Frank Gutch Jr: No Small Children’s ‘Trophy Wife’; Meet Chris & Gileah; Artists I Wouldn’t Want To Miss (But Almost Did); and the Ever Popular Notes…..

FrankJr2I am less than a month away from seeing, barring act of God or congress (small ‘c’ intentional), No Small Children rock Portland (or Seattle) and, old as I am, it is getting hard to contain myself.  They will supposedly be playing Slabtown April 5th, though I do not see it listed on that venue’s site schedule, so I am keeping my options open for a long drive.  Would I miss it?  Only by the act mentioned beforehand.

trophywifecover1Of course, anyone who reads me regularly (again, thanks, Uncle Ferd and Aunt Flo… love you!) knows how much I love these ladies.  Three women who plug in and crank it up and who dress up in matching gowns and dresses?  An old man’s wet dream, by golly.  But that is not the reason I love them.  The reason, my friends (and I love saying this now that vinyl is back), is in the grooves.

I admit to not being new to the NSC fold.  I was there from the beginning.  You see, I am also a huge Lisa Parade fan and whereas NSC is not a direct descendant of the Parade, Lisa is.  Oh.  Sorry.  Lisa is the guitarist.  I found the Lisa Parade while futzing around CDBaby a number of years ago.  I used to scour the new album listings for new music and came across the LP‘s Finding Flora album (watch the video below) and I was hooked.  That led me to Lisa’s previous band, Heidi, and an earlier Parade album.  It also put me in contact with fellow Heidi member Jilly Blackstone, who told me a handful of stories about the old days.

nscstarwarsBut we’re not here to talk about the past.  We’re here to talk No Small Children, a power trio with pop sensibilities which stopped me in my tracks.  When Lisa let it be known that a new project was in the works, I was torn.  The Parade and Finding Flora made me realize that if this new band did not reach the level of Flora, I would not only be disappointed but would not write about it and I already had so much invested in the band and the album.  I was anxious but nervous.  Maybe nervous but excited.

They posted one track on Bandcamp, the impressive Wenches and Bitches, and I was impressed.  The four that followed (they make up the EP, Dear Youth) knocked me out, especially the anthemic Mystical, written by Jilly Blackstone, who by that time had tripped off this mortal coil (a tragedy to those of us who knew her and especially to Lisa, with whom she had a special attachment).  Five songs, all very impressive, indeed, and bright hope for the future.  (Listen to the EP here)

nscalbumcoverFrom there, it was a matter of finishing tracks, seemingly one at a time.  With all three working and playing whenever time permitted, studio time was limited.  But they carved out enough (along with enough for little video projects) and we now have Trophy Wife.

How to describe what they do on the album…  Crunch with pop sensibilities, maybe?  Melodic metal?  Whatever they do, it is with attitude and the attitude is refreshingly positive, surprisingly enough.  Even cranking their way through F. U. In Any Language and KMA (anagram/acronym or whatever it is, for kiss my ass), they do it tongue-in-cheek.  And they do it well.

Rather than wear my fingers to their proverbial nubbins trying to explain, let me post a few videos for your enjoyment, starting with what I consider the anthem of last summer, or what should have been.  I know I have posted this a few hundred times, but you don’t have to click on it if you don’t want.  And if you don’t want, F.U in any language.

I hear the next song and I wish Bomp‘s Greg Shaw could be around to share it with.  Shaw and I shared a lot of music, not the least of which was the resurgent sixties sound which was finally identified as that elusive genre, New Wave, a conglomeration of melody and punk which seems to make me want to dance, if only on the inside.  Drunk Creepy Guy would have fit right in with the many bands of that genre, having the power and the melody (not to mention the attitude) of the time.  And if you don’t like music of this type, you have to give it up for any songwriter who slips in “just threw up in my mouth a little bit” so seamlessly that you probably don’t even notice it.  And dig those Princess Leia outfits!

NSCThayerLive, they must have something for them because every time they play a gig, their number of friends increases on the social media networks.  I know many bands who have passed the word up the pipeline that these ladies are a must-see band, and we all know that the respect of your peers is the aspiration height (the height you aspire to).  Add to that an abnormal percentage of fans who work in music in one capacity or another and you have to acknowledge that the stage is set.  For what, only time will tell.

