Frank Gutch Jr: On a Midnight Listening Rampage With Eric Lichter

FrankJr2If you have never stumbled through the night listening to something you’d never heard before you’re not going to understand what a thrill this is, but I am right now diving through a string of songs by The Green PajamasEric Lichter that I don’t think even he knew were posted.  Not that long ago, I was searching Facebook for possible inclusions in the Notes section of this column and Eric posted a couple of songs on a site called

I like Eric’s stuff (his latest album ELKS In Paris got tons of thumbs up from me) and figured what the hell?  What the hell, indeed.  While dipping my toes in the shallow end of the pool, I was blindsided and knocked into the deep end.  This is the kind of stuff I live for.

spaceoperasafeathomeFor one thing, it’s past midnight, a perfect time to hear new stuff.  Those who think that the time of day doesn’t matter when it comes to music haven’t come home drunk and barely made it to the turntable before  realizing that the legs just didn’t work anymore but everything would be okay because Space Opera‘s music would surely wake them up.  Welcome to my world as a young(er) music junkie.  For another, listening late at night or early in the morning, the ambient noise doesn’t get in the way.  Nothing like a truck backing into the driveway, backup whistle beeping, to make you lose focus.  Little chance of that happening after midnight (unless you just happen to live on the backalley from hell).  But the most important reason is that at midnight, the chemicals you pumped into your body are dripping out of your pores and allowing you that out of body experience you know you crave, otherwise you would not have blown twenty bucks on ale that might as well have been PBR after the first pint.

Those were the days.  Stumbling home at closing time, glad you lived downhill because you never could have made it home uphill.  And at the end of that bone-jarring trek, music.  Your music.  Well, my music.  Sometimes, what would become my music.  I found Manfred Mann’s Earth Band on one of those nights.  And the gateway to The Pretty ThingsFreeway Madness.  Bands and albums I liked but, afterward, loved.  All after midnight.  Occasionally under the influence.

These days I am rarely under the influence (outside the influence of caffeine and music).  I don’t listen to just listen anymore.  I listen to hear.  Right now I am hearing a smorgasbord of Lichter songs in… what?  Demo-mode?  Incomplete?  Are they mere musical thoughts?  Doesn’t sound like it to me.  Sounds finished.  Sometimes a bit rough, but completely finished.  Recorded without the trappings of perfection.  lichterbabyHonest, simple.  (Photo by Laura Ross:  Eric Lichter holding prototype of new baby-shaped guitar)

But that is not enough.  So I message Lichter.

“Eric— what is this broadjam thing?”

“not sure. just found it. seems like they pulled a bunch of songs, most of which are just demos and that I never put out right off my computer and put it on their site. Crazy-”

“They’re allowed to do that? You going to allow it? If so, I’m going to write a review. Weird that they would do it and not tell you.  In fact, if you’re going to allow it, what say we do an interview about the songs?”

“No prob. happy to Frank. “

“Give me a week to go through the songs and I will contact you about a time, Eric. That’s some good stuff you have hidden on that site. “

“Thanks man. Look forward to it.”

Not as much as I do, sports fans.  I have questions.  Like how this could happen— the music ending up on a page without active participation of the musician.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  In fact, I’m ecstatic.  To find this at all is a godsend to a guy like myself.  And about those songs—–  they each have a thumbnail description.  Are they correct or are there other explanations?

palmwinelichterHold on.  Just received an email from Tom Dyer, head monkey at Green Monkey Records (that’s the Pajamas’ label, folks).  He says that Lichter had a solo album previous to ELKS (titled Palm Wine Sunday Blue), released by Parasol Records.  Four of the tracks posted on Broadjams are available on that album, but assumedly not the same takes.  This is writing on the fly, sports fans.  And ain’t it fun?

I will be checking in with Mr. Lichter next week.  In the meantime, you can scope out 28 songs on the Broadjams page.  Just click here and then click on the player.  If you want to hear more, click on the song and it will load that upon which you click.  This is good stuff.  Trust me.

Green Monkey:  The Little Label That Does…..

If you know me, you’ve heard about Green Monkey and how important I think they were/are to the Seattle music scene.  For one thing, they are home to one of my favorite bands from the Pac NW, the aforementioned Green Pajamas (and, by default, Eric Lichter).  For another, they have archived some very important music from that scene (and not just for profit).  They are one of a handful of labels which are doing what all labels should be doing— helping and protecting artists and the music they make.

They also open their vaults each winter to artists outside the label who have recorded or are recording Christmas songs.  Here is Tom Dyer’s call to arms for this Christmas (though if you participate, you have to get the music in far before):

frothingthenog“Consider this your official notice that we will do another fine Xmas album this year and we would be most happy to have you contribute. All the dough will go to charity as usual. May switch the charity over to Music Cares this year. The basic notion is pretty simple really. Bands/artists submit whatever they have handy. Some go record something new. Some are traditional, some are new compositions. We don’t keep the rights to anything beyond this use, though we will make them available forever. They can be bought through our GMR bandcamp page or through iTunes etc. You can see what we did last year right here. Let me know if you are thinking about joining our Holiday noise pile and feel free to share this with anyone you like! td Green Monkey”

Sweet and to the point, the way GM operates.  I asked Tom if it would be limited to Pac NW bands and he said he likes to keep it as close to home as possible, but no, anyone could submit.  Last year’s Frothing the Nog album was the best so far.  If you think you have what it takes, submit.  Just remember, it has to be Christmas-oriented.

