Frank Gutch Jr: Julian Taylor Has a Band, EIEIO; Wreckless Eric & The Case of the Not-So-Brave-New-World; From The Sally Rose Band To Shagwuf (with an umlaut); A Look Back at Audrey Martell(s); and Plain Old Notes
If I headed a bill, I wouldn’t want The Julian Taylor Band opening. I mean, remember when Hendrix opened for The Monkees? No, I don’t suppose you do. Most of you, anyway. Let us just say it didn’t last. While Julian Taylor is no Hendrix (apples and oranges, really), he is a monster in the wings awaiting his chance and his new album, Desert Star, might just be it. It’s a double album, I hear, and one with four distinct sides. I have it. I want to listen to it. I will get to it. But first I have to get past this performance of Taylor and crew at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. Posted only a couple of days ago, it has been looping on my computer since. I hear funk and I hear soul and I hear so much more.
The guy is good, no doubt about it, but I didn’t know how good until about an hour in. When he started introducing band members. You know— that thing they used to do at every major concert back in the seventies? On drums, formerly of the Sawbuck Terriers kind of thing? That was also about the time that they kicked out the jams as it were, the music heavier and more driving, enough so that you could hear the talent behind the music. The artistry.
Preceding it, of course, is one of my favorite tracks from the new album, Chemical Love, Taylor’s entry into the power ballad sweepstakes. Finally, Taylor let’s go, his voice contained yet more powerful, the band more majestic in its approach, Bill Bell‘s guitar flowing and powerful and at moments so intricate it pulls at the heartstrings. And then… and then…
Rockers take over. I mean, these guys know how to rock and prove it in no uncertain terms. The stage comes alive under the influence of Zero To Eleven, a cross between the old Temptations in their most rock-y configuration and one of my favorite and sadly overlooked musicians, Terry Scott. (I mean, have you ever heard Over and Over or She Don’t Belong to Me full-bore— or at all? I still shake my head at how hard it was to sell his self-titled album from 1982.) It is a take no prisoners type of rocker which makes heads bang (or in my case go bang)— the type of song you want to take home but hide from your mother. And, wonder of wonders, contains a dual lead!!! All the way through, I knew Taylor could play guitar. I could tell by watching the hands (and hearing the results), but that doesn’t mean he could actually play lead. But guess what? He can and does very well at it.
That dual lead leads into the intro of the individual band members (“I would like to introduce the members of my band. Would you like to meet them?”) and how could one say no when the band is laying down a groove. Starting off with lead guitarist Bell, he works his way slowly through the band, allowing each member a chance to shine. (By the way, am I seeing two Telecasters on the stage? I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that.)
People tell me that Taylor along with Prakash John and others are proponents of the Toronto sound. From what I can gather, it borrows heavily from the soul and R&B movement of the sixties and early seventies in The States which to me means soul. I can hear it on certain of Taylor’s songs but Taylor brings a real sense of urgency to the music on the whole— a rocking drive which is more rock than anything. What that gives the band is real depth— an ability to rock out here and bring people to their knees there— to reach within and make you dance or swoon or just experience. From song to song, Taylor does just that— bends the song to the moment. And he does it with real flair.
This guy— this BAND— is on the way up, mark my words. They will be reaping the rewards of the hard work they have been doing soon. They may have been a long time coming but they are within reach. This concert is proof. This band is outstanding.
Just so I don’t forget, here is the lineup as it was in the live video:
Julian Taylor/guitar, vox; Bill Bell/guitar; Steve Pelletier/bass; Jeremy Elliott/drums; Norman Ryan/sax; Ritch Thoman/sax; David Engle/keys; Richard Fairthorne II/keys; with Laurel Tubman and Karen Scovell providing backup voices. On other words, The Julian Taylor Band. And one hell of a band it is.
Not Helpless, Just Wreckless…
His real name is Eric Goulden but you probably don’t know that because all you care about is Wreckless Eric, his ‘stage name,’ and he has a complaint and is not afraid to let you know in so many words. Those words, from his blog, are the results of a musical career gone awry or maybe I should say a music industry gone bust because that is pretty much the gist of it. For the artist. Trying to make it in music these days has pretty much been boiled down to an exercise in futility, on the whole, musicians being a weak link in a world controlled mostly by people using music to build mansions and jets and reputations, though one can only imagine the reputation one gets by stealing someone else’s work and selling it wholesale and passing little of the profit, if any, to the creator.