I suppose that I have told you in so many words what I think of these ladies many times if you read this column with any regularity.  I have my favorites and I pull no punches.  Many of you picked up on the Boys from Lake Charles, Research Turtles, and the landlocked-and-loaded Des Moines. Iowa band, Bright*Giant.  You embraced Laurie Biagini and Maxi Dunn and a few of you even tracked down Norway’s Ophelia Hope, a band very special to me.  So trust me when I point you toward No Small Children.  Bands like NSC are a reason we accept cuss words because when they use them, they are perfectly in context.

This song on the next video is also on Trophy Wife, along with the previous two.  This, my friends, is what they can do live.  Actually, I am sure that this is what they do, live.  And the anxiety builds.

(NoteI started badgering Lisa early on, something I didn’t want to do but found necessary if only as an outlet for my growing enthusiasm for Finding Flora.  The more I listened, the more I wanted to tell people and, at that time, she was handy.  “My Day Anyway” I screamed at her and she countered, in a soft voice, “Back To Bed.”  I laugh now but she is getting the last laugh.  A new NSC version of Back To Bed is included in Trophy Wife and it is outstanding.  You win, Lisa.)

IT’S BONUS TIME!!!!!

Holy crap!  Whilst digging for graphics, I stumbled upon these videos of Heidi captured back in the day.  Yep, that’s Lisa banging the crap out of the drums and that is Jilly Blackstone rapping and screaming and singing and causing all sorts of mayhem.  This makes me laugh and cry at the same time.  Jilly lived for her music and for the stage and she loved Heidi more than just about anything.  She may have left us way too soon, but she at least left us this, along with a handful of her own songs which she pieced together during her long illness.  RIP, Jilly.  You are still a joy.

For those interested, here is a link to one of the most comprehensive sites I have found regarding Jilly and her life…..  http://jillconsidine.wix.com/jillyb.

CHRIS & GILEAH—

chrisgileahalbumcover1Let’s take a walk to the other end of the spectrum, shall we?  To the soft and sweet, as it were.  I can hear Gileah Taylor laugh at that because it is a little extreme, but it is also apt.  As attitude-heavy and crunchy and, yes, Pop-py as are No Small Children, the duo of Chris & Gileah are opposite.  They are melodious and harmonious, not to mention downright spell-binding at times.  And though they are a duo now, they have not recorded as one, even though they have spent time together in the studio.  In a way, you could call their new album, due out the end of May, a debut.  In a way…..

I can thank the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange for all things Gileah.  Back in 2006 or so, I plucked Gileah’s album, The Golden Planes, from the request basket (writers would make choices for albums to review from a list compiled by the sites curator, Dave Pyles) (read the review here).  It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.  For me, anyway.  I have followed Gileah through a handful of albums, each a treasure as it turns out.  The problem is that they were so long between.

gileah-chris-2_0Gileah has this voice, you see, and a real touch with a song.  She has an ability to take chord progressions just outside the norm and make them her own.  She weaves the music and emotion into such a thread that when they really work, they overwhelm.  Each album she has released has produced one or two absolutely beautiful and disarming songs which haunt me to this day.  The one which comes to mind at this moment is titled Grief (you can listen to that and other tracks by clicking here and choosing your song of choice).  Gileah had sent me files at a crucial point in my life and I would take walks and turn Grief up so loud that if a train had crept on me, I wouldn’t have noticed.  It was majestic and comforting and inspirational.  Ach, I digress, eh?  The point is that I find her voice and way with a song quite captivating.

And I am as captivated by the upcoming Chris & Gileah album.  Except in this case, it is not Gileah and Chris as it used to be (Chris Taylor produced and played on The Golden Planes, if I have my information straight, and added touches to her other albums as well).  It is Chris & Gileah and when I heard it, I knew why.  If two voices were ever meant to be together, it is these two.  Forget the Streisand/Gibb, Parton/Rogers, Aguilera/Martin, Rock/Crow collaborations.  Even the three  million separate duos with Willie Nelson.  I will take Taylor/Taylor any day.

chrisgileah8As on A Seaboard Song, the verses traded but the chorus a melding of vocal harmony.  As on the Americana-ish Map In My Heart, a smooth and flowing folk song which takes me away.  As on The Gathered Storm, which is the second song this month to echo the feel of Kathleen Fisher of the group Fisher.  If you have to sound like someone and want me to pay attention, sound like Fisher, whose Water Burial will haunt me until the day I die.

Chris Taylor has a couple of solo albums to his name.  I am sorry to say that I have heard neither.  Judging by his work here, I am curious, to say the least.

