Frank Gutch Jr: Lady Gaga? Really? How About the Real Women in Music?
My yardstick for music is a simple one. If everyone likes it, it can’t be worth a shit. Think Hitler as a rock star. He, too, had a following, though few would own up to being part of it after the finale. What is it that makes everyone so enamored with this musician as opposed to this other musician who is playing practically the same thing? Hell if I know. How does one become a hit overnight? Hell if I know. Why are people attracted to certain artists, en masse? You guessed it. Hell if I know. But I can goddamn guarantee you that while you are talking about the Lady Gaga halftime show, and my guess is that most of you talking about music are, you’re missing a few thousand musicians worth hearing, some of them playing music way outside the formulaic box the Gaga has built for herself. Taylor Swift? I love some of her songs but there are songs as good as that out there if you take the time to listen.
I laugh because a lot of you are right now saying, oh yeah, where? Would it make a difference if I told you? You are already dead set against whatever I would recommend. As good as Swift? Impossible! If they were that good, they would be stars already. The thing is, they could have been if you had taken time to listen. So, without further ado, I am forced once again to post a string of videos and recommendations for those of you who don’t bite bubbles in the bathtub, for those of you who have open minds (and ears) when it comes to music.
Why women, you ask? Hell if I know, but the vast majority of artists I am really enjoying these days are female or female-infused in one way or another.
Devon Sproule & Paul Curreri…..
Here’s the thing. It isn’t always just music. Sometimes it centers on the music or, in the case of Devon Sproule and Paul Curreri, the art. I mean, they are so much more than music it scares me. You might not know because you might not know who they are. They are two of only a few musicians I can point to as true artists. They involve not just music but interactive projects and theater and comedy and so much more. Not on every project, but on some. Not too long ago, they decided to take everything a step further. They had already put up videos and writings on their own pages, but they wanted to stretch their talents and decided to adopt the Patreon format. On this video, they explain the move in a way that engages people. This video, in fact, is more than likely a preview of what you will get when you sign on. Speaking of signing on, I will be doing so this week. It will be well worth a few bucks a month to see what they come up with.
“The hardest thing about Patreon is that [eople don’t know what Patreon is.”— Devon
Consider the videos posted herein a bonus. These are reasons I love and support these guys.
That dude playing pedal steel in the above video, by the way, is/was the legendary B.J. Cole, whom I first heard on the two Cochise albums recorded in the early 70s.
Curreri has had a career which I would not claim a financial success but which has made me a believer. He has unerring taste when it comes to his music and some of his biggest failures have been my favorite songs. They are full of life and adventure and everything that the successful do not seem to have— a truth, if you will. I know he thinks I praise him too much and I probably do, but when you find a talent like his, unless the people around you also understand it, you do that. I truly do not understand why his is not a name everyone knows. Since The Velvet Rut, I have awaited each of his album anxiously and he has never disappointed. If anything, he has progressed with each succeeding effort.
One day, I heard that he would not be playing the guitar anymore. I couldn’t believe it. It has something to do with cartilage in his hands or something. It took met days to accept it. You see, I love the guitar more than any other instrument. I was playing air guitar before it was invented. I wish I could have learned how to play but the truth is, I don’t have the discipline (and mastering any instrument takes tons of it). Every time I hear Curreri play, I live that guitarist dream vicariously. I don’t want to just play the guitar, I want to play guitar like him and write songs like him and it crushes me that he won’t be doing it anymore. He is still playing the keyboards though and creating music and, goddamn it, I want to hear it!
Swear to God, you never know what either one of them are going to come up with. And they have the talent to come up with damn near anything. I hate to say this, and I say it about too many artists who are presently struggling in spite of what I consider exceptional talent, but the world may wait too long before finding these two. They have waited too long already. You can quote me.
I normally would not post a long video but this next one is an exception. Recorded in 2013, this performance plus interview by Aer Stephen, another Charlottesville personality, captures the personal side of Devon and Paul. They at this time were preparing to move to Berlin (Germany) and had a plan to maybe stay in Europe a good long time if Europe would have them. Truth is, they were struggling to survive in The States, and were looking at alternatives. I don’t know if they lasted the two years before returning but they did eventually return only to move to Austin for a year or so before again returning to C-ville. This is the best I have found of the personal side of the two. They are now three (four counting Tim the Dog), having added a daughter to the fold.
You should be aware that Devon has now or is just releasing a new album titled The Gold String. Look for it on Devon and Paul’s Patreon page (or on Devon’s web page).
The Silver Lake Chorus…..
Not just one female voice here— tons of them. Hearing The Silver Lake Chorus the first time was like being slapped across the face with a King Salmon. I had to replay the video again to make sure it was not just the ringing in my ears but the vocals themselves which beat me to submission. I have always loved choruses and choirs, especially at Christmas when they pull out the oddball Christmas songs not recorded by every damn person on Earth. So it wasn’t Christmas. It still gave me a music aneurysm from which I have not recovered. Music this beautiful does not need fire pots and failed costume designs or any of the other seeming necessities of todays stars. It just needs the music and the voices, and, man, this is music and voices in just the right combination at just the right volume.
Ran across this trailer from 2013. Man, that was ages ago, but the music goes on. Is this cool or what?
There are women who rock and then there are women who rock. Gris-de-Lin rocks! I thought she was a shoo-in for stardom the first time I saw this:
It’s been too long coming for me. She tells me she has been garnering support and backing and will have a new project ready soon, but it cannot be fast enough for me. Presently, she is touring Italy and will return to the UK to (I hope) work on a new album. Here she is, raw and rocking!
I know, I know. I write about her a lot, but her talent warrants it. Young, schooled in folk, she is one of the real hopes for Australia to break out on the international stage (along with Courtney Barnett, who has done right well for herself). Money, of course, plays into any musicians plans, and I am assuming that is one reason she has been slow putting the pieces together. Here is the latest piece, one track she hopes to use as a springboard to a Canadian (and US?) tour.
I would kill to hear music like that live. Of course, this is a step in the really professional direction for her. She was a bit rough at the beginning but so full of a pure sense of song that I was and still am floored. If she makes it to The States and the only way she can make it is if I caddy her equipment, I would do it. Here is a very young Drake the way she was only a few years ago.
How is it she isn’t on everyones MP3 player or iPod? Hell if I know.
They are a father/daughter duo and are from a different music dimension. Daddy Doug grew up on the music I remember from my youth, drawing from numerous sources to create old-but-new classics. I can’t think of a single person I have led to the water who hasn’t happily drunk from the trough. They have just released their fourth album, Crossroads, available from Bandcamp. The other three are killer as well.
All three of the previous albums are killers as well, full of sometimes retro/sometimes modern masterpieces of melody and harmony like you have seldom heard. Like this one straight out of the same universe which created Fairport Convention‘
If this song had come out in the late 60s, I would have embraced it with all I had. I was just discovering music then, even though I had been listening from the late 40s on. There was something new in the air. It smelled like air after a lightning strike or the soft perfume of a young girl. I am astonished by this song just as I was by the songs of Sandy Denny and Fotheringay.
Speaking of the sixties, I have not heard a better representation of a song which would have dominated the charts back when radio ruled the world than Boulevard. In fact, this is a go-to song when I want to explain the importance of production and arrangement. AM-ready but five decades too late.
There are a few tons of outstanding music out there right now and trust me, these guys should be in everyone’s collection. Drown in Gaga or move into the realm of music. Your call.
Amy van Keeken…..
Trapped in the wilds of Canada (Edmonton, I am pretty sure), van Keeken spends most of her time running sled dogs and making pemmican when not coaching the local hockey club. On occasion she performs live at the local Tim Horton’s and word has it that she has recorded an album and a half worth of music to pass the time. Listening to her music, one might think passing time was a worthy endeavor. She is unlike anyone I have heard recently. Production sparse, voice simple and unique, songs topnotch. Here are three examples.
Her first two EPs are available on vinyl from her Bandcamp page on one disc. Click here.
There are a lot more women playing electric guitar than there were back in the sixties and Mandy Fer is one of them. I’ve seen her play live once with partner Dave McGraw, no slouch on the guitar either (though he seems to prefer acoustic these days), and she was terrific— controlled, lightning fast when needed but always playing to the music and emotion. Acoustic Guitar Weekly has acknowledged her skills in a recent issue, which is quite a statement from a respected music magazine. This is the latest picture on her website and it doesn’t look like she’s selling magazine subscriptions. You want to catch a good live show, Fer and McGraw put on one that’s hard to beat.
Look, don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Gaga, I just don’t understand the massive undying love. I don’t understand the unqualified acceptance of her as an artist because, truth be told, she leaves me cold. I know most people don’t seem to feel that way, but it just is. The most disturbing part is that most of them stop there. They stop listening until the next media phenomenon comes along. They wait for another Beyonce record. They don’t care.
It is not the death of the music industry I am experiencing. It is the death of the audience. I think I’m getting it now. Pro football and spoon-fed music. Bunch of overpaid millionaires, all of them.
The good thing, though, is you have read all you can handle at one sitting, I am sure. Which is fine because it is time for…..
Notes….. It occurs to me that I have not written about Drew Gibson lately and I can write a portion of it off to Drew being somewhat incognito, release-wise, but only a portion. A couple of years ago he released an album titled 1532 (there is a story behind the title) and put a real dent in the brain. Recently, I discovered a live version of the track recorded live with band and special guest Devon Sproule, who also guested on the album. The album is a monster, in my opinion, and I want to share the video with you but want you to hear the original first. Drew, I have not forgotten about you (nor have I forgotten you, Devon). 1532 blew my socks off. Where is the new one?
One reason I dig the social media is that you never know where your next great discovery is going to come from. This morning, a mere than you from Adam Dawson to Jeff Plankenhorn uncovered a gem of an album from 2014— Anthony David‘s Three Chords & The Truth. I find David’s ambling jazz-infused music intriguing, at the very least. In case you’re interested:
I have a fascination for everything Green Pajamas-related and you don’t get more related than Fur For Fairies, Jeff Kelly‘s side project with wife Susanne. They have an otherworldly approach, as in this track titled I Breathe You In, a tribute to Susanne’s late father, Michael Daily.
Hymn For Her recently posted a new video, those wacky people. A little thing they call Blue Balloons.
Since Chloe Albert went off and started a real family (meaning with kids and all that), I have been forced to relive her past glories via videos. Well, she’s back now and isn’t it fitting that one of her early projects is singing backup up for a guy named Marty Pawlina. I wonder where he’s been hiding himself. Good song and absolute perfection in the recording. Chloe is the singer on the left.
I discovered Jon Gomm a few years ago and am thankful for it. For one thing, Gomm is one creative and innovative dude and if there is anything I am happy about these days it is the numbers of musicians who push the envelope. For another, Gomm has an attitude I see too seldom these days— one of positivity and reinforcement. He spends as much time helping others as he does himself. I consider myself lucky to have found him when I did because I got to see him develop from struggling to full-grown artist within a span of a couple of years. I love the smell of success in the morning.
His latest is a cover of a Radiohead tune and marks another period of growth. You see, I remember a Gomm who was not as comfortable with his voice as he later became. He lived on the adventure of guitar and rhythm and would sometimes work himself into a frenzy making a point. No more points to be made, I think, or maybe I should say that he has found a way to make the points less frenzied at times. If you haven’t listened to him or watched him play, watch this and see why so many people are talking about him.
A couple of years ago, Tamikrest‘s album topped my list for Album of the Year. They are back again this year and are as cool as ever. A few decades ago, I never thought music from Mali could sound this good.
Kate Burke from down under has my back. Here is a new video by a lady I am quite taken by. The song is good, but that voice! You decide. I think it’s a hit. Ladies & Gentlemen, Helen Shanahan.
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.