Frank Gutch Jr: Darth Radar? The Dirty Gospel? Bragging Rights? Music Is Even Better Than I Thought!… Plus Notes

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New and impressive albums are piling up on me and I have been on a listening tear.  I cannot even imagine how far you are behind.  Way behind, if you’re still giving time to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  I would have thought you had memorized those by now.  Like our fearless leader Bob Segarini is always saying, there’s more great music out there than ever, whether you choose to believe it or not.  Set yourself.  This column skims what I think are the best and most overlooked over the recent months.  Starting with…..

Nelson Bragg…  My musician friends are going to say that Bragg is hardly under the radar and among musicians that would be true, but the general public has yet to find him.  Nor have they found Kip Boardman, a musician Bragg is so high on that he recorded Boardman’s latest album live.  True story.  He caught him at a club, asked if he could recreate what he had just done in the studio— live.  No dubs.  That, friends, is faith.

Bragg the Musician lives on the sunshine pop side of rock, but not bubblegum by a longshot.  You can hear bits of Beach Boys and Beatles and Toto in his music as well as touches of sixties AM pop radio such as The Parade and The Association here and there.  Lots of melody and harmony sometimes stacked to the ceiling.  Always enjoyable, sometimes spine-chillingly brilliant.

Just to make sure I got it right, I called on my buddy Howie Wahlen over at Green Monkey Records and asked him to give me another opinion.  Here is what he wrote:

I’m not sure if others hear this in Nelson Bragg, but I hear in his songs, and especially his harmonies, that his power pop comes from the country rock of Pure Prairie League and Poco. On paper, I know it doesn’t sound like country-rock and power-pop should be together in the same breath. I could be wrong. He is widely known as a musician in Brian Wilson’s band, so the Beach Boys must play a part in his music influences also. Most of all, he has that “jangle” that I love. Rubber Soul, Tom Petty,  Dwight Twilley, Byrds, Matthew Sweet…

Bragg has released two albums on his own Steel Derrick label and has been spending the summer touring with the Brian Wilson Band (and having a ball, from what he writes).

Kip Boardman…

To pad his burgeoning roster of two albums, Bragg stumbled upon Kip Boardman in a club one night, as already stated, and was so impressed that he asked him if he would like to reproduce that night in a studio.  Boardman, of course, said sure and the next thing you know, the Boardman album hits the streets.  What a serendipitous evening in the club that was!

I knew Boardman through Kim Grant at KG Press, who worked his earlier The Long Weight album.  I was impressed then (read my review here) and I am impressed now.  Here is a one-two video punch which should explain everything.

By the way, that is Eric Heywood on pedal steel.  I found Heywood through good friend Sheldon Gomberg and have not been able to thank him enough.  Heywood has a real touch and at times freaks me out with his understated style.  He is a Dean Parks of the pedal steel, Parks being one of my all-time favorite session guitarists because he has that ability to always find the right lick and play it to perfection.

All Together Now, One.. Two.. Three…

This is time-sensitive so please read carefully.  One reason I really dig about Bragg is his commitment to everything music.  Everything.  Recently, he has offered us all a limited-time deal on the entire (all three!) Steel Derrick releases.  To-wit, if we buy any or all of the albums, all proceeds will go to the John Wicks Medical Fund (click here)!  Wicks has found himself in a bit of medical trouble and musicians, including Bragg, are pulling together to help him out.  I know Wicks for his work with The Records, one of my favorite power-pop bands, but he has done a hell of a lot more than that.  Check him out and support his music as well as help him out in his time of need.

Anyone who jumps in with both feet for a great cause like this is A-OK with me.  Mr. Bragg, you are a good man.

Anna Cordell…

Ruth Hazleton of the Australian duo Kate & Ruth brought Anna Cordell to my attention.  A simple matter of sharing a click on the social media, Ruth turned my head quickly.  I rely upon Ruth and partner Bill Jackson for news from down under.  They haven’t steered me wrong yet.

Ruth had reposted a link to Cordell’s music— this link, in fact.  I had no idea that at the end of that link I would find a voice quite as fitting for the songs it sang.  Michael set the hook and I have been researching her since.  When I contacted her to ask about the song, telling her how much it impressed me, she replied Great! that’s what I was hoping for- sticking it on as first track… but that song was our devil when recording so it’s so great to hear it was worth the work in the end!  Worth it, indeed.

A month ago I had no idea that Australia would be leading me back to the mid-seventies and before and the UK trad folk movement out of which came Fairport Convention (and Sandy Denny), Silly Wizard (and Maddy Prior) and so many more artists I treasure today.  Kate & Ruth has started me looking.  Anna Cordell has spurred me on.