Turns out Mr. Goulden— or maybe I should call him Wreckless, having sold a number of his records in the past— has a bone to pick. To use the words of Rodney Dangerfield, he gets no respect. In a blog he titled “A Word From the Cunt That Created the Product,” he rips a lady (I assume it’s a lady. The name as listed is Lidia.) a new one for contacting him regarding the reissue of three of his early albums— the first three, in fact. It is not the fact that she contacted him or that she said anything derogatory or anything, it is the attitude she had, or so I seem to think. Read this (click here) and keep in mind that this is the first Goulden is hearing about the releases. Surely not that big a deal, right? Goulden thinks it is. And he is right.
I used to get upset at writers when a musician’s name was spelled incorrectly and, yes, I have even seen albums with musicians name misspelled (as a writer, one of my biggest fears). I used to get upset when a record label released a product with incorrect information (after all, musicians are responsible for all of a label’s product and these days, it seems like ‘product’ is the operative word, labels more interested it profit generation than artists or people). I get upset whenever a musician loses a contract without being given his or her proper due. I get upset when people like Daniel Ek hijack music so they can build mansions as mentioned before, and in conjunction with the record labels themselves (no more ethics here than with arms manufacturers, to my mind). And I get upset when musicians themselves shrug their shoulders and say the business model has changed and accept it as if their music is no longer valuable, because that is what they are saying as far as I am concerned.
I am not the only one who gets upset. To quote Goulden, I could get quite upset about this kind of thing. No could about it in fact – I do, I get very fucking upset. Nice people – they really know how to treat the cunt that created their product. But there’s nothing I can do about it so there’s no sense in dwelling on it for too long because it’s a waste of energy. I am, sure that is not a comment directed toward Lidia herself but at the state of the industry. It is the way people think— Hey, we’re releasing three of your albums so how about helping us promote them? Not the best approach.
Truth is, there is a disconnect between artists and their now Lords and Masters. For the major labels (there are more than one these days, right?) it is simply what have you done for me lately (unless it is a Springsteen or a McCartney). For those stealing and streaming, it is fuck you, we are paying as much as we can afford and giving you massive exposure (heard that one lately?). Unfortunately, for the fan it is a simple matter of convenience. The only difference between the fan and the corporate snipers is the attitude. Most fans, I am sure, side (in their heads) somewhat with the artist. Corporate says they do but all I see is a finger. The middle one.
I am certainly not speaking of Demon/Edsel Records. They have been one of the biggest supporters of artists and their music over the years. But the majors? All most artists have received from them is lip service. I wonder, though, if the culture is changing or has changed. Could it be seeping (in a trickle-down way) to those labels which have built their reputations on backing artists to the max? One would hope not and you only have to look as far as Green Monkey, Bullseye Canada, Seventh Fire and even the more established labels like New West, Bloodshot, Signature Sounds, and Yep Roc to see that it has not infiltrated all the small companies.
There is not as much debate as there used to be. The term ‘Intellectual Property’ is seldom heard these days as the world tackles bigger problems, or so it seems. The truth is, not many people are doing their jobs regarding rights no matter which forum you visit. Rights are what corporations say they are. A look at the mere existence of Spotify as they are is proof. We allow them to set up shop under their own rules and say we will deal with it later, when things settle down. Well, guess what? They will never settle down. We’re fucked, simple as that.
It takes someone like Mr. Goulden to point it out. On the surface, there is no DAPL nor police shootings nor corporate-sponsored burglary. On the surface, everything is hunky dory. It’s what is beneath it that is disturbing.
You can find things that Wreckless finds disturbing and otherwise by visiting his blog at this URL. I do. Whenever he honors us with a blurb. Oh, and you can purchase his book, A Dysfunctyional Success, on Amazon by clicking here. Even writer Neil Gaiman has read it. And if you don’t know who he is, you need to read Goulden’s blog. Look upon it as a learning experience.
