Frank Gutch Jr: Down By the Old Graveyard— Reviews of Albums I Thought For Sure Could Not Miss…..

FrankJr2I’ve been in an extremely retrospective frame of mind the last few weeks, digging through old photographs and reading old letters as well as watching old movies.  I don’t know why.  Sometimes I have a need to look back, I suppose, and lately I’ve had that kink in my neck for doing it a bit too much.  I have relived  a thousand moments and have heard songs in my head of artists and songs long past and no longer in my collection.  I have thought of old girlfriends and old buddies and have re-experienced old highs and lows.  Highs and lows.  One thing I have been doing is revisiting reviews I had written over the years of music I loved at that moment, and still do, on the whole.  I hate to see good music go to waste.  I hate to see artists ignored.  I hate that we spend so much time going over and over the same old music and music histories we always have, ad infinitum.  I understand it.  I just hate it.  So just a few minutes ago, I decided right now, just for one column, I would give a few of those artists and albums a short-lived reprise.  Why not?  It is what I have been doing all my life in zines and papers like The Entertainer and Pop Culture Press and BOMP and Fusion and on the Net for sites like DBAWIS.  The truth is that I have started three different columns which have deflated like yesterday’s quiche and I have to write something, so you’re stuck.  Who knows?  Maybe you can find something in the old mine worth reading and/or hearing.  I hope so.  So let’s go.

PEPA: A Musical Dreamscape, Down Under-— Originally written for Hubpages, 2009:

I saw a kangaroo swimming… 

modern joyHe did, Cameron Knight. One day, on the beach of Bateau Bay in Australia, Cameron Knight saw a kangaroo swim. To most of the world, that is akin to seeing a horse fly (and I don’t mean a horsefly) or a snake dance (again, not snakedance).  But that is the world in which Knight grew up— an idyllic setting in a semi-paradise— so it is not at all remarkable that he create Start in which music and illusion coalesce into divine elegance.

Pepa is not Knight’s only musical outlet. He is frontman for New South Wales’ modern pop group Modern Joy, now making noise in Australia and New Zealand with the release of Make Believe, the first of what could be a long list of albums judging by fan reaction. pepaMade up of two sets of brothers, Modern Joy could very well break through the white noise to establish themselves in what looks to many fans like a world of posers. They are pop, yes, but they are committed and working hard to make the dream reality. Without major labels and music industry infrastructure and trainloads of money, sweat is the foundation of the music industry— at least, until it rebuilds. These guys are sweating plenty.

Cameron Knight loves Modern Joy, referring to them as loud and fun, but his heart also resides in a softer and more personal place. When the lights go down and the show is ended, the music is hardly over. He simply enfolds himself into a different persona, Pepa, and wraps himself in a musical cocoon of melody and emotion. The world he creates is one of magic and cinema as well as music, weaving moments of individual importance into movie magnificence. The songs are moving and at times absolutely beautiful, but when you hear them beginning to end they create the musical equivalent of cinematic art.

Would that words were music. You wouldn’t have to read these inadequate reactions to what I consider world-class music. As I listen, my mind reflects upon the days of my youth and Days of Future Passed, an album which took me to a place I’d not yet musically been.  Start is of that caliber.

How to put this in words which will make you search out Pepa for a listen.  Ladies, you want to cross the threshold into a world of romantic beauty, this is it. Guys, Start is a vacation on a disc. And it is as close as a link to MySpace (click here).  You’re welcome.

Note:  Written over four years ago, this band/album might not exist beyond the MySpace page.  When visiting the page, look for Start in the “album” column.