I went to Anna’s website to see what she was about.  She could not have intrigued me more than with this statement from her homepage:

I love the minor key and unresolved open chords. To me they represent a few things to me: Writing songs in the minor key seems to elicit an unspoken melancholy. And the unresolved open chords are moments asking for resolution. These chords lend themselves to be lead in a new direction. And then eventually this will resolve on a major chord the moment of reprieve, hope, relief.

While technically that may be shop talk,I understood every word because I love minor keys and open chords when they fit the music and hers certainly fit.  But it revealed too little in terms if what made her tick.  So I asked.  This is what she said.

Honestly, I’m not sure where to go from here. I’m not much of a planner. All I know is I let music go for eight years and I’m never going to do that again.  For the first time I feel complete. When my CD’s arrived yesterday my first thought was- now I’m a musician.  It was like this second character who had been hidden, crushed, lost, shut up. For the first time in 33 years she’s found her voice and I don’t think I’ll be able to lock her up again now!

The songs came pouring out when I found this voice. She appeared when the other part of me hit the rocks. I was 28 with three kids and a stressful design business… In retrospect I think I had some kind of breakdown.  There was this little voice in the back of my mind re-assuring me, if you quit the business, be present to your daughters… the music will come back.  It gave me the courage to do what I needed to so I gave up work, bought a 4-track and two of the best songs I’d ever written came out with great ease.

annacordellcover‘Michael’ was one of those. That song turned into the problem child for the band and during recording. Somehow the pieces just wouldn’t fit, but we knew it was a good song so we kept pushing. It symbolizes the whole experience to me. It almost didn’t make it onto the EP, just like the EP almost didn’t make it into the world! And now it’s become one of the most popular tracks. Music has definitely taught me all about perseverance in adversity!

I had another daughter at 30, stayed home with the kids by day, wrote songs by night. Eventually I pulled a band together (starting with Sarina Walter, my daughters violin teacher!) We started gigging around Melbourne profusely, honing the songs live on stage. I started to dream of recording but being a full time carer, there wasn’t going to be any money for that so I had to grit my teeth and crowdfund.  

I found the whole thing absolutely humiliating. Being an adult with four kids, having had a successful business… and now grovelling to my friends and family to help me record my songs which they had never heard.  I imagined chins wagging, people saying it was sad or pathetic, people helping me out as a ‘charity to the depressed young mum’—  All sorts of things crossed my mind. I wanted to opt out. But I wanted to make music more. So I pushed on. Just kept moving, knowing if I gave up, I actually WOULD be a depressed young mum! I wasn’t going to let it be added to my list of regrets.

We made it! This is the point where I have to take stock and be grateful. This little package containing a few songs written at the hardest time of my life has turned that time into something beautiful. It has actually transformed the pain to the point that I’m glad I went through it. Art helps me see suffering as a thing that isn’t necessarily bad. It’s given me an insight into that catholic teaching I grew up with and always found so infuriating! This EP feels like a little mini-resurrection. Whatever happens from here, at this point, things are good.  

Just so you know, Anna does play solo but plays with a band whenever she can.  And it is a regular lineup.  The aforementioned Sarina Walter on violin and viola, James Ryan on bass and dobro, and Jesse Martin on cello.  It is an intriguing balance they achieve but when you hear the music you understand.  It is how it was meant to be, I guess, and it works.

While the US, Canada and the UK have established themselves on the world market, it appears that Australia is gearing up.  Sure, they have always claimed their share, but with artists like Annie McCue, Courtney Barnett, and Bill Jackson hitting the States hard and Kate & Ruth and Susannah Espie and Anna Cordell and others lining up, Down Under is ready to move up top.

Lawrence Bray…

I have mentioned Bray before.  There is a reason.  The guy has an ear for Pop music.  He puts just enough of an edge on what he writes and sings to keep it interesting yet keeps the core of the music intact, which means melody and harmony, sports fans.

Hear what I mean?  He hasn’t been doing it all that long, either, at least as a solo act.  In fact, he has been called upon as a “session vocalist,” something I had not really paid much attention to outside of background vocals, though it is hardly new (it is sometimes referred to as being a “guest vocalist”).  Stranger than fiction?  Not really.  Some musicians and even studios, in their quest for that magic tune, play musical chairs.  This video shows Bray sitting in.  An exceptional track.  That is Bray on lead vocal.

