Frank Gutch Jr: Music To Stuff Stockings By… And With; Plus No Notes… Consider It a Lump of Coal
It’s that time of year again, sports fans. Santa has been on the radio for the past two months, robot disc jockeys and purveyors of everything muzak beating us senseless with varying renditions of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, hoping to lighten our mood enough to loosen the old purse strings. Hallmark Channel have kicked into full Christmas mode, plastering their channels with their cookie-cutter movies which vary mostly by the changing of leading ladies (this year’s favorite, by far, is Hilarie Burton, whom I saw in an old Castle episode and was floored by not only her beauty but the fact that the casting could not have been more right). I wish they had more creativity over at Hallmark, their overuse of the five plots and rotating stars coming very close to consumer abuse. But, hey, I’m a sap.
Plant Burton or Claire Coffee or Bonnie Somerville in the middle of anything, give me a drink (coffee, if it is available), and I’m happy. Well, as happy as you can be, watching a movie with a plot that has hardly been rewritten year after year after year. And let us not even get into the crappy versions of Christmas music they toss into the mix. I often wonder if the musicians care about anything but the paycheck as the music plods on and on and on, fingernails on a blackboard made bearable only by the occasional glimpses of the aforementioned beauties. Maybe I’m just getting old. Actually, no maybe about it. But my ears still work and I think my heart is in the right place. I think.
The first thing that comes to my mind when Christmas nears is music. I know. No big surprise there, being’s how it’s the first thing on my mind pretty much year round, but I should be excused. Records were an important part of my sister and my upbringing, both of us have the musical gene embedded very deeply from birth. As youths, we spent a lot of time trying to guess what was under the tree and for certain packages, flat and thin and either 7” or 12” square, records were obvious. The cool thing about records, though, was not that they were records, but which records, for even when a child, there were hundreds from which to choose. Back then, music was an adventure! And it still is. So this will be a column for music lovers— a chance to see what is out there with links to listen when available— a chance to find something for the adventurous people in your life. That said, I have a real surprise for you, and it has been sitting right before your eyes for a long while…..
Not very many people outside of the Pac NW have heard of Seafair-Bolo Records and that is to be expected. In the early-sixties, hundreds of small local and regional record labels popped up to cover the explosion of rock ‘n’ roll which was sweeping the country. Seafair-Bolo was one of them. Put together by Tom Ogilvy and his wife Ellen and Joe Boles and wife Virginia. The Ogilvys were tin-pan alley wannabes, the Boles enamored with recording and sound. I won’t go into it here, but the history behind the people and the label has been chronicled in an excellent piece written by music historian/journalist Peter Blecha for historylink.org (click here). Let us just say that if not for the Ogilvys and the Boles, certain of the stars on their roster may not have been— at least, not on that venerable label.
Through a quirk of fate, I ran across a post on social media by John Iverson who helps run Seafair-Bolo today (yes, it is still operating) and he filled me in on a little known fact. The label has product to sell. Wait. Don’t misunderstand me. The label has original product to sell. Vinyl. They have, and I checked to make sure, original pressings of The Viceroys/At Granny’s Pad, Bolo Bash (a collection of the labels most successful recordings from the sixties), and two albums pressed in the early eighties, Jimmy Hanna‘s Memory Bank and The Jimmy Hanna Big Band/Leaving Here, collections of tracks from the sixties, a few unreleased until these reissues.
Rather than stop there, though, they are offering original singles, some of which are the best singles they ever released. A solid favorite from the archives has been one by The Viceroys, the band which handed Jim Valley to Don & The Goodtimes and led to his eventual alter-ego for The Raiders as Harpo. While Valley had exited for Raiderdom by the time That Sound was recorded, it didn’t matter because for me it was one of the best Pac NW rockers ever. And it is backed with a fairly decent version of The Kinks‘ Tired of Waiting For You. No matter what you think, you have to give the guys credit for taste.
I know I’ve written about the whole Ray Ruff Pledge of Love debacle before—- about how it was heading up the charts when the pressing plant or distributor or someone went bankrupt and Seafair-Bolo had no access to singles for which they had already paid. It is a killer track, very much in the Buddy Holly vein, and could easily have ended up Top Twenty all over the West Coast (who knew what those East Coast wankers were doing back then, you know?), but the dream was over in a flash. Still one hell of a track and because of the bankruptcy, a fairly rare one at that.
There are a few other gems in there— songs by The Dynamics and Jimmy Hanna (who was quite the Seattle legend back then), one Dave Lewis rarity and a few oddities. Well worth looking at.
As for CDs, they have those as well. Check out the listings and prices on Seafair-Bolo’s eBay page (click here). But wait! Wait!
They also have Slamhound Hunters albums!!! One of the best shows I ever saw in Seattle was a Slamhound Hunters/Spitting Cobras gig! I was floored! Rockin’ blues featuring the dynamic guitar of Louis X. Erlanger, formerly with Mink DeVille, and harp and vocals courtesy of one of the nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure of knowing— Kim Fields. The first album, and my personal favorite, 4/1 Mind, is vinyl only. The second and almost as good album, Private Jungle, is only available on CD. Hell of a deal. Hell of a deal!
