Frank Gutch Jr: I Always Wanted To Be a Musician (Videos With Commentary)…
…but I could never pull it together. Of course, when I was young I thought I was a musician, piddling with the tonette in fourth grade, drafted into the junior high band in the fifth grade because they badly needed a bass drum player, playing drums in what could be called a jazz band then (though we were really not good enough to be called that), playing drums in the high school band and in a couple of rock bands and carrying it on through college. I loved music and was always around it but I was never really a musician.
I never applied myself— never practiced, never knew how to tune drums, never learned the nuances of songwriting (though I could write lame copies of fake hits well enough), just never got it. I wanted to. I just never had the drive. So when I rediscovered a few videos of a lady for whom I have an incredible amount of admiration, one Jill Stevenson, I watched with wonder because Jill knew when she was a young girl that she was going to be a musician.
My God, I have been thinking the past few days, how did she know it!? She is so confident! I am going to be a teacher and then a musician… how could she have known? About the musician part, anyway. I have no idea about the teaching. I could have been like that, couldn’t have I? I could have done it, right?
In my dreams, maybe, and that is where I have been living for these past six-plus decades. But the music didn’t stop. As a kid, I was hooked upon birth, I believe, and music has always been there. If I don’t know how to write or play, I certainly know how to listen. More than that, really. I know how to feel it. And like Charles Emerson Winchester in the M*A*S*H episode where he was trying to explain the gift to a concert pianist who has lost the use of one hand (to paraphrase, “I can make the scalpel sing, but I cannot play”), I can sometimes explain to the gifted why they should not give up when things get tough because what musicians do not understand is that what they do is not for themselves but for others— others who sometimes don’t seem to be there at all. I call it the “playing to an empty room” syndrome— those moments when putting in the emotion and energy necessary to create just do not seem to be worth it.
How odd it is that I understand those moments more than they, but when you have hit the brick wall creative-wise or maybe are just frustrated because no one is listening, they know it. They just don’t understand it at that moment. They sometimes can’t. Period.
So let me take you through a time tunnel and explain how and why I love these songs and these musicians (who are somehow all female, and I seriously have no idea why that happened) starting with Stevenson.
I am pretty sure I found Stevenson during one of my searches through the new additions to CDBaby. When I first started writing again, I spent my weekend hours going through long lists and one of my favorites were those on CDBaby. I would sample the music and if I liked, search the Net and YouTube to see what I could find. I found Stevenson’s site and for some odd reason asked if I could call, something I would not normally do. She sent me her cell number and I called. She asked the first question— who are you? At that time I was a nobody in terms of credibility. Just a fan, maybe, I told her and asked a few basic questions and that was that. I must have convinced her I was harmless, though, because she sent me a couple of CDs— an EP (The Jill Stevenson Band) and a not yet released album with Adam Widoff titled Where We’re Not. I listened and wrote a review for my own web pages but it was long after that that her music and her journey really sank in. She had moved from Denver to New York City in an attempt to connect to the right people and it worked, to a degree. Unfortunately, she was doing it at a time (2009) during which the record business was going through an identity crisis which is still not resolved and while I don’t want to say she failed (because her music is wonderful), I will say that financial success was not in the cards. Last I heard, which was a few years ago, she had returned to Denver and pursued her music there for awhile and then the trail got cold, so to speak. I search every so often, hoping that she has returned to the chase for the brass ring, but so far have had no luck. I would love to hear her story— the highs and lows and successes and failures. She really deserved more than she got. Take a listen.
How did I find out about Anna Cordell? Let me see. It was either Kate Burke or Ruth Hazleton or maybe both who posted a link to her web pages regarding her latest EP and me, being the busybody that I am, followed it. What I found was a burgeoning folk singer with a pop sensibility. There is something in her voice which makes my ears happy and sad at the same time. Oh, and she’s an Aussie, as are Burke and Hazleton, too.
Of course, I would not have found Anna without having found Kate & Ruth, and that thanks to Bill Jackson, who will get his fifteen seconds of fame in the near future. Kate & Ruth have opened up a whole folk/trad folk side of music for me, the vast majority found Down Under. What they do themselves, though, is pretty amazing. A bit of interview with music.
