Frank Gutch Jr: David Bullock: The Price of Obscurity and the Struggle For Balance; Plus Notes

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The first thing David Bullock said to me when I asked about his new EP, In the Waking World, was, and this is paraphrased, “How do I write my bio without emphasizing Space Opera?”  I wanted to say hell if I know but the more I thought about it the easier it seemed.  Only because I probably know more about that band than maybe a dozen people out there (beyond the crazies who go out of their ways to find out what a musician has for breakfast).

I once spent almost three years talking with the members of the band and their cohorts, mainly David, trying to put the band’s story together, and I did, though I was in the end no more than an editor.  Three years I talked with and sometimes argued with David and in the end I think we got it pretty much right, but it was not easy.  Now he finds himself with the unenviable task of not separating but toning down that period of his life, not because he is not proud of what they accomplished but because he does not want to be overshadowed by the ghost that was.  Think of it this way.  How hard was it for the various members of The Beatles to separate themselves from the 800-Pound Gorilla they had created?  See what I’m saying now?

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Admittedly, SO was no 800-pound gorilla, even without the capital letters, but the legend has grown and is, in fact, still growing.  I’m sure David gets the occasional message from the odd fan talking about the old band, most without inquiries about any involvement in music today.  The band is mentioned on occasion as a “one-hit wonder” or a band which could have if things had worked out.  And more than one writer occasionally points out that their self-titled album on Epic Records back in the early seventies is one of the most unique and creative albums of the period.  So let us put the obvious to rest right off.

One:  SO had been together for decades when first, drummer Brett Wilson died, Scott Fraser and Phil White following not long after.  David is, in fact, the only member of the band still with us.  Well, I can’t really say that.  Cass Edwards III, the band’s friend and (as Cass says) banker, is still here, though he never really played with the band.  He was always there, though.  Through thick and thin.

Two:  SO has not one but three albums:  the Epic release, a second self-titled album which the band recorded and released on its own back in the late-90s or early-2000s, and Safe At Home, a collection of older tapes kept in the vault way too long and released a handful of years ago.  At this moment, all three are listed as available on Amazon, but we all know that when you buy from Amazon, you mostly don’t buy from Amazon but vendors who use Amazon as a front.  When it comes to physical product, I have learned to not trust Amazon or their “affiliates.”  Hopefully, in the near future, Burning Levee Records, the label upon which David’s new EP is being released, will make room on their roster.

davidbullockwakingworldalbumcoverThree:  David Bullock, young as he was, was a solo performer first— a folkie, in fact— long before the idea of Space Opera ever formed.  He fell in love with folk music, finding a love for the softer guitar sound and the deep harmonies.  He put in stints in Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston at various coffeehouses and the like— mostly open mikes.  The connection with John Carrick and others fed his love of folk.  While this is not the place to go into detail (I will be editing and placing my story of SO on No Depression soon and the details are in that), suffice it to say that David’s roots in music were embedded before rock dominated.

I use David as an example here because he was the latest to mention not wanting to be buried by his past accomplishments (which is quite different than not wanting his past mentioned at all, I assure you), but he is hardly alone.  I talk with musicians all the time, some of whom have had quite a lot of success in the past but who wish their new music to be heard on its own merits and not in tandem with fans’ memories.  I mean, how would you like your solo work to be constantly compared to, say, Rubber Soul or Dark Side of the Moon?  More than a few musicians with excellent credentials have had to bear just that.   Well, maybe not being compared to The Beatles or Pink Floyd, space-opera-album-coverbut new works being compared to old.

Art is not an easy thing, as much as non-artists tend to believe.  It is work and very hard work, at that— at least, if you are true to your art.  And art does not involve just art, either.  There is craftsmanship and energy and faith and a whole lot of other things wrapped up in art.  Music is not created in a vacuum.  Even the music certain fans will tell you is.

David Bullock is lucky, in a way.  He spent decades following his dream, first solo and then with Space Opera and after that in combination with others.  He studied classical (much of which he learned alongside Scott Fraser, a cohort in SO), chamber music, and other genres.  He worked with numerous world-caliber artists over the years.  He and the members of SO recorded for a major label, almost toured the States in a major way (it was ready to happen but didn’t), recorded on his own— solo and with others, and learned the business the hard way.  He learned and knows the ways of radio and promotion and public relations at every level.  And he doesn’t really understand what went on and what is going on when it comes to music and the struggles for success.  Don’t misunderstand me.  He knows plenty.  Except that kernel which evades so many.  How to make it.  These days, I don’t think he cares all that much about the success, anyway.  He just wants people to hear and appreciate his music.

