Frank Gutch Jr: Charlottesville Revisited (Revisited),

Frank Gutch young

The reason Charlottesville is being (Revisited) is because I do believe that somewhere out there in the ether Charlottesville has already been Revisited and, hell, I am sure I confuse people often enough without reusing headers.  It would be akin to writing a book and naming all the chapters “Chapter One,” which, now that I think about it, is a pretty good idea.  But the second Revisited, placed in parentheses, separates the first from the second, does it not?

This, in fact, is probably the sixteenth or seventeenth revisitation, I have written so often about the city and the musicians who make that city a forgotten hub, shall we say, of a music industry run amok.  More than one column or segments of various columns have mentioned Danny Schmidt, Devon Sproule, Paul Curreri, Shannon Worrell, Mariana Bell, Sons of Bill and a plethora of bands and artists who have called C-ville home.  I could fill this column with nothing but names, in fact, and it would be long enough to fill the column inches.

hogwallerramblers

I am going to add at least two more names this time— Spencer Lathrop and Jamie Dyer— the first an historian of sorts of the C-ville scene starting in the early eighties, the second a musician of significance who has been somewhat overlooked, even by myself, who should have known better.  Indeed, it was Dyer who contacted me just last week, asking if I would be interested in listening to some newer tracks that he had just made available.  I immediately dug into my old files to see if I could find four tracks he had sent me a couple of years ago of his old band, The Hogwaller Ramblers.  Not only did I find them, I have been listening to those and the new tracks fairly regularly and have come to the conclusion that more than a few from C-ville had told me years ago.  You can’t write about the city’s music scene without including Dyer and The Hogwallers.

Let us get the obvious out of the way first.  Here is the press release, pretty much in toto (No, not Toto, you idiots!  In toto…) for your perusal:

jamiedyerJamie Dyer, songwriter, bandleader and local musical Godfather, has released a five song collection at http://musikant.in. The songs aren’t free but they’re really easy to pay for. Dyer doesn’t record much and releases recorded music even less frequently. No one really knows why. Perhaps someone can ask him though we doubt he’ll have a cogent answer.

Dyer has been a longtime citizen of the Charlottesville musical collective. Bands such as The Hogwaller Ramblers, The Choosy Beggars, The Fucking Peasants, Full Metal Tolstoy, The Homeland Strangers and a host of other obscure ensembles are generally his fault and he takes full responsibility for all damages incurred therewith.

These songs are released with the wish of adding melody to the cacophony of the world and with the hope of helping to mend at least one broken heart or bring momentary ease to at least one soul troubled by the tumult of this sometimes difficult existence. If someone sends $5 to Dyer that would be cool too. The work was produced by Matt Wyatt and features the considerable musical contributions of Mr. Wyatt, Jeff Saine and Chris Dammann without whom Dyer would be a thin reed keening in the wind.

Questions, comments, complaints and notes can be sent to comments@musikant.in.

There are five tracks, quite unlike the Hogwallers, and basically rough demos, though they sound pretty good  overall.

Anyway, this got me to thinking that maybe it was time to attack C-ville from a different angle.  Such as backtracking a bit to get a sense of what C-ville and its scene was like before the days of Schmidt and Sproule and the others.  To do that, I asked Dyer a few questions and then dove into an interview I had conducted with Lathrop years ago which I had filed for future use.  Guess what?  The future is now.

When I asked Dyer about the “early” days of C-ville, he started with the 60s.  In checking my interview with Lathrop, so did he.

Funny thing about Cville music scene,” wrote Dyer.  “It was a blue-eyed soul/blues scene for years, 60s/70s/80s, dominated by the frat scene. When the drinking age changed, the scene splintered and the old time/bluegrass influences that had been here for generations began to poke their heads above ground. One could make the argument that the Dave Matthews phenom was the culmination of that blue-eyed soul frat scene.

Visions of a rock scene.  A party scene which, I am guessing, it was.

By the time Lathrop got there (again, the early eighties), C-ville was “basically just another college scene which really went out and supported music, not unlike that of Chapel Hill and Athens GA.”  One of the biggest bands at the time was The Skip Castro Band.

Lathrop agreed with Dyer regarding the drinking age.  Raising it from 18 to 21 really put the screws to the parties.  The thing about it was, it was basically national.  Turns out that the federal government forced the issue and it had to do with money (doesn’t it always?).  Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984 which would go into effect in 1986 and stated that if you as a State did not comply, you would lose 10% of your federal highway funds.  The fact was that States weren’t batshit crazy like they are these days and opted for the money, hiding behind the fact that it was just the right thing to do.  In the end, in disco-speak, it killed the dance floor.

It didn’t happen overnight and it was a few years before anyone noticed the changes, but it did happen.

Lathrop at that time was just coming off a 12-year stint as owner of a record store (Spencer 206) and was spending more time playing music than selling it.  Right after college he moved to New York with his band at the time, Rude Buddah, spending five years trying to make it.  They didn’t.  When he returned, he picked up where he left off and eventually played with both The Guano Boys and Freewill Savages.

The thing which impresses me the most is that Lathrop during his time in C-ville played with an incredible variety of bands, both in and out of the studio.  Not all that long ago when the opportunity to move to Hawaii reared its head, Lathrop jumped.  Looking back, he is quite taken by the number of quality musicians colonizing C-ville.  It isn’t happening in Hawaii, he said, and while I see a few areas with a solid music scene, the really good scenes are still few and far between.