Like I said, Chris & Gileah will be out late in May.  Keep an eye and an ear out for it, but don’t worry.  When it hits the streets, I will be reminding you.  This is beautiful stuff.  No, “stuff” is not the word.  It is beautiful music.  Period.

PERHAPST…..

moen…is a project put together by John Moen, drummer for the band The DecemberistsThe Decemberists were pretty big a few years ago, weren’t they?  Don’t ask me because they quickly signed with the Kill Rock Stars label before signing a major label deal.  The reason I didn’t pay much attention is that I have enough trouble keeping up with the deep and do-it-yourself indies without delving into smaller but distributed labels, let alone the majors.  Anyway, those guys didn’t need my help, that’s for sure.

Now, John Moen maybe does, I don’t know.  You can find very little about him on the Net outside of his connections with the numerous bands he has played with over the years, the most prominent among them The Decemberists.  Solo-wise, very little.  Which makes me wonder.  Has he made inroads?  Is he more popular than I aware?

More importantly, are people who would love this album finding it?  They should.  This baby is a pop, psych/folk gem of an album.  When it finally came up on the MP3 player, I was out walking and didn’t have my glasses and couldn’t read the info on the screen, so I asked a guy who was walking the opposite direction to read it for me.  John Moen.  Huh.  Thing was , when I got home, I couldn’t find any John Moen files on the computer.  I scratched my head and forgot about it.  Plenty of music to write about, I figured.  Still, the music played in my head at the oddest times.  Soon, I began to jones to hear it.  So I took some time one afternoon and dug through my files.  I finally found it under the heading Perhapst, which was the name he gave this little project.

Damn, but I’m glad I found it.  This album is packed with excellent, smooth songs that really catch the ear.  Birds Off the Wire have a spacy, lazy effect on me— a trance-inducing beauty reminiscent of maybe The Winterpills when they are at their folk/psych best.  Willamette Valley Ballad is slow and country rock-ish.  Ramble Scramble upbeat and a pop gem.  Hell, that’s just the first three.  There are thirteen on the album and every one knocks me out.  Of course, you have to take into account that melody and harmony rule in my little world, and Perhabst has them in abundance.  The sleeper of this year, maybe.  Or last year.  Doesn’t matter.  I’m just glad I finally found it.  Really, really good stuff.

Oh.  The album is titled Revise Your Maps.  The title track is a killer too.

GRIP WEEDS…  Inner Grooves

You think psych these days, you more than likely think San Francisco or The Byrds or maybe even The Strawberry Alarm ClockLove.  Well, I think The Grip Weeds because there is not a better band out there recreating the various sides of psych.  On Inner Grooves, they cover it all— the driving harmony-laden songs a la The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, the rolling jams a la The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, the jangly and smooth Byrds sound (they, in fact, do an excellent cover of an early Byrds song, She Don’t Care About Time, here.  I have a number of friends who are immersed in music as heavily as am I, but only the coolest of those seem to get these guys.  I mean, these guys are freaking great when they are on, which they are most of the time.  Just check this out.

Every time I hear music like this, I flash back.  Some of the best music I have ever heard were courtesy of a string of psychedelic bands over the years.  If you want a list of bands worth checking out along those lines, send me a message.  I have a long one.

You know, I am feeling a bit down right now.  Inner Grooves was an automatic pick for my best of 2013.  I missed it completely.  Brain fart.  My apologies to the band and especially to Kurt Reil, who has been very patient with me while supplying me with everything I needed whenever I asked.  Kurt, I know this won’t make up for it, but here is the Inner Grooves video sampler.

And before I forget, there are other things happening in the Grip Weeds’ realm, not the least of which is that guitarist Kristin Pinell is working on a solo album.  Stay tuned…..

ERIN & THE WILDFIRE…  How does Charlottesville keep producing class acts?

erinwildfire

I mean, half of my record collection has roots on that city— Devon Sproule, Danny Schmidt, Paul Curreri, Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers, The Fire Tapes, Carl Anderson, Ted Pitney, Sarah White….  I would go on but my fingers are running out of breath.  I found Erin Lunsford through Carl Anderson‘s Wolftown album (you should seriously check that one out— it’s fantastic).  She sang backup on a couple of tracks and impressed me enough that when her name came up in connection with The Wildfire, I ran them down.