Even that is a question mark.  Like the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him listen?  How do you get anyone to pay attention these days?  Kids hardly look up from their phones, even when crossing traffic-laden streets, it seems.  Some kids don’t wait for the music they say they love to end before clicking on to the next track.  God knows how they choose what they listen to.  How do you get someone to listen?  It’s a crapshoot, truth be told.  David has samples of his music on cdBaby (click here).  Keith Morris of The Crooked Numbers debated long and hard before placing a handful of tracks from that band’s latest album, Dirty Gospel, on Reverbnation (click here).  Susan James uploaded her excellent Sea of Glass album onto Bandcamp (click here).  You can hear The Lonely Wild‘s new Chasing White Light album on their website, courtesy of Soundcloud (click here).  All are excellent, depending upon preferences and taste.  All are free for the hearing.  Will anyone follow even one of these links?  I don’t know.  It comes down to what do you have to do, you know?

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Do writers or fans read bios at all anymore?  I do, on occasion, but prefer to write the main body of my review beforehand because I do not want to be influenced and, as hard as I try, I am influenced by them if there is information I find intriguing.  I mean, the whole question of David not wanting Space Opera to overshadow David Bullock, solo artist, becomes moot if no one cares.  Back in the old days, you could make some people care just by playing an album for them.  These days, it seems you have to almost buy them a car or something.  And then it won’t guarantee a fair listen, only a cursory one.

I am not sure how people get their music today.  I’ve had some kids go gaga over music on video games, some listen to the highway robbers’ streams (Spotify, Pandora, and the like— why not?  It’s free), some are influenced by friends and their tastes in music.  Hell, I’ve even heard some people mention radio, but those are mostly people into country and God forbid they be made to give up their unending stream of mediocrity  Nashville produces these days.  As far as I can tell, you have a better chance of a hit if you get your music placed in a TV commercial (people do still watch TV, don’t they?).

Videos can make a difference, but the ones that break out acts are pretty spectacular (or quirky).  When OK Go broke out with their treadmill dance video, it was the video that did it.  I mean, everyone said they would have found the song anyway, it was so good, but I know that’s a load of crap.  I have been trying to get people to listen to Research Turtles for the past few years and they won’t give it the time of day.  Compare.

I defy you to tell me that OK Go is over 28,600,000 views better than the Boys from Lake Cjharles.  Without the treadmill, their song is barely an also-ran.  Or maybe the Boys were a hell of a lot better than anyone gave them credit for.

Insert deep sigh here.  At this moment, I am tired.  Tomorrow will be a new day, though, and I know that the music mentioned herein will be there waiting for me and lots more by artists like The Madisons and Natural Forces and Men of Extinction (whose sense of humor in music has had me chuckling regularly lately) and others.  Still, the question will remain.  How do you get people to pay attention to music in this day and age.  When you figure it out, let me know.  I will pass it along to David and all of the musicians I know.

Until then, I will do everything I can to get people to listen to In the Waking World, David, but until I can find a way to do that, don’t give up your day job.

Luckily, before I slid into the valley of despair, I had already written the…..

Music NotesNotes…  Jeez, I don’t know what the hell is the matter with me.  Frank Secich sent me excerpts from his book, Circumstantial Evidence, and I somehow buried it.  Well, it’s unburied now and I am looking forward to working my way through.  Secich was with the bands Blue Ash, Dead Boys, and Club Wow.  Basically, he was there for the Power Pop Revival of the late seventies and eighties.  Christmas is coming up.  This would be a perfect gift for that Power Popper in your life who thinks he has everything.  Chances are he has not found this yet.

Matthew Zeltzer has ensconced himself in Portland of late and has teamed up with MAITA to form a duo known as The American West.  Their voices work well together, methinks, and I look forward to hearing what else than they can come up with.  I dig the understated Heart of Stone more every time I hear it.  Take a listen.  But wait!  Turns out that while MAITA is working with Zeltzer on some things, they each have their own projects— his under The American West and hers under MAITA.  Be watching for releases under both names.