By the way, the label has just released another outstanding Green Pajamas album titled November, recorded by Jack Endino back in November of 1987.  Nineteen songs.  Live.  Check it out at

It’s Forty Below in L.A., Folks (it’s a label)…..

They’re small but they’re doing it the right way— or trying to.  My connection to the label is through Eric Corne, who I believe started the label as a conduit for his own music (I could be wrong).  He contacted me a couple of years ago asking if I would listen to his album Kid Dynamite & The Common Man and when I did, I contacted him right back.  Right back.  It was that good.

Not long after, during Wisconsin’s day of glory (according to the neo-cons of that once glorious State, now sliding into conservative hell), Corne put together a music video which answered the question of many a musician— what happened to musicians who used songs as a form of protest.  Shades of the mid- to late-sixties:

The song is somewhat of an anomaly on an otherwise rock-ish album featuring a string of top-flight musicians, but it set the stage.

sammorrowThus far, three other artists have released albums under Forty Below’s banner:  Sam Morrow, who I somehow have yet to hear— an oversight on my part, I assure you, and one which will be corrected in the near future;  Kail Baxley, whose two excellent EPs, Heatstroke and The Wind and the War, were brought under one title, combining the two;  and now, Bonson Berner, the new kid on the block.

I wrote about Baxley in a column awhile ago.  There was a quality 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, he could make it, but then I say that about so many artists these days.  It’s a struggle.  For music fans too.  Meet Kail Baxley:

Berner is relatively new to me, having found his way into my play stack a couple of months ago.  Again, more mainstream than I’m used to, but pretty damn good mainstream if you ask me.  Take a listen/see:

Guilt wins again.  I really like these artists and while I was sitting here thinking, man, this sounds good, I began to wonder about Sam Morrow.  So I followed Forty Below’s link to Morrow’s music and found music right up there with the other three artists on the label.  Want to hear something impressive?  Click here and listen to War.  It is exceptional!  And when you’re done listening, watch this teaser video.  That is Sam Morrow.  Now I know.

I’m even impressed enough by Morrow enough to reprint this, stolen from his Facebook page:

Raised on the muddy waters of coastal Americana, Sam Morrow brings a gritty sustenance to his music, evocative of a threadbare soul, decades his elder.

“Coming from a background with a love for all music, I found it challenging to nail down my style. Between everything I listened to and loved, I saw a single commonality: honesty. Whether it’s Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Damien Rice, or David Ramirez, they all have these heavy truths woven in their writing that you don’t want to believe, but have to, because you’ve been there, you’ve felt that, you’ve seen those things. And it’s from that well of honesty I write.”

But to be honest, two years ago this album might never have happened. Two years ago these songs might never have been written. Two years ago, Sam was barely alive. He was a shell of a soul and a withered voice. A man entering his prime, found himself trapped by the burden of a destructive life.

Whereas some artists pen about pain from a distant perch, Sam walked through the darkness of life and survived to see the dawn. And like eyes given a second chance, his lyrics are drenched with an unvarnished realism. His honest, homespun outlook brings us all face-to-face with that which we ourselves are afraid to admit.

Like the long line of southern songwriters before him, Sam invites audiences along for the ride; the tragedy and triumph. His shows are not performances but immersive experiences for any and all. Humbled by the unflinching realities of recklessness, his stage is a welcome mat.

“My hope is to make music that moves people to nod their head one moment only to shake it a verse later. I wanted to make a record full of contradictions to reflect the lives we all live. I started out in churches and now play in bars, but I’ve found crowds are pretty much the same wherever I go. We’re all searching for something bigger than ourselves, some truth we haven’t found yet. But that’s what keeps us searching, because the moment we quit looking, is the same moment our pens run out of ink.”

True North is Sam’s debut EP, Produced and Engineered by Eric Corne (Walter Trout, Devotchka, Kail Baxley). After years of wrestling with addiction and purpose and sound, he believes this is the direction that will chart his future. This four song set is a diverse collection of melodies and lyrics that provide a glimpse into a very promising future

Yep.  I like this guy.  He fits right in at Forty Below.  Yep.  I like the label too.  Thank God for the Indies.  Sometimes I feel like they are the only good thing left in what otherwise is a cesspool of a music industry.

Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin…..

I interrupt this column to bring you good news.  The Fearless Kin now have swag!  Yup.  They just set up their own store (click here) and now have a variety of T-shirts plus their CD and stickers for sale.  Normally, I would not plug a band’s store, but I love these kids!  In case you have yet to hear them, watch this!!!

My favorite part is the very end— the smiles when the kids realize that they nailed it.  Try it sometime.  It ain’t easy.

My Cousin Vinnie…..

Okay, Vinnie Zummo is not technically my cousin, but musically he sure is.  He’s been cranking out music for some years now, for a short time with Joe Jackson, and is now on a kick which has many amazed.  He is on a quest to finish tributes to each member of the Beatles.  He already has Ringo, Paul and George.  Next up, John.  Want to see how well he has done?  Here you go:

Vinnie isn’t all Beatles, though.  Here he is helping one of my favorites, Laurie Biagini, pay tribute to summer.  From her excellent Sanctuary of Sound album.  No kicking sand in Vinnie’s face.  At least, not after hearing how he handles the guitar.  Surf’s up!!!

Music Notes smallNo Notes again this week.  Seriously, people, how am I supposed to give you notes when you don’t give them to me?  Oh well.  Next week will probably be a shitstorm of releases and videos.  I hope.


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.” 

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