From Sally Rose to Shagwuf (with an umlaut)…
Goddamn Jamie Dyer. People have been trying to clue me in on The Sally Rose Band for the past few years and I checked them out and all but Jamie won’t let things like that go. He sank his teeth to the bone and forced me to look again, not only at Sally but her side project, Shagwuf. (Tha ‘u’ is supposed to have an umlaut over it but I am so lazy I have never learned how to do it on the keyboard) I get it, Jamie, now please let go. I am listening as I type.
I know Sally. I do. Not well enough to exchange Christmas cards, but hey, all relationships need time to develop. I have watched a few videos and have listened to the SRB album and have seen the bizarre posts on Bookface, some with one of my favorite Charlottesville musicians, Erin Lunsford. She looks a little unhinged, does Sally, her face sometimes twisted into shapes you might not imagine (or imagine possible), her body striking poses anatomically impossible, her aura screaming offbeat colors while her music strikes minor chords. She is a character, no doubt, and not one to hold back.
She lives in that world, an almost Bizarro one, cube-shaped and backwards with all of the insanity such a world entails. In Shagwuf (with the umlaut) she shares duties with Sweet Pete Stallings, previously with Lost Indian and Secret Ninja, Ivan Christo (Jaguardini and Pelacanesis) and Pablo Olivieri (Pablo & The Dregs and The Findells) and if that isn’t odd enough, the band gets its best quote from the frontman for Diarrhea Planet, one Jordan Smith (Yeah, like that isn’t an alias) who said “Shagwuf is the most exciting and unique band I have seen in years.” Thanks, Unkel Ferd. Well, I’m sure that’s his name and I am sure he said that because why would Sally Rose lie, I ask you.
The thing is, that is Sally’s world and I believe it to be the one in which she is most comfortable, thank you, and maybe you should watch these to give you perspective. Personnel in the vid below are Sally, Pete, Catherine Monnes/fiddle, cello, vox, Benjamin Jensen/bass (though he is the drummer in the video) and drummer David Jacobs. I forgot to ask if he was in the video or not but if he is, my apologies for not annotating it.
Round One to the SRB, right? How could I have watched this and moved on without a mention? Hell if I know. I dig it. I dig it a lot. Better than half the stuff being foisted upon us by the Americana gods. Lots better. Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Take, for instance, this little piece put together with the help of the aforementioned Lunsford. Note especially, the Lick of the Lens.
If that isn’t a combination of voices, I don’t know what is. To hold your own against Eric Lunsford is to make a mark, in my opinion. Lunsford. A Voice of the Angels.
Well, ol’ Jamie Dyer wanted to make sure I didn’t miss Sally’s latest foray— the Shagwuf sidestep. Do not attempt to adjust your set. It is what it is. Trust me.
Pushing the envelope? Shagwuf rips it to shreds then tries to scotch tape it back together. I like it! It is adventure in music if I’ve ever heard it and what the hell good is music of you play it safe all the time, in your playing and/or your listening? But let’s take a step back. That envelope has got to be tiring of being pushed, wouldn’t you think?
And she writes lyrics too.
I mean, Sally Rose is the kind of girl who gets chocolate ice cream all over because she thinks it tastes better that way. No pretension. Take me as I am (or don’t take me at all). Lick my microphone, baby. Doo Wah Diddy.
The Sally Rose Band to Shagwuf. Something tells me I will never be the same….. At least, I hope not.
Audrey Martells and a Lesson Learned…
I have a clipboard I carry around with me all the time. On it is a letter I received way back in May of 2006 from one Audrey Martell asking if I would be interested in reviewing her new album, Life Lines. She ended the latter with “I sure hope you find something that speaks to the music lover in you.”
I keep that letter on the clipboard for a reason. Not only would I probably lose it otherwise, but more importantly it reminds me why I write about music in the first place. Ms. Martell, while not new to the game (she had sung on many tracks by some of the top stars of the time, including Luther Vandross), had in her hands an album I am not sure she knew how to handle. The music business was by then in turmoil, digitization and incompetence having changed the musical landscape. The Internet, while making it easier to get the message out, was making it harder to get the message heard. It had to have been daunting, facing the task of marketing music by yourself without the tools and structure which had, not long before, been pure template— Step 1, Step 2, and the other steps which could lead to success. So she wrote to me. An unknown writer nobody read but who had taken the time to listen to an album submitted by a friend and acquaintance (Gabrielle Gewirtz) and had written a review more important in the fact that the album was heard than the words written.