Joia Wood:  Live From the Gravity Lounge— Originally written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange (2008):

joiawoodliveTwo times in my long history of listening to music have I been stopped in my tracks by a female background vocal: Pink Floyd‘s The Great Gig In the Sky (Clare Torry) and the Rolling StonesGimme Shelter (Merry Clayton). Okay, neither was really a background vocal, per se, but they did stop me in my tracks. This year, I heard track stopper number three: Danny Schmidt‘s Leaves Are Burning. The first track on Schmidt’s much overlooked Little Grey Sheep album bludgeoned me with not only great music and exceptional, tasty electronic and electric guitar from Paul Curreri but the ear-shredding and amazingly sensitive voice of Joia Wood. As with the first two songs, I played this one again and again just to be sure what I was hearing. It took numerous listens to separate all of Wood’s wails and moans from Curreri’s very similar (at times) guitar. In the process, I fell in love with Wood’s voice. Actually, I fell in love with what she can do with it, and she can do plenty.

When Schmidt told me about a CD she’d pressed last year of a live gig at Charlottesville VA’s much vaunted (and rightly so) Gravity Lounge, I salivated. She’d only pressed it to have something for fans at shows, Schmidt explained, so it was possible that she had sold out. Emails to Schmidt and Wood over the course of a few months produced no tangible CD and I became a bit discouraged, but I am not one to give up easily. After wangling an interview and begging like a starving dog, she hinted that she might press a few more, that she was in fact considering an attempt to actually support herself with her music and that she would send a copy if and when they were ready. I waited. I got it. It was worth the wait.

Live From the Gravity Lounge is a bit rough, but a really good quality mixing board tape (if digital recordings are referred to as ‘tapes’ anymore). It is also one of the best live performances I have in my collection. Joia Wood is, in a word, a joy. Prophetess opens the set, acoustic guitar lo-fi beneath unadorned voice, a no-frills beginning and one which allows her to build. It is a flashback to the late 60s and early 70s folk scene only better. Shelter, a pleading and lonely cry, takes it a step further and sets up the beautiful and delicate Come So Far, a heartrending look at the desolation of alone.

joiawoodIntermission? Maybe, because the rest of the album features Wood and band, Trees on Fire, and here we go. Go is as close as Wood gets to a signature song and she starts letting loose. Her light vibrato carries the unique melody to great heights and ends all too soon with fadeout (you can see a full-length live video version on her MySpace page, filmed in Poland, of all places). No sense in wasting the band, so they up the beat a bit with the folk-rocking Hurricane Song, pushed along by folk/prog violin and guitar and shuffling percussion, the ending rounding out the song perfectly. Another great folk rocker follows—To Do—complete with psych guitar/violin break which amps it up a notch. She ends with Know Me Now, an absolutely stunning introspective ballad of the first water. It runs for a little over six minutes and is a true highlight. Then, for reasons known only to the musical gods, the CD goes dead from 6:03 to 9:12 only to be reawakened with a strange and short version of Three Blind Mice. The first 6:03 is brilliant. The rest—well, let us just say that she has already given us more great music than we deserve.

Okay. There is one more song of note. Sandwiched between To Do and Know Me Now is an anomaly well worth separating from the rest: Lullaby. It is more prog-folk than anything, Wood and Trees On Fire probably unknowingly borrowing from the likes of Van der Graaf Generator, harbingers of 70s progressive rock. The bridge two-thirds of the way through Lullaby capture the feel and aura of VDGG’s early 70s Pawn Hearts LP. Rob Mezzanotte‘s David Jackson-style sax is spine-tingling and the electronically tinged guitar sound is amazing. I truly wish I’d been there. As good as it is on CD, it must have been even better live.

Live From the Gravity Lounge is live, yes, and there are the occasional warts and scars incumbent in such recordings, but in this case it is a huge positive. Joia Wood is not only talented but authentic. The studio might have taken that raw edge away from what to my ears stands solidly on its own. This is great stuff partially because it IS live.

That said, Wood has been in the studio working on her first full-fledged studio album, reportedly with Trees On Fire. It will be a real test, but she has the goods. Speaking of goods, life is good, and when the album is done and available, life will be even better.