Seeing these records and CDs completely caught me by surprise. I knew they were out there but had not had the time to search. Well, the search is over. Seriously, if I knew someone who loved Pac NW rock as much as I do, I would be stuffing these suckers into their stockings in a second. And the availability is limited. They’re in the original boxes, or were the last time I was over at the Ogilvy’s quaffing down Bolo-Nog with two of my favorite people in the world (RIP, Tom and Ellen), and not likely to be available much longer. This could be a real chance! Grab it while you can.
Any questions regarding these, contact the label by clicking here.
My original intent was to point out a few items of worth to people who wanted to surprise friends and lovers and even pets with music to soothe the soul. Immediately my mind started to whirling. Artists and titles stormed through the mind and after a bit I became confused. Can you imagine that? Me? Confused? It’s the formats, see. Even artists don’t realize that formats make all the difference. Which is why my absolute Number One recommendation for a musical gift is… Amy Van Keeken‘s double-EP/LP, titled So Long/Live Right. The first EP, So Long, was a 2013 release, Live Right released in 2014, and each captures a moment in time of Van Keeken’s career. She’s from Edmonton, which I am sure means you won’t find the LP (that’s right— it is vinyl only!!!) in a record store rack unless by blind luck, but if you do, grab it! I listen to artists like Courtney Barnett and Susan James and the newly discovered for me Angharad Drake and hear top-level music. I hear creativity and balance and and arrangement. Why more people do not know the music of van Keeken I have no idea. Too many missing out. You can stream the EPs and/or purchase the album by clicking here.
One album which has stayed with me since first hearing it is Ophelia Hope‘s self-titled album. When I found it back in 2009, I was stunned at its diversity and even moreso with its arrangements. This is probably as good a pop album as I have heard in a good 20years if not longer. Pop with a Burt Bacharach backdrop but not Bacharach at all. Take a ride on the link machine and turn yourself onto what I think is a pure classic. Click here. CD only. Or download it if you must. Go for the CD. It is an excellent package.
Steve Young is one of the best of the lesser-knowns— one of the outlaws you heard about in the mid-seventies. He wrote Lonesome Orn’ry & Mean for Waylon Jennings, and Seven Bridges Road (later covered by Ian Matthews and then The Eagles, and a bunch of other classics. Back in 2005, Steve realized he had no rights to any of his songs, so he went into a studio with Thomm Jutz and re-recorded them. Listen to the samples. (Click here) You will realize that this guy is one of the greats. CD-RP.
Three-woman cranked up with just enough pop to put them over the edge. I am always astounded when I hear so much music come from so few people. Saw No Small Children at a show in Portland, Oregon and they blew me away. I am still freaked out. The new album, Hold Tight, I’m Flying, is evidently only available as a download. Trophy Wife and their EP, Dear Youth, are available on CD. While you are checking out the samples on those albums (start here), don’t forget to sample Mystical from Dear Youth. While it does not really do the song justice, it is a sample of an amazing song with a real story behind it.
The Of is a Seattle band with an attitude. As crazy as Zappa with nuances of Chicago’s seventies rockers The Flock. Every time I hear this, it freaks me out a little. For the adventurous. Sample and buy here or, if you’re of a mind (and I hope you are), check them out at Green Monkey Records bandcamp page. Here’s the link. CD.
Susan James just won’t leave me alone. She had a bit of alt.country in her music when I first heard her but turned the corner on her last album, Sea Glass, and produced a pop/folk/psych beauty. It knocked me over when I heard it and still does. One of my Top Ten for this year. CD. (Click here)
Proutt, Gary & Margaret Wise Brown. Have a toddler or children around the house? Remember the old classic childrens book, Goodnight Moon? Here’s a brand new collection of Margaret Wise Brown’s poetry put to music by Tom Proutt & Emily Gary. It is classic in its simplicity. For parents and children alike. Book with CD. (Click here)
Tom House reeks of swamp gas, he is so authentic. He sings of dust and dirt and demons and every other ‘d’ word you can think of. Remember That Dorm Guy who was into Tom Rush and Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk and Simon & Garfunkel before everyone else found them? That Dorm Guy would love this. The new one is titled Songs Like Dreams… More Like Blood. If that doesn’t intrigue you, you’re dead. Available from Tom himself who can be contacted at Tom House, PO Box 120661, Nashville TN 37212, $15 postpaid. CD.
I’m pretty sure I have not heard a better early- to mid-seventies sounding band than Lost Leaders. Led by Peter Cole, a New York rocker of some repute, and Byron Isaacs, who has played with Levon Helm and a ton of others in the New York area, they have a sound which sends chills up my back. First time I heard it, I had to check the calendar to make sure what year it was. Excellent songs, excellent performances, excellent production, excellent everything. You clowns say there isn’t any good music being produced these days, let your ears chew on this for awhile. Order the CD here. You will thank me.