Lathrop also had this to say:

coryellremler“Interesting people were moving to C-ville in the eighties, too.  Do you know Emily Remler?  The jazz guitarist?  She lived there.  Larry Coryell lived there.  Monte Alexander, the pianist, lived there.  I think that C-ville has this kind of seductive thing.  You think you can make it your homebase and do your thing elsewhere.  Of course, I’m not sure how viable that really is.”

As regards the Hogwallers:  “I was in that band for about five years.  They got together for a version of The Threepenny Opera at this theater spot downtown and they just stayed together.  They had this incredibly gifted songwriter, Jamie Dyer.  I think The Hogwallers at that time could have had the novelty to have taken it a lot further, but there were tensions within the band.  Jamie is, though, a great, great songwriter.  It is funny that he doesn’t get mentioned more because he is one of the best songwriters in town.  And is also a very funny guy.”

Which is why I am going to spend a bit of time getting to know him.  I have interviewed a number of people from C-ville and have always walked away from each one with more questions than answers.  There is something in the water there, or maybe it’s the air.

The thing is, I will bet that only a small handful of people know what they really have there and, dollars-to-donuts, most of them are musicians.  Anyway, to give you a sense of the period, take a look at this trailer for a documentary which covers most of that time.  I would love to see the whole thing sometime.

 

Charlottesville Music Redux

That city has produced so much great music it freaks me out.  For its size, there should be less than a tenth of what there is.  Here are some highlights from earlier columns…..

Ted Pitney…

tedpitney1That rat bastard left for Colorado not all that long ago and I say that with complete tongue-in-cheek because he handed us some exceptional songs with his old band King Wilkie as well as a solo EP which stands at the top of my collection:  The Genesee EP.  I hope Coloradans have enough class to know what Virginia gave them.

I knew Ted Pitney from Sarah White‘s Sweetheart album.  He had played with a band calling themselves King Wilkie and who had garnered quite a reputation as an acoustic band on the East Coast, so much so that they left Virginia for the city of New York for a good run there.  Pitney ended up leaving that band and returning to the Charlottesville area where he played wherever he was welcome, which was evidently everywhere.

After recording the EP with White, he put together a band known as Teddy & The Roosevelts.  It was during this period that he recorded The Genesee EP, which I thought for sure was going to springboard him into fame and fortune— well, today’s version of that anyway.  He played in the area with the Roosevelts for some time but things did not seem to be happening.  Life was, though, and he got married and headed for Colorado.  And, no,  it wasn’t because they legalized marijuana.  He either had received or was finishing up school for a degree in sound engineering and Colorado called.

I was stunned.  Every time I hear this EP (hear it here), I hear the base of what could have been a long and successful career.  I absolutely love this EP.  And every time I hear it, it is bittersweet.  To be filed under “what could have been.”

And here is a little King Wilkie, where Ted had his roots.

Keith Morris (Crooked Numbers and all)…

If I ever win the lottery, I am going to call Keith and ask him how much he needs to record a new album, a video on the making of the album, and two professionally produced ready-to-air videos.  Swear to God.  There are only two people I wholly trust when it comes to reviews:  Mark S. Tucker and Jaimie Vernon.  They both love Morris’s last two albums (and probably the others too— they have just not come up in conversation yet).  Nothing new from the latest album, The Dirty Gospel, yet (watch Keith crucify me by pointing one out) except for the trailer announcing the release of the album.  It is a beauty!  First, a video from Love Wounds & Mars, then the trailer.

Devon Sproule & Paul Curreri… #1 in my Heart…

Devon is one of the first Charlottesville musicians I had ever heard— her and Danny Schmidt.  Without a doubt, they are two incredibly creative musicians and personalities.  How they have avoided international fame (I mean, they have done okay, but they should be HUGE, you know?) I have no idea.  Watch these and be amazed.  For those who have already seen them (I post these a lot), just lay back and enjoy.

Peyton Tochterman…

Tochterman reminds me of a cross between Australia’s Bill Jackson and The States’ David Olney at times.  I mean, when he tells it, he sings it.  And this is just a small bit of what he is capable.

I was going to go on but in searching for a Sons of Bill track to include here (true sons of Charlottesville), I came across this.  When I saw “Song for Chris Bell” in the title, I figured there could be no better end.  Sons of Bill and Chris Bell.  Goddamn but I love it when it makes sense.

It’s almost over, folks.  If you can make it through the…

NotesNotes…..   Sometimes I think I have written about Winterpills too much but then I listen to one of their albums and realize that there can never be too much of such a good thing.  Their last album, Echolalia, is the only pure covers album I believe worth the time (for EP, it would have to be Big Bright‘s I Slept Through the 80s.”  Their Tuxedo of Ashes EP still knocks me out every time I hear it, which is often (it is a palate cleanser, if you will).  On their new album Love Songs they continue on their merry way, capturing the essence of what music is and what it should be.  This track from that album has a bit of a Beatles edge to it, White Album-time.  It’s a nice song and all, but the rest of the album is better.  Way better.  It’s just that without Celia Johnson, it would not be quite the same.

Texas has had her long enough.  Time for them to share Erin Ivey with the rest of us.  Starting with this.

Seattle’s Fur For Fairies keep choogling along.  They are, of course, Jeff Kelly of The Green Pajamas and wife Susanne.  I think this is the second video from their latest album.

I have posted this video from Ray Brandes a few times but without the attributes.  Personnel on this besides ray are Rick Wilkins (gtr), Hector Penalosa (bass), and John Kuhlken.  I would have liked to have seen this band make a real run for it.  The Rise & Fall of Ray Brandes is one of my favorite sleeper albums of all-time.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Frank 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 Frank bottle capone 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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