Note:  Of the hundreds of musicians I have dealt with and written about over the years, Joia was one of the few for whom I gave my highest praise.  She at that time was a diamond in the rough and showed an enormous amount of depth when she opened herself up.  She was one of the more unique of the Charlottesville musicians (a town I claim to be a mecca of music) and I regret her “retirement” from the musical mainstream, but I have hopes she will be back.  Right now, she is raising a beautiful daughter and I rejoice in her happiness.  On the inside, I ache.  If you want to know why, go to her MySpace page (click here) and listen to Speak Again and Come So Far, two excellent songs which could wring blood from a stone.  Joia, I love you but you’re killing me here.  Oh, and if you’re of a mind to, click on video on the left hand side of the page to view a live video recorded in Krakow with musicians she hardly knew.

Maggi, Pierce & E.J.: Silver— Originally written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange (2006)

mpesilverThe very essence of Gruppo Sportivo, The Netherland’s late-’70s ambassadors of power pop, has emerged in Philadelphia of all places. Maggi, Pierce and E.J. have without realizing it channeled the heart of that incredibly unique and super-talented band into three discs which they have titled Morgen, Mittag, and Nacht (German for morning, midday and night) and what discs they are. Borrowing from numerous genres, they fold influences in a power pop casing and feed it to you whole. Early Brit rock, folk, psych— even the manic edges of the Beat Farmers and Frank Zappa are here for the digesting. But make no mistake, they don’t copy. They create.

The discs start innocuously enough (morning is, after all, a time for reflection) and acoustic rules, albeit with an electric edge. Light single piano strokes lay a Satie-like motif over early Simon-and-Garfunkel-like acoustic guitar in the opener, Whale Song, and the result is ethereal and hauntingly beautiful, a perfect opening theme. Maggi has an intriguing voice and Michael showcases it to perfection. A simple, lighthearted folk song, it doesn’t seem like much, but it is and that slight waver and her unassuming delivery is really quite disarming. Bare Naked Ladies could have placed Melt Away on one of their earliest works and you wouldn’t blink an eye, it’s that good, hook and all, with harmonies straight out of early ’60s Fleetwoods, to great effect. Maggi and her slight waver return in Castle Walls and you begin to realize that that voice is really something oddly special. A great acoustic underbelly carries Lies Behind the Sun way over the top and the break sounds a little Amon Duul II with a touch of Popol Vuh for effect. Big Falls, WI takes the lightness of the earlier Michael a step further and allows all three to intertwine voices, which they do quite nicely. Light pop gives way to rock when E.J. takes the beat up a notch and then production kicks in, ending with jazzy repetitions of “Do you think the world’s a funny place?/We’ve almost filled up every space”. Gruppo Sportivo would be proud.

Disc two rocks a little harder. It is, after all, midday and the sun is high in the sky. Kennison kicks it off with pure rhythm guitar-driven power pop, Pierce throwing in primo over-amped guitar licks on top of crunching rhythm worthy of the best. They even plagiarize The Who’s He’s a Boy at the last second, only here it’s You’re a Girl. The jazzy side of Gruppo Sportivo surfaces with flying colors in Music of the Sea, light acoustic Tighten Up guitar riffs in swing vein giving the bass a perfect reason to dance. Throw in perfecto sax from guest Jim Hoke, DJ duties from 1 Take Willie and primo rap by Maxx from Hack Tao and stick a fork in it. Step right into another Gruppo Sportivo moment next, A Moment echoing the best of what they had to offer in the late ’70s. Snowed In With You draws a bit from early ’70s Zappa, especially the extended jam in the middle which would have fit in any Winterland or Fillmore-type venue available at the time, light show and all. If you like psych, this is killer! Sea of Green is one of those short but enjoyable pop tracks and while nothing overpowering, it makes its point. Late ’60s garage lives in possibly this disc’s most impressive track, Ezra’s Stove, as it echoes a bit of Love‘s classic Signed D.C. (thanks to the spacey harmonica), with a break worthy of early Widespread Panic. For Brit fans, there is even a hint of East of Eden here. Disc two ends with a simple pop tune about a scarf worn on the Rosie O’Donnell Show [The Scarf (David’s Riff)]— a bonus not listed on the disc or jacket, ending with humorous prologue and epilogue phone message supplied by Maggi’s mom(?).