The lady has a voice, no doubt about it.  What she needs is to find a direction.  Her talent runs so deep, she can sing pretty much what she wants, and she does.  But when you’re singing country and blues and jazz as well as standards (I’m surprised she hasn’t thrown opera in there yet), you have trouble gaining an audience.  Outside of the people who know the music well enough to be amazed.

Here is a link to the EP the band released not too long ago.  I have no idea how many of these songs are originals.  I don’t really care.  If they aren’t, they at least are not the overplayed ones every other songster seems to think they need to cover.  Okay, maybe Stayin’ Alive qualifies, but at least she does a decent version.  Listen to the EP here.

THE AFTER HOURS…..

theafterhours

Guys ends me a note saying, Frank ol’ chum, I’m in this band, see, and we’re pretty good, see, and maybe you should listen to this short little EP we just recorded.  Of course, he was much nicer than that, but that was the gist of it, so I figured, what the hell, and sent him back a note saying if I could find the time, I would listen— if I could find the time.  I loaded it onto the MP3 player and damned if it didn’t come on right after Grip WeedsInner Grooves album and damned if I wasn’t impressed enough to write this.  To wit, these guys are pretty damn good.  Pretty damn good, in fact!

They have a bit of The Blasters in them.  I loved those guys.  A little swing, a bit of rock ‘n’ roll, a lot of chutzpah.  Turn this EP up and it’s a party!  And it’s free for the taking right now through Noisetrade.  You hear it, though, you might end up going back and tipping these guys, they’re that good.  Favorite track?  It’s a tossup.  Not a loser in the bunch.  Check them out here.  And check out the video below as well.  Hot stuff!

THE ANATOMY OF FRANK…..  XPrime south of the border?

I saw these guys kickstarter video a couple of months ago.  It cracked me up.  It reminded me, in fact, of Canada’s XPrime, a band so versatile they can play almost anything.  A band with a real sense of humor but which can play like demons or angles upon demand?  Fuckin’ A, Skippy! as my friend Michael Adams would say.  Here’s a peek at the kickstarter video they put together for their new album (yes, they made their goal)—

Pretty cool, huh?  I think so.  So does Lance Brenner, who has been all over my ass to listen to these guys.  He sent me a link to the kickstarter page but dummy that I am, I thought that was what he wanted me to see.  Turns out they have a seven-song “disc” available on Bandcamp (click here).  Turns out they have a video from that same “disc.”  Whoops.  You can take the quotes around that down.  They actually are selling a CD through their Bandcamp page.  Silly me.  Anyway, about that video:

That kickstarter video?  They are supposedly working on that North American album right now.  These guys are nuts.  I can’t wait!  But then I get excited about the strangest things.  Like…..

Music Notes smallNotes….. Darrell Vickers, who writes on occasion for DBAWIS, searches the music highways and posts what he finds on his Radio Vickers pages.  I follow his posts religiously and have found a ton of artists/albums I know I would have missed otherwise.  (In other word, if you love music and you don’t subscribe, you don’t really love music)  Darrell’s latest find is a band called Kandle, which he says is hot stuff.  I watched this video.  I agree with him.  A killer track, and they put the band’s bandcamp page link on the youtube page.  Watch and I will bet you’ll be linking to the bandcamp page, it is that good!

)

One of the two people who spurred my interest in Charlottesville as the musical center of the universe (the other was folkie-extraordinaire Danny Schmidt) was Devon Sproule and I am happy to report that her stroll through the world continues unabated.  She released Colourz, a collaboration with Mike O’Neill, last September and it is another step ahead for her— she just doesn’t seem to ever step sideways.  She is super-talented and fearless when it comes to her music.  This brand new video for the song Walking In the Folly is as intricate as it is beautiful.  You can check her out in detail at www.devonsproule.com.

As long as I’m at it, here is the first video from that album.  And let me say that I have been following Devon for a number of years.  I will be following Mike O’Neill from this point forward, too.  By the way, this video was directed by another one of my favorite music people, Devon’s husband, Paul Curreri.  The man is a genius.

Speaking of Charlottesville, Drew Gibson is not from there.  He’s from D.C.  But since C-ville’s aforementioned Paul Curreri put in time on Gibson’s last album, The Southern Draw, I’ve considered Gibson an honorary Charlottesvillain.  Here is a song from his upcoming album.  Consider this a preview of a preview.  Thanks, Drew!

And I leave you with this— a picture of one of the great lost bands— a band many of my friends and I shared— The Droogs!  These guys were rockin’!

thedroogs

=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.” 

 

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