Nocona is one of those up-and-coming alt.country bands you hear all too little about until every website in the country in the world is talking about them. They come out of the gate hard-edged on this one, Chris Isom raking his guitar beneath his country-laced voice, upping his game. They do us all a favor, posting the entire latest Long Gone Song album and have a merch page where you can buy everything from the vinyl LP or CD, T-shirts and buttons. Probably more stuff there too. These guys have grown on meand are getting better with every album. Click here. The video below is from an earlier album. I post it because I like it. See how much power I have here?
David Bullock, the last of the old Space Opera crew out of Fort Worth (us fans miss the other three a lot) has finally gotten around to recording an EP. Titled In the Waking World, Bullock’s voice goes through its many phases, changing styles and depth on each song. Most memorable for us old SO fans is the remake of SO‘s superb Blue Ridge Mountains originally recorded on their first release, the self-titled Epic Records release, this time with Bullock’s two daughters (Sarah and Lyddy) singing harmony. The original version was killer, but the Bullock’s voices blend effortlessly. Of course, the other four songs are topnotch as well. Sample and purchase here. CD.
Brady Earnhart/Last Time I Promise— I call Brady “The Professor” because when I started hearing about him, he kind of was one. Not only that, everyone said he was one of the best lyricistsaround. That was quite a few years ago. Brady has been through some challenges but has bounced back beautifully. This latest album shows him at his singer/songwriter best. Did I mention he was a hell of a guy too? Sample and purchase here. CD.
Keith Morris of Keith Morris & The Crooked Numbers was one of the ones telling me of Brady’s prowess with the written word. His latest with “The Numbers” is easily the best thing he’s done. Even writers like Jaimie Vernon and Mark Tucker love the new album. Lots of swampgas, rockin’ gospel and soul. I think he broke through on The Dirty Gospel. And them, Crooked Numbers? Sweet Jesus! Click here. CD.
Kip Boardman convinced me he had the goods right off the bat. A little rock, a little soul,a little blues put together in a combination where you don’t really notice right off. Just damn good music. Nelson Bragg caught him by chance at a club and was so knocked out he asked to record him. Live. In the studio. The band was excellent, the songs are fantastic and the result is Boardman. Swear to God, I will see this guy play live before I die. He is the kind of musician I live to hear. This one is only available as a download but I like it enough I’m leaving it anyway. Get a download card from Steel Derrick Records. Boardman is worth it.
Michael Fennelly is one of only a few who has been able to put together tunes which, while sweet, are not saccharine. He proved his worth with the legendary sixties band The Millennium and carried it right into the middle of Crabby Appleton. To say that Love Can Change Everything is anything but a pop music classic is to deny the excellence of the songs. It is subtitled Demos 1967-1972, so you know these are outtakes or just tracks left off the very collectible Millennium Begins album, but you won’t even notice. These are smooth and sometimes hauntingly beautiful songs. Available on 180-Gram vinyl and CD. Comes in an outstanding package put together by Fennelly and Sundazed Records. Click here.
When Sage Run released The Beginning and End of War, I thought people were going to be all over it. It was a concept album centering not just on The Civil War but all war. The idea was pulled off beautifully but has somehow not been marketed as well as I’d hoped. Here is the dude who put it together. If you’re at all interested, blow some smoke up his skirt. This is better than most releases picked up by the best labels.
Nick Holmes and I should have been from the same high school. I would have managed him and made him a huge star because that is what he deserves to be. I have heard few first albums which even approach Soulful Crooner. All of us Holmes fans agree, too. One day we are going to throw a Holmes-fest just so we can meet others with good taste. Take a listen. Hear the voice. Feel the songs. God, but I love this guy. Click here. CD. By the way, in the following video, that is Michael Mainieri on keyboards, Donald MacDonald on drums, Hugh McCracken on guitar, David Spinozza playing solo guitar, Nick on guitar, and Tony Levin on bass. That is a session I would have killed to see.
Carl Anderson had gone just about as far as he could in Charlottesville, or so maybe he thought, so he headed to Nashville. With all of the swill filling the ears of Nashvillains, I thought he would be handed
a Cinderella deal. If those asshats back there don’t give him the respect he deserves soon, I may have to walk back there and kick some faux-country ass. Do some clicking and listen. Is this guy good or what? CD.
For those who love bluegrass, I have two groups for you— Gold Heart, whose three female voices are as angelic as it comes— and The Seldom Scene, a legendary band whose albums are available on CD. For Gold Heart, link to this page. For The Seldom Scene, click here. You cannot go wrong with either.
I guess I have given you all enough food for thought. Perhaps I am ancient, but I remember Christmases filled with music, Christmas and otherwise. It could be again if you just do your research. And look! I’ve already done most of it for you!
I’m tired and I’m heading to bed. The ol’ kidney isn’t as healed as I would like yet (it was a long and painful five hours) and I know I have it better than a good 75% of you out there, but remember, if you just get kicked in the shin, it still hurts, no matter how the pain measures against other pains. Here’s hoping you have a good Christmas. Remember, music can heal more wounds than you think.
Looking for the missing Notes? They’re right here!
Frank’s column appears every Wednesday
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Frank 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.”