Maggie_EJ_1Disc three, Nacht, slips into a kind of frenetic metal-pop sensitivity, crunching rhythms taking over on the Ramones-like opener, Yipee-i-a. Mutant reverb drives the rhythm into the skull like nails when played loud and if you’ve heard Hoodoo Gurus at their loudest and most manic, you get the idea. Hard rock rhythm guitar bangs out One Hand, a gritty and raunchy killer track with head-vibrating break. Supposed Indian (or should I say Native American) rhythms preface Pocahontas, Illinois and slide right into a slightly psychedelic/power pop mix which should have psych fans beside themselves. I mean, what a guitar break! Whew! Fade in drums, out. The dark side of psych rules InSeine and for once production dominates. Layered vocals and instrumental tracks take you to an as yet unvisited MPE world of depth and more depth. Superb. String of Pearls is pure shock therapy, beginning with slash/punk nastiness and suddenly interrupted by the soft, floating (and perfect, I might add) voice of Maggi. Don’t listen standing up. It makes you dizzy. When you adjust to the beautifully crafted melody that follows, you slowly realize that you are trapped inside Maggi’s world of desolation. Deep breath. If Country Dick ever sang for Zappa, it might have ended in something like 706, which sets itself up from the first line: “Why do you think I’m the devil.” By closing time, the music degenerates into a cacophony of electronics, voices and rhythms. A fitting end to it all.

Should you buy this? If you like pop, psychedelic and power-pop, absolutely. Maggi, Pierce & E.J. have pulled off the quintessential musical coup here, taking us from morning to the depths of night in three discs— from Heaven to Hell, if you will. Is it good? It is astoundingly good. Musical styles and production techniques are all over the map which makes this pure musical adventure. Of course, if your idea of such is more like the safe mediocrity of Superstar X, you may want to pass. This is not—I repeat, not—safe. What it is is addicting and guess what? There are numerous other discs to feed that craving. I’m thinking maybe Play Their Landlady’s Favorites next, if it’s not already out of print. If not, I’ll take my chances with any and all of the remaining six. Superstar X will just have to wait.

You interested? Check out their website. In the meantime, don’t bother me. Listener at work.

Note:  After a ten to fifteen year run, MPE separated for all intents and purposes.  Maggi and Pierce now play under nom de plumes Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing as Hymn For Her, and E.J. Released an album titled Heart Like a Tiny Jewel and is presently working on a new one.

Stealing Jane:  The Signal EP— Originally posted on Rock & Reprise, my own music pages stealingjaneep(2009):

“She’s never gonna help me,” the EP begins, voice backed by muted plucked guitar, “She’s always gonna be the backseat driver on the way to calamity” and with those words and ensuing building crescendo of towering Stealing Jane sound, Stealing Jane opens the door to angst, but not teen angst, God forbid. Angst for the masses. Like horsemen riding the romantic apocalypse, they trample every unrealistic notion created by pheremone and/or hormone and leave them crumbled in the dust. And it leaves you exhilarated!

As ironic as it sounds, it really isn’t. Love, as dominant as it is in our lives, is aluminum foil to life’s steel and as much as we want to disregard that, we do so at our own expense and many times, the price is steep. Theme or thread, it is the core of The Signal, whether Bryce Larsen, who wrote the lyrics, meant it that way or not. It is a strange mix, romantic frailty and harsh reality, a mix most of us deny with every failed relationship. The fact that most of us live in Hollywood when it comes to love does not help. Devastation is devastation and trumps denial each and every time.

