumental days— the late fifties and early sixties— you might want to check out Jim Colegrove‘s recently released Three Quarter Dime album.  They don’t call him The Cool Groove for nothin’.  Here’s the skinny*****  As I mentioned last week, Ticktockman has a new album on the way.  They just finished up the mixing and mastering this past week and are pumped.  If it turns out to be one-tenth as good as their first album, it will be a killer.  I’ll keep you posted (assuming they will keep me posted*****  Sheldon Gomberg reminded me that Eleni Mandell of The Living Sisters (who also has a track on the new Sweet Relief III album) recently returned from the UK with tapes in hand.  Okay, they weren’t tapes, but they were files.  And okay, they weren’t in her hands.  Just the same, there is music in the offing somewhere in the future.  Speaking of The Living Sisters, Sheldon also turned me onto this video which proves to me how important videos can be to some music.  This freakin’ cracks me up…..

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

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.”

3 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: The Re-Return of Nick Holmes; Oami: Back In the Game; Dan Miraldi: Rockin’ Cleveland; Lisbee Stainton: Bribing Her Way Into Next Week’s Column; and a Shitload of Notes…..”

  1. Sonofagun. I must have left out the embed code for the No Small Children video. No problem, though. Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_Ojnusdp_A

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