This is what he was doing two years ago with his then band ScenicLife:

He’s on his way.  It is a journey I will enjoy watching.

Jon Stickley Trio…

Some musicians cannot help but gain a following based just upon their talent and ingenuity.  Set yourself.  These guys were so far under the radar, they created their own.  Darth Radar, that is.

My wrists hurt just watching that.  It’s not the only thing they do, either.  This trio churns out a wide variety (wi-i-i-i-de) of genres, sometimes encroaching on territory of various bluegrass and jazz artists.  I hear bits and pieces that, if isolated, I would recognize as everything from the Dixie Dregs to Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun (it’s that acoustic guitar and violin combo) to gypsy to Windham Hill.  I am astounded by the twisting and crunching of various styles.

I received their CD in the mail just yesterday, slipped it into the CD player just to hear what they had to offer and didn’t make it to bed for two hours.  Rather than try to explain, at least in this column, I will let their videos do it for me.

See (hear) what I mean?  Whew!  And FYI, the new album, Lost at Last, will be released on October 6th, according to the one-sheet (that’s a promo sheet, sports fans).

Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun…

I mentioned Lasko & Pun earlier and I hate to pass up an opportunity to share their music, so allow me to plug this in as an epilogue.

And this, just because it is so damn beautiful.  A musical tribute to friend LeRoi Moore.

And, hey, why not plug their new album?  Coming soon!

And if you have fifteen or so minutes or so, here is a short video of music and comments which pretty much tell you who they are as musicians and music creators.

Madisons…

There are tons of bands coming out of Austin these days, some of them actually living there, and one of my personal favorites is Madisons.  Their new album No One’s Ever Gonna Know Your Name takes up where their last, You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back to West Texas, left off.  There is a country bent which catches my ear and a way of handling it so that it is not really country music which pleases me all to hell.  The lineup is excellent, musicianship-wise, and the addition of the many times duo instrumentation involving fiddle and trumpet takes the music up a notch and a half.  And they choogle, which I interpret as a smooth slow-fast mix, many times with punch.

Not all that long ago I started to piece together a column on Texas music but was buried almost before I started.  That is one freaking musical State!  No thanks to its asshole politicians.  And it isn’t because of Lone Star beer, either.  There is something there I can’t put my ear on but it is something special.  Madisons fit right in.  Here they are.  Live in their abode.  Well, Dominic Solis’s abode.

I liked the band right off when I heard the West Texas album and was searching the Net when I ran across the following video.  I think it was then that the music became personal.

You can find out more about the band, including sampling their music, by clicking here.

Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers…

morriscrookednumbers

Keith and I have been acquaintances for a few years now.  I always thought I knew where he was going but he has caught me completely off-guard with The Dirty Gospel.  Full band, full sound, full-on power— not just a step but a few steps forward for him.  And his band.  This is the first album which allows The Crooked Numbers to really shine.  You can hear it as the songs progress— powerful rhythm section (Stuart Gunter (bass) and Bud Bryant), outstanding and powerful guitar (Tom Proutt with help from Charles Arthur and Mike Kilpatrick, who also doubles on pedal steel), and a chorus (Keith calls it The Choir— Jen Morris, Davina Jackson, Davita Jackson, and Samantha Reed) which raises the tunes on which they sing a few levels, at the least.

It was a little over a year ago that Keith contacted me and said he was on a roll, writing.  He was excited, having not really produced anything for awhile.  I would have been excited, too, if I had known this was what he was writing.  Keith goes roots deep in all kinds of ways, from the rasty Psychopaths & Sycophants to the outstanding and upbeat tribute to one of the Charlottesville greats, Johnny Gilmore.  Without a doubt, some of the finest songs he’s ever written.

But let me get back to The Choir.  Anyone who knows me knows I have a tremendous love of vocals and vocal arrangement.  I laugh when I hear it done right and I have been doing a lot of laughing lately.  These ladies send a chill up my spine.

I plan on pinning Keith down for an in-depth look at what exactly happened because I have to tell you that this is a breakthrough album for the band.  You can sample (and buy) the album on CDBaby (click here).  And remember, these clips give you an idea but lack the cohesiveness of the full-length finished product.

Stay tuned.  With luck, I will corner Keith and get those answers.  Which I’m sure will end in more questions.  I can’t quite figure the guy out, you know?

Liz Stringer…

Just when you think you’re getting caught up, someone like Liz Stringer comes along and puts you behind again.  She’s heading East toward Toronto, my friends, and if you live up North, you owe it to yourself to stop by and be swept away.  Liz is one of the growing number of Aussies being passed along by Ruth Hazleton and Bill Jackson, my conduit into the musical Down Under.