Song after song, the message is the same— love gone wrong— but this time, it isn’t the pain but the process. Larsen might as well be saying, “it’s not you, it’s me” with every line and every phrase only in this case, it is true. Only romanticists are destroyed by a rejection from someone who is broken. Better to be done with it. The problem is, how? Even the lighter and jazz-oriented Parasite explores the problem when Larsen choruses “You need to realize that the parasite in your life seems to be the one you love” (he is singing about himself). “Please believe me when I say that I love you more than I love myself” is not cheap compensation as it is on virtually every song on the subject. It is admission. I’m going to destroy you, he says, and I hate it, but I can’t walk away. If that ain’t the bitch, I don’t know what is. That is waiting for the bomb to drop and those of us who have been there know how stressful every minute of that is.

The emotional side is offset by some of the best horn work (and in this specific case, the synthesizer counterpart, if my ears are true) this side of Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Wall of sound tower of power tidal waves of it. Like when the band hits the chorus of Life Support and Larsen wails “Doctor..” or the bridge leading to the final chorus of Mess or (my favorite) the chorus of You Let It Die, an angry requiem for what could have been— tidal waves which reach the top without going over. Pounding bass, impassioned guitar, drums which you realize could never be replaced by a machine and keyboards all over the place in just the right amounts. Crescendos don’t live in this environment, they thrive.

Musically, Stealing Jane could be the modern equivalent of Squeeze with sprinkles of Simple Minds and maybe Sting in bits and pieces, but they really don’t sound like any of stealingjanelive1those. They have found that magical point in the music where it sounds like everything but is so damn good you just don’t care. They are who they are and the world be damned!

I’ll be honest with you and tell you that this is normally not my kind of music. I crave guitar in huge amounts and Matt Giordano’s offerings normally would not fit the bill, but they do here. Leads are offered up in small quantities and are as tasty as they could be, short but sweet. Not a note wasted and enough to satisfy. It won’t get him into the People’s Choice guitarist Top 100, but that’s only because the People wouldn’t know a good guitar lick without the media telling them. And we all know how much credibility the media should have.

I saved this for last because I didn’t want it to get in the way of my weak description of the music (it was meant to be heard, not described), but Bryce Larsen jumps to the head of Lyrics 101. Never have I been so impressed with lyrics. He shoots the hell out of my number one dictum, no “I, me, you.” Lyrics surrounding those three concepts can torpedo a song and sometimes a career in the blink of an eye. Welcome to an exception. With lyrics like “… you let it die/Just remember it was your own apathy/that ended what was meant to be” (You Let It Die) and “I’m such a mess/I don’t know how you defend me/I would make such a great enemy” (Mess), he breaks rules while slamming it out of the park. Those aren’t good lyrics, they are great lyrics. If you don’t believe me, check full length versions of their songs out on their MySpace page. Or hit the lyrics section of their website.

Stealing Jane is from Sea Cliff NY. Sounds intriguing. Makes me want to fly out there just to see these guys. I think it might be well worth it, too, if just for the music.

Note:  Stealing Jane split up not long after this EP was released, though they do get together for reunion shows now and again.  Vocalist/guitarist Bryce Larsen has struck out on his own, having released an album, Here’s To You, a handful of months ago.  It has a lot of the same flair evident on The Signal, but is more toned down.  Good, good stuff.

Ted Pitney:  The Genesee EP— originally posted on Rock & Reprise (2010):

pitneygeneseeChalk up another winner on Charlottesville’s scoreboard. True, Ted Pitney is not a Native Son, but he has been in the area long enough to be considered local and, hell, it’s not like Charlottesville hasn’t taken in huge numbers of non-local musicians and made them its own. There aren’t enough fingers and toes in the State of Virginia to count the musicians in the town and if you tallied talent by weight, you would just have to guess, something akin to counting jellybeans in a Yankee Stadium filled to the brim.

Pitney made his way to C-ville a number of years ago, trekking in with four others from the distant Kenyon College in a search for the Holy Grail that is bluegrass and a year later, King Wilkie was born. Eventually, that band went from splitting time between C-ville and New York City and finally settled in NYC. The move was not all to Pitney’s liking and for a time he heard Charlottesville calling and back he went. He played around, supporting others and being supported in turn. He teamed up with Sarah White for a time and played on her impressive Sweetheart EP. The whole time he was playing and writing and, while not exactly waiting, waiting.