I wrote a favorable review for Ms. Martell. It was easy. Life Lines was an exceptional album and Martell’s voice was as good a voice as I had heard anywhere. The album did not do much, though I am sure she sold plenty off of her name alone. It should have. It should have been a best seller. Could have, should have. I live by phrases like that these days. Suffice it to say that it was good enough for me to keep the letter on the clipboard.
A couple of days ago I got a message from Ms. Martell saying that she had some things in the works, which to me says that she is recording again or maybe preparing to. So I decided to pass the word along. I consider this passing along a favor. You’re looking for good music, well here it is. You’re welcome. Of course, it might be awhile before we see anything. It is a wait which for me will be spent in anticipation.
Here’s an aside. I knew that Martell had done a bit of work on various anthology albums and on music for ads. She would occasionally pass along a link to something and I would, of course, be thrilled because as long as she was working, there was hope. Doing a bit of research for this little bit, I ran across another album, of all things. Listed under Audrey Martells (her real name— she took the ‘s’ off the end for simplicity’s sake) I found an album titled Get You There. 2009, it says. She had never mentioned it to me. I am left to wonder why. I know I am not the biggest fan out there, but I am one of them. And she knows it.
There will be an album soon, with luck, and you can bet I will be passing word along as I find out. In the meantime, I think it would behoove you to check out what is there. She is a talent, is Audrey Martell, and a voice and a half. But when she writes and sings her own songs, she is something else altogether.
The above piece in italics was posted in November of 2012 and I am still waiting. The intervening years have found Martells involved not only in her and her husband’s careers, but her two sons’ as well. She says she will get back in the studio to record in the near future and I am sure she will. She has already given me more than I dared ask but I am hopeful. That one album has carried me through a few rough times. A second would be pure gravy. If you know her, let her know someone is waiting. Just don’t tell her it is me.
Not all that much going on musically these days. I lied! Lots of stuff going on. Here is a bit of what has come across my desk. Ladies and Germs, here are this weeks…
Notes….. Music is everywhere and it is no more evident than when I bump into an artist who remains virtually unknown in his own neighborhood. Eric Apoe has been in Seattle for I have no idea how long and yet walks streets anonymously, another character taking up space in a shrinking world, or so you might think. Until you look closely, listen to him talk, listen to his music. Then he becomes at least as big as life and, in the case of this song, bigger. He has just released and album of newer songs, each as good and as important as the others, titled Cooties or Checkmate Your Move which is a treasure chest of mindthoughts in what could easily be an alternative universe. I consider Apoe the opposite end of the spectrum from the roots-driven Tom House, each reflecting quite different yet similar worlds.
Must have been a little over a year ago I first heard The Pick Brothers and if you remember, I was quite impressed. Here is the first single off of their new project. I am still impressed. Blue.
Take a moment and breathe… in… out… in… out… I have no idea who this guy is but I soon will. This very anthemic track courtesy of one Mikko Joensuu. I am sure I am the last man on the planet to know of him. I am impressed.
Here he comes again. This could be very interesting. Ian Hunter has a new album titled Fingers Crossed. In case you didn’t know.
3Hattrio— music and the desert.
Mt. Wolf— hauntingly beautiful.
Here is something I love and really don’t care if you do or not. Silas Lowe ‘s new album, Wandering Father, Forgotten Son. Lowe is the son of Roy Michaels of Cat Mother. That’s enough for me. Cat Mother was one of those bands I got early and stayed with. At the time I saw them, they were working out of Northern California and had just released their third album. They floored everyone at The Roman Forum, a tavern between Eugene and Springfield, that night with a show that had the taps flowing and the crowd dancing. Evidently, Michaels and Lowe went their separate ways for awhile but eventually found one another again. That is why I consider Lowe’s cover of Cat Mother’s Ode to Oregon a real tribute. I loved Cat Mother. Welcome to my music collection, Silas. Damn! The tracks on Soundcloud are private. Keep your eyes open. The street date is Oct. 14th. It’s good stuff.
Frank’s column appears every Tuesday
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“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.