Man, that’s good stuff!  Liz will be playing a show at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto on September 2nd.  Highly recommended.

I will leave you with this (and a few Notes).  Another Aussie about whom I shall be writing in the near future:  Susannah Espie.

NotesNotes…..  When I first got to Seattle back in ’78 or so, I ran into a dude named Paul Hood who had just finished a gig with a band called The Meyce alongside Jim Basnight, destined to form famed Seattle group The Moberlys.  I’m not sure of the chronology of those two, but Paul ended up heading down to San Francisco to put together a band of another dimension, Toiling Midgets.  You might say that their success was somewhat minimal and that may be true if all you wanted to look at was numbers, but they were groundbreakers.  They put out an album titled Sea of Unrest which pummeled critics and a small cult following of fans to submission.  I follow Paul through the social media and he just received a link to a video covering the title track of the aforementioned album.  “We are covered” was the message, and they were.  First vid, a musical treat.  Toiling Midgets‘ original version (available once again after many years).  Then, the cover version by a band calling themselves King Black Acid.  Proving once again that among discerning musicians, the good songs aren’t buried for good.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/133524531″>Sea of Unrest</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user1148115″>Silent Filmworks</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com“>Vimeo</a>.</p>

This one’s for Portland, Oregon.  Chris Ashworth of Wondercap Records recently informed me that there will be a showing of the documentary Don’t Be Afraid to Pogo at Cinema 21 on September 24th.  Time is scheduled for 7 PM and there might be a chance for a Q&A afterward, as people attached to The Gears plan on attending.  The Gears, for those who don’t know, gained a large cult following during the days of the L.A. punk scene.  Here is a trailer.

I tried to sneak in a short look at Green PajamasJeff Kelly‘s new project, Fur For Fairies, I really did, but the column just ran away with itself and anyway, I want to do a bigger more fleshed-out look at Jeff and all of his various works over the years.  That doesn’t prevent me, though, from posting this video of a song from the Fur For Fairies album.  Stay tuned for an in-depth look at the Pajamas and, in fact, a large number of Kelly and Kelly-related works.

I made the mistake of questioning the Sonics hopefully-to-be rockumentary but was planted on my ass by good friend Sam Berger who, even when I am wrong, has my back.

sonicsboom

I thought this film was going to be a runaway funder, what with people raving about the band and their recent (and probably ongoing, now that I think about it) tour.  Much to my surprise, they are halfway through and are only 17% funded.  Are you kidding me?  Just goes to show you that talk is cheap.  Time to put up or shut up, Sonics freaks!  You can check it out here.  Drop a dime.  Ain’t gonna kill you!

Lisbee Stainton has the best fans in the world.  You think they would let a little rain ruin their outing?  Hardly.

lisbeestaintontents

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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.”

2 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Darth Radar? The Dirty Gospel? Bragging Rights? Music Is Even Better Than I Thought!… Plus Notes”

  1. Thank you kindly for writing this, shining a spotlight on artists quite a few that I’m aware of, including my dear friend Nelson, (who happens to live around the corner from me) plus others who I’m not so familiar with, but will definitely be checking out. I greatly and sincerely appreciate your mention of The Records, and of course the overwhelming love, emotional support, kindness and generosity that’s been bestowed on me by so many friends and fans during this rather stressful time. I have to say, the fact that I’m responding so well to treatment, thus far, is a testament to – not only my oncologist, Dr. David Shin, together with his esteemed colleagues, but to all of the above, which has touched my soul. I cannot thank everyone enough, and by way of but a small token of my sincere gratitude, I’m working towards performing at the JW benefit show – hosted by Paul Rock and his Wild Honey Foundation team – due to be held at the at the Teragram Ballroom in downtown LA, Thursday, October 8th 2015. The show will feature members of the Wild Honey Orchestra, The Bangles, The Muffs, Al Stewart and others, tba, plus special guests. Once again, thank you for this wonderful article, and thanks to each and everyone of my friends and fans for the incredible love and support. It’s blown my mind!
    I salute you all !! xo

    John

  2. […] “This trio churns out a wide variety (wi-i-i-i-de) of genres, sometimes encroaching on territory of various bluegrass and jazz artists. I hear bits and pieces that, if isolated, I would recognize as everything from the Dixie Dregs to Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun (it’s that acoustic guitar and violin combo) to gypsy to Windham Hill. I am astounded by the twisting and crunching of various styles.” —Frank Gutch, Bob Segarini Blog […]

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