Classic rocker alert!  Out of Fargo, fer chrissakes !  Ric Todd.  Day of infamy, day of reckoning!!!  Momma didn’t raise no fool.

And that has me backtracking.  I cannot for the life of me understand why more people did not pock up on Colorado’s The Big Motif.  Original, heavy, creative, cool.  May the mainstream rot!  These guys deserved more than they got!

I have been listening to two out-there but pretty damn impressive albums put out by E.J. Simpson lately and ran across this video by one of the musicians involved on those albums— Laura Oden.  I like to think this one as Americanans gone wild.  I’m surprised the melodica player didn;t try to play it with her teeth.  Good music, nonetheless.  Yes, I would pay to see/hear this.

The people I trust down Texas way, and I’m not talking politics here, have been talking Bluebonnets for some time.  I saw the occasional video and liked them to a degree, but they were rough. Still, I saw the potential and the reason for the raves.  Live, they looked like they could rock the house.  Well, they have finally released a professionally done video and I can see the potential plus…..  These ladies can rock!  Turn it up.  This kind of music demands to be played loud!  Four cool ladies, one of whom (Kathy Valentine) is ex-Go Gos.

Here’s a flashback to Darrell Vickers‘ early band, Nobby Clegg, not to be confused with Johnny Clegg, a cousin many times removed whose branch of the family evidently inherited all of the talent genes.  I’m KIDDING!  If I could write half as good as Vickers, I would be eating one hell of a lot better.

I dig The Lonely Wild for more than there tendency toward spaghetti westerns.  These guys are cranking out outstanding music and have been for a few years now.  Dig the harmonies, dig the beat, dig the trumpet, dig the sense of humor.  Here you go—–

David Bullock linked me to this:

Never would I have thought that this came out of Texas.  From now on , whenever anyone tries to get me to guess where the music comes from, I am going to say Texas. I have a feeling most of the time I would be right.

More in-depth research has confirmed that Jeff Ellis is a little known gem among colored glass.  I have to find out how many albums this guy has out, including the band(s) he was in before going solo.  This is a beauty!

They call Hardin Burns folk.  I would love to hear this with full plugged-in band.  And this is only the tip of the iceberg for this duo.  Their last two albums (and a single of the legendary Smokestack Lightning) are excellent!

The first version I ever heard of the track was by The Yardbirds on their Five Live Yardbirds album, but I have heard many versions since.  Mike Harrison of Spooky Tooth did an excellent lo-o-ong version on his aptly named Smokestack Lightning album with a lineup of Muscle Shoals players I drool over hearing— and that is Pete Carr on lead guitar and not Luther Grosvenor as I had erroneously been led to believe.

I know it seems like I am posting a Bill Jackson video a week, but I have to tell you that this guy has the goods and surrounds himself with the best musicians available.  Whereas I am woefully unaware of the origins and work of Bree Hartley, Ben Franz, and Nad Budge, who round out this excellent lineup (I shall be looking for their names from this point on), I am well aware of Bill, cohort-in-crime Pete Fidler (he of the lap guitar), and Shannon Bourne, who I would gladly have play on any album I should be lucky enough to record.  This is what fests like Jamgrass are all about.  By the way, Bill’s next album, The Wayside Ballads Vol. 2, is coming out very soon.  It was recorded in Nashville with a lineup of killer musicians and was produced by Thomm Jutz.  Bill had to put son Charlie in involuntary servitude to finance this puppy, so you’d better search it out.  The sooner you buy it, the sooner we can get young Charlie out of chains and back on the playground where he belongs.

Those who noted my pieces (well, my posting of HIS pieces) on Jim Colegrove, I have not gotten this far yet but could not wait to post this— a recording of Little Whisper & The Rumors— a band fronted by Colegrove and Stephen Bruton.  Country with a kick and a lot of humor.  Supposedly, there is a whole album in the can at Atlantic Records.  Bet the posers who own it neither know nor care.

I found this little video hidden between a rock and a hard place.  Merrell Fankhauser, Ed Cassidy, and Eric Britain sing about Sky Sunlight (Sky Saxon).

=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.”

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