I was waiting too, though waiting unaware. The Sweetheart EP had planted a seed and it grew. And as it grew, I waited. I wish I could say the wait is over but this five-song EP is hardly enough and I find myself waiting for more already. Even throwing in the five outstanding tracks on the White EP doesn’t help (though I do have to thank Pitney for the push— I had forgotten how really much I like it) and I find myself in the strange position of jonesing for a Pitney fix before I’m even hooked (though judging by what I just wrote, maybe I already am).

You see, The Genesee EP scratches an itch which seldom gets scratched these days, that of the Jackson Browne/Pure Prairie League ilk. I hanker for smooth folk- and country rock-oriented tunes of exceptional quality and have since the days of Cowboy and PPL and Heartsfield. Pitney fills that void while adding his own touch. He leans toward the harmonic edge, and I mean edge, pushing the music in directions you might not recognize but will soon crave. He arranges with master’s touch, slipping instruments in and out of the mix, always to the betterment of the song at hand. He can sing and he can play, his guitar sure and steady, his voice both gentle and strong. Of course, his work with King Wilkie and Sarah White has already established that.

tedpitney1The music? Outstanding. From the first strains of Thirteen Falls to the last strains of the Jackson Browne-tinged light rocker Power Lines, Pitney pieces together the best of all he has learned about keeping music honest and true. If you have doubts, listen closely to my favorite track (of the moment), October Fire— to the blending of voices and instruments, of Jackson Browne and Craig Fuller and The Band, of Ted Pitney and King Wilkie. Then follow it up with the easy rocking In & Out of Place. If you can hear those without being moved, I declare you officially dead.

He is hardly alone here. He put together a superb group of C-ville and thereabouts musicians and the result speaks for itself. He brought in the Two Brians (Chenault on guitar and Caputo on drums), stalwarts on the C-ville scene and topnotch players. Jake Hopping handles the bass and banjo (and very well), and Dana Radcliffe slips in and out on keyboards as needed. And there is White, giving the background vocals just a bit more depth. It is a group top heavy with talent and put together for a purpose. They serve that purpose and serve it well, indeed.

But these are only words, my friends. The truth is in the music. Why are you even reading this? You should be heading to Pitney’s MySpace page to listen. And buy. It is a small price to pay, especially considering that if you are at all like myself, you will be listening to these songs for some time to come.

Note:  Since the release of this EP, Pitney spent a bit of time with his own band, Teddy & The Roosevelts, while completing a degree in Architectural Acoustics and is now working in that field out in Denver or thereabouts.  The EP includes five incredible songs, none of which seemed to get any traction outside of Charlottesville.  You can also access the EP on Ted’s Bandcamp page (click here).

Paul Curreri:  California—  Originally posted on Rock & Reprise


Velvet Rut Review

Superb fifth album from Virginia’s best kept secret.

currericalifornialpcoverWhy Paul Curreri is not better known is a mystery, but if it is this fifth album that brings him the attention he deserves, that’s no bad thing; his talent has had time to mellow and ripen, but these songs still sparkle like stars on a cold night.  On the one hand, Curreri plays six-stringed blues with a dexterity that puts him in line with John Fahey and Davy Graham.  On the other, his rough-brushed voice, like his lyrics, is unaffected and romantic – as well as some great swearing, there is stamping and banging, and a filthy, red-eyed opening track.  With his instinctive, sensual gift for melody, Curreri’s songs are saturated in colour and feeling, the sonic equivalent of William Eggleston’s photography.  Simple, yes, but you just can’t get enough of it.

I am looking for inspiration, and I need it because it is seldom one runs across a musician as talented and creative as Paul Curreri. Delve deep into his music and you find yourself pealing back layer after layer and wonder how music so simple can be so complex. I came upon Curreri five albums in (with The Velvet Rut) and as I stepped back one album at a time, I scratched my head and mentally mouthed those very same words in the MOJO review— Why Paul Curreri is not better known is a mystery. If this new album does not do the trick, the mystery deepens, leaving critics and fans alike shaking heads, I am sure.