I had written a glowing review of The Beige‘s El Angel Exterminador (The Beige was a band out of Vancouver) and not long after, got an email from Jane Gowan, who had played trumpet on it (or was it cornet? I am forever getting those mixed up). She asked if I would take a listen to her band Shade‘s new album, Lost Highway. I did and sent a couple of notes, neither all that complimentary. I kept listening, though and a week later had to send another email saying forget those other notes. I was wrong. Everything I had heard at first was wrong. For some reason, I could not stop listening to the album and the band has become one of the few I keep in my sights. There is a new one being produced, by the way, but here are a couple of songs which made me fans. Why? The honesty and simplicity and sparsity of the sound is what I wrote back then, I think. I think that pretty much says it all.
I painted a house to a Sydney Wayser album a handful of years ago. That and Goldie Wilson. That was a great summer, alternating the albums as I worked, totally enthralled with the creativity in both. Goldie Wilson, to my knowledge, has not released anything else, but Wayser— Wayser has been prolific as hell, first as a solo act, then fronting Clara-Nova. I would have fought for her (and did, though not with fists) and am still pulling for her to make it, which she is slowly doing.
When she put Clara-Nova together, I think she had just tired of basically going it alone. She scored a writing gig with, I believe, Sony and began working the canyons and valleys, finally gaining a few film credits. Here is the first song I ever heard by that band. I dig the rhythm. And the backyard. I would have loved to have been there for this.
My eyes roll back in my head when I hear the music of Amy van Keeken, she is in such a different place than most. Fire For You has a past/future aspect to it which is hard to deny and the poppishness of Summetime Love combines the up of summertime with the pop of the sixties to perfection. One of my very favorites of the past few years.
Swear to God, every time she plugs in her guitar, she is in a different universe.
Chis and Gileah put out a self-titled album a couple of years go which gained more success critically than anything they had done in the past. Before that point, Chris Taylor had had a semblance of success with an earlier album and Gileah had been recording solo successfully since the early 2000s, but there was something about the blending of the voices (and Gileah Taylor’s better-than-ever songwriting) which had music writers who had never heard either perking up their ears. Even DBAWIS writer Jaimie Vernon and Monolith Cocktail‘s Mark S. Tucker chimed in with thumbs up.
Besides the music, the package was exceptional— the artwork worthy of the major labels in their prime and the pressing on vinyl immaculate. But surprising to me, Gileah Taylor has returned solo for the new album. I thought for sure they would piggyback off of the duo album but, no. Which, after hearing Songs for Late at Night Vol 2, does not bother me all that much. She dips her toes in electronics to a slight degree on this one but her sense of melody and harmony are once again first-rate and she does still have that folk-guitar aspect on some songs. Unfortunately, all I can show at this time is her PledgeMusic video, put together to get the word out and raise funds. It is good enough to give you an idea, though, and should suffice. I have been listening to her music for years for a reason.
And now a word from our sponsors. I found an album by Lisa O’Neill some years ago that I thought quite exceptional. I wrote a glowing review and in receiving thanks from her, she mentioned that she might be changing her name. When I asked why, she mentioned a singer out of island with whom she shared the name and bemoaned the fact that the strides she had made were somehow being obscured by the Irish lady. I told her to hang in with her name and things would work their way out. Little did I know that what I said was the worst advice ever. The Irish Ms. O’Neill, it turns out, was an up-and-comer and has basically steamrolled my Lisa off the charts. What I mean is, I searched for videos featuring the Vancouver-based Lisa only to find that the Irish lass came up on every search. Even the ones on which I used song titles. When I finally did find my Lisa’s videos, they were attributed to the other. Which shows me how much YouTube cares. But I found it. I lived with this song in my ears for a solid year and more when it was released back in— 2009? Every time my heart sopped beating, I plugged this in for a jumpstart.
Them crazy Aussies. One day I am boogieing around the Net having a good time and the next thing you know I am slogging through searches for one Angharad Drake. Some mentioned her (Kate Burke? Ruth Hazleton?) and the next thing you know Hannah Gillespie is adding her to last year’s Majors Creek Frestival and I am scrambling to catch up. It was a scramble worthy of an egg, I am happy to report, as I find Ms. Drake a future great. She has the sensitivity, the talent and a voice to blaze a trail way beyond her home country of Australia. If I had a bankroll (or a roll), I would offer it to her cause.
Chloe Albert. What can I say about Chloe Albert? Let’s see… I have already spent many column inches praising her talent, plugging her music, and wishing her well (she not too long ago gave birth to whom I hope will be another budding musician). What to say? I will say that she has a touch with a song and while she did not win that Juno when she was nominated, what she has is far better. To shake things up a little, I give you a different kind of post and more of the same. The different comes in two videos of the same song but in different circumstances. When the Night Fell is a soulful folk song I first found with the second video shown here. Recorded in a basement, the acoustic gives her and her band and backup singers an acoustic environment perfect for presentation. In the first, she plays solo with only acoustic guitar to back up her exceptional voice. Listen and compare.
The same is the same video I have been using to show people just how great songs are written and recorded. Pardon My Eyes is a good song. An outstanding song. But when you listen to the lyrics, it shows you how really important lyrics can be. It’s in the chorus. “Pardon my eyes but I’m not done looking at your smile… Pardon my smile but I won’t stop grinning for awhile.” I seldom hear lyrics like that very often so pardon me while I embrace them for the rest of my life.
A record label brought Melissa Payne to my attention. A post on Facebook. A mention of a record club. More specifically, a subscription record club. Melissa had evidently just joined the ranks of the Seventh Fire Records and the label was pushing her 7” single (colloquially known as a 45) and their label “club.” You sign on for a year for a price and the label sends you that year’s 45s as they are pressed— no choice— whatever they decide to record. Well, I was sold. I think it an exceptional idea for fans who love the adventure of music. So I listened. After I had heard, I searched. Melissa Payne impressed the living hell out of me and Seventh Fire became a label to follow. Watch these and you should understand why.
There was this band (well, in a way there was) called Amelia Jay once. When I mean by “in a way” is that they recorded an album but had little organization as far as I could tell. They were out of Lynchburg VA and were fronted by a keyboard player/singer named Mitch Dalton and a vocalist named Jeanette Beswick and were a combination to hear. Their one album, Like a Kite, was a beauty. By the time I came along, not all that much later than the album’s release, they seemed to have disappeared. Not completely, but I played hell to get them to respond to questions in spite of a stellar review I had written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange website. They stumbled, maybe, or perhaps there were problems of some sort, but I never found out. I search for them on the Net occasionally and recently came across a video of them playing live which, rough as it is, shows what potential they had. I give you that and the only other video I have found of them— plugging a release concert for their one album. Like a Kite is a go-to album for me when I need a breath. I really wish they had gone on to do more.
Looking back, I see that indeed all of the videos were via female artists. If that is the case, I have to (I think it’s a law!) end this with my favorite female group of all-time (not counting female vocals groups of the sixties): No Small Children. It disturbs me that while artists of lesser talent are allowed the brass ring, it evades them. Three ladies who can sound easily like five. Who can play hard rock to country to smooth soul ballads. Who sound like they just stepped out of the fifties or sixties or seventies or… all the way to the present. Who put on a show you will be glad you have seen when you finally do and if you already have, are glad about it. Who can lift you up to the clouds and who can drive through a hurricane, amps and voices blaring. They traveled through Portland once and I was sure not to miss them. It was one hell of a show. How do some make it and some don’t? Hell if I know. All I know is that you can have all of your superstars— every damn one of them. I will take these ladies every time. And to start it off, there is no video for this song, written by Lisa Joy Pimentel‘s one-time band mate, Jilly Blackstone, so just plug in here and be amazed. It’s Mystical! Rest in Peace, Jilly. Lisa always has your back.
And this for good measure. A little pre-No Small Children magic. The Lisa Parade.
Notes….. are skimpy this week, but I just fell upon this lady I have been unaware of and am again wondering how talent like this can survive without feedback. Part of my fascination is with her voice but, as usual, the songwriting seals the deal. This video is eighteen-plus minutes long but I implore you to listen all the way through. She has a lot to say and has a way of making her point. Ladies and Gentlemen, dollars to donuts this lady will be making a lot of headway in the near future. Susanna Rose…
From Australia— they have a lot going on Down Under… Lucie Thorne. She has evidently signed on for the Majors Creek Festival for this year.
Frank’s column appears every Tuesday
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.”