Frank Gutch Jr: These Are People I’ve Known (But Who Try to Keep It a Secret); Plus Notes

The past week I have been revisiting some of my earlier DBAWIS columns and am shocked at how few people (as far as I can tell) know about them, even now.  When I write about musicians, it is usually personal, both the person or people and the music, and I feel that sometimes they are more water under the bridge than anything.  No one sends notes asking about someone I wrote about in 2012 unless something has happened since and there are so many truly talented people who deserve recognition.  So this week, I am going to point toward artists you may have missed whom I think are above the norm in terms of talent and/or personality.  And maybe I owe a few of them money, but that is neither here nor there.

But first, I am going to plug Angharad Drake‘s visit to Canada (British Columbia, to be specific) because I am completely sold on her music and her talent and don’t want you to miss the opportunity to see her perform before she breaks out and the demand for tickets outgrows your pocketbook.  For denizens of Vancouver Island, she will be playing the Corner Lounge in Nanaimo on June 14th.  If it is not listed on the venues FB page, don’t worry about it.  I checked and the date is solid.  Then, a little over a week later she will be in Vancouver to play Trees Organic Coffee & Roasting House on June 23rd and The Heatley on June 24th.  Seriously.  If you want to catch an artist on her way up, Drake is the one.  If she sold stocks, I would buy as many as I could.

But, hey, speaking of Nanaimo, Nick Hornbuckle lives there!  Hopefully Nick will be at Drake’s show, too, because they are both incredibly talented musicians.  Here is a piece I wrote about Nick some time ago singing his praises.  I also wrote negative comments when I posted this piece.  Can’t have him getting too full of himself.  He’s hard enough to get along with as it is.

Nick HornbuckleYou may know that name.  People in Seattle, anyway.  Nick was the bass man for Seattle hard rock band Son of Man back when grunge was in its infancy and if you don’t know of that band you haven’t been reading my column. SoM was a personal favorite and the band I picked to go someplace, but before that happened, they suffered a house fire which destroyed their equipment and more than likely some of their drive.  They hung on but pretty much by their fingernails until the whole dream of rock stardom turned to dust— about the time Nirvana busted out and changed the whole music scene.  The members of the band all went different directions, Brad Kok to Germany to form Pothead, a band of some renown in that country; Tal Goettling staying put and finally surfacing in the very impressive Lavacado (now, See By Sound); Nick to Canada to study his favorite instrument (yes, even in the rockin’ years), banjo; Top Jap to God knows where— Mike, his real name, and my only connection to the band until recent years.

Pardon my chuckle, but that was ol’ Nick himself on the right side of that stage (facing it) shaking those long locks and headbanging away and pounding out the beat with partner-in-crime Top Jap.  Ah, those were good days.

I left Seattle around this time, returning to Oregon for personal reasons. I lost track of the band— indeed, all of the bands out of Seattle, the ones I knew anyway.  The city exploded and bands came out of the woodwork, as it were— Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Screaming Trees, the band which foisted Mark Lanegan on the world, among many others.  Unfortunately, by then, Son of Man was no more. Not really. Opportunity missed?  Or music tragedy?  I think the latter.

Well over a decade later, I came across an album by John Reischman & The Jaybirds and noticed Nick’s name on the album jacket.  Somehow, he had headed north and ended up on Vancouver Island, joining forces with Reischman and a handful of like-minded bluegrassers.  Gone were the locks and the attitude.  The new Nick Hornbuckle was all about the music as channeled through the banjo.  I’m not sure if he considered it home or not, but it sure sounded like home to me.

Nick has a new album out (well, it was new back then when this was posted in 2016) which he titled 12X2(+/-1), a study in banjo, if you will.  He covers a lot of territory, much of it what I would term “cinematic bluegrass” meaning music ready-made for the silver screen— background music for the deep mountain and prairie scenes. This isn’t on the album, but it will give you an idea.

When it comes to banjo, I guess it depends on whether you like the instrument or not.  I prefer to think that what really matters is who plays it.  Nick has a touch pleasing to my ear.  After SoM, though, it might just be me. You can pick up his new CD/download here.

Joseph LeMay…

Joseph LeMay‘s album Seventeen Acres has been out how long? Three months? I wrote about it in an earlier DBAWIS column and have barely mentioned it since. I have to wonder why. I love some of the songs on that album and like everything about it. It is beautifully recorded, masterfully produced and mastered and, even more important, made up of outstanding songs.  And yet I push it into the past. So I started thinking— how does that happen?

I refer back to a statement Ralph J. Gleason made when asked why he limited himself to virtually all positive reviews when it came to his choices of topics, to which he replies something like, and I am paraphrasing here: There is not enough space to write about the music I like.  Why would I waste it on music I didn’t like.  And this was before the implosion of the major labels and the explosion of Indie product (and I mean true Indie and not the stuff the major labels are marketing as Indie).

Well, I like LeMay enough to follow through, even if I lack the time to do it properly. Here is a beauty of a song from Seventeen Acres. Trust me when I say that the whole album is pretty damn exceptional. Listen to this…

Freaking beautiful.

Ted Pitney…

I knew of Ted Pitney from Sarah White‘s Sweetheart EP. 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 to 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.

Skip Prokop…

The Paupers!  My God, but what a great start (if indeed start it was) for Skip Prokop.  Only two albums (Only? Most bands in those days got maybe one, if they were lucky!) and then the legend that was Lighthouse.  I mean, Skip was a drummer, for chrissakes, and then he was a— gasp!— guitarist?!!!  Blasphemy!  To drummers, anyway, of which I pretended to be.  But what a run!  Lighthouse was like no other band to me. Brass was not something I really liked outside of the soul and jazz genres, but the fusion was magic! Intense, pounding rock with upfront blazing brass. And the softer, more intricate pieces with jazz leanings. Chicago tried and had their moments, but Lighthouse succeeded.  Maybe not financially, but musically. Skip, by the way, is still going strong both as musician and producer. You can check out his latest stuff at www.skipprokop.com.

The Powder Blues…

The Powder Blues Band is one of Vancouver’s prime exports. I remember them from their first album (at least, I think it was their first), Uncut. Their management company supplied Peaches Records with boxes of the Canadian pressing hoping to jumpstart a contract with a US label. It worked. RCA took the bait for that album and EMI America took over from there. They were huge in Seattle but evidently their music did not translate further south, at least on the Left Coast. I caught their first night at The Fabulous Rainbow tavern across the street from the store and they blew the roof off of the place. Tom Lavin was everything I could have hoped for short of Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar and the brass was smokin’ hot! Hell of a night.

54-40…

54-40 were out of Vancouver. I saw them once in Seattle opening for Three O’Clock before they signed with a major label (they were on Mo-Da-Mu back then) and they rocked! I’m sure I don’t have to tell you who they were/are. Man, that was a great show. A tip of a beer to George Romansic who got me in (rest his soul).

When Three Bands (Don’t) Collide…

I have personal favorites when it comes to bands and musicians— music which I have learned not to share because of the resounding silence from people when I tried. The first of those was Cargoe, a band from Memphis by way of Tulsa who released an album on Ardent Records just before Big Star‘s #1 Record. I loved both bands, but I could get people to listen to Big Star. Cargoe, not so much. I have a number of such albums in my collection, albums I dearly love but which don’t strike others the same way. So when I come across an album which could practically be a band I covet, I am thrilled.

The album I speak of is Sine Sine recorded and released by a band from Slovakia, of all places. They call themselves Nylon Union and I am not really sure where or how I found them.  I am going to guess and say that it was through Bandcamp’s new release pages, about a year ago. What caught my ear were the chord progressions of the first song, Hyper A, which seemed straight out of the songbook of a Bay Area band calling themselves Mist and Mast.  Surely you have never heard of them but I have written about them in earlier columns, I assure you.  I even caught two of their shows in Eugene awhile ago and they blew me away. They were professional and solid with a rhythm section to write home about and a sound not quite like anyone else I’d heard— until now. Swear to God, the opening of Hyper A could easily have fit on any of Mist and Mast’s albums.  Except for the vocal.  That, surprisingly, was straight out of the world of Oami. Indeed, subsequent tracks mixes the best of both Mist and Mast and Oami and has had my head nodding with the beat ever since.

You can listen to Mist and Mast here, Oami by clicking here, and Nylon Union here.  The video below is the first video of a Slovakian band I have had the pleasure of seeing/hearing. They even have vinyl. I’m impressed