Read the MOJO review again, think more and better and you have California, Curreri’s sixth entry in the Grammy Sweepstakes. Like The Velvet Rut, it is all Curreri (with the exception of a Devon Sproule vocal cameo), recorded by Curreri in his home studio. I know. It seems like everyone for one reason or another is doing that these days. Unlike the others, though, Curreri has the talent and the vision to really pull it off, each and every track treated with unfailing and masterful touch. Some songs embed themselves into the psyche immediately, plucking chords on the inside, familiar yet new. Others require that process of pealing layers, more to understand how he does what he does than to understand the song. And he makes you want to understand. He’s that good.

He is also deceptive. His love songs go way beyond love (I Can’t Return)— way beyond the mundane, and by using the mundane, oddly enough (Here Comes Another Morning)— way beyond today (Wildegeeses)— way into tomorrow with a look to the past (I Can Hear the Future Calling). The deception is in the presentation. Mostly acoustic and seemingly simple, each song takes on an aura all its own, carried beyond the norm by phrasing, exceptional musicianship, lyrics— real lyrics and not just words meant to rhyme or not to rhyme— and amazing attention to detail. Throughout the album, a really close listen opens up a whole world of sound you miss otherwise. This is not sound you get from multi-million dollars of equipment. It’s the sound you get from the simple placement of mikes, percussive effects of fingers on guitar, juxtaposition of contrary sounds. Curreri, like all artists, probably thinks about what could have been (they are never satisfied), but he cannot deny that every note, every sound, is there for a reason.

curreriThere is a reason that California, the track, is the title track of the album, but for the life of me I can’t tell you why. Split basically into two parts, the first a semi-Coplandesque approach to music without the traditional themes, the second a melodic end built upon layers, it begs multiple hearings and I find myself enjoying it more with each one.

Look. I’m not saying everyone will embrace Paul Curreri at first, or at all. I am saying that there are only a handful who can accomplish what Curreri has here. There is a freedom to this album, to this music, that is all but lost in today’s world of music. It is adventure. If you choose not to listen, that’s your loss.

California is now available on Tin Angel (UK) and self-distributed in the States through CDbaby. Devon Sproule‘s new album, Don’t Hurry For Heaven, has also been released on Tin Angel (UK) and Black Hen Records (Canada and the States). I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s like Christmas all over again.

Note:  Curreri has put one album out since California, The Big Shitty.  Two albums which should by all rights have clinched him a spot at the top of a handful of lists, both albums creative and yet accessible.  His instrumental work is impeccable and his songs are sometimes over the top great.  I’m getting whiplash from shaking my head wondering why he isn’t a big star, but I have a perpetual case of whiplash.  The good thing is that you can access most if not all of his songs on his MySpace page by clicking here.  Trust me when I say it should be worth it.

In Conclusion…..

let me say that immersing myself in these music projects has brought me back in touch with the reason I started writing about music in the first place.  I freakin’ love the music I write about— I mean, love it!  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have written this column (or cut-and-pasted it).  These are only a few of the musicians I consider to be the best I’ve heard and I only wish I had more time and energy to listen to more.

On the other hand, hearing how really great and good this music is, I feel a sense of frustration build.  While so many of us are wrapping ourselves around the same old lame musicians we grew up with (aren’t they rich enough, people?), the Indies struggle to survive.  I know a lot of the people I write about.  I like them and feel indebted to them for their music and get depressed occasionally that they have to sacrifice so much to make it happen.  In a way, I wish it could be like the old days again.  Then again, I’m glad it’s not.  In the old days, most of these people would remain unsigned and be consigned to bars and coffeehouses.  Uh, wait a minute!  They are today!  I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Hopefully, back to normal next week.  Maybe I’ll experiment.  Maybe I won’t.  Nothing like keeping people on their toes.  That is, if anybody’s out there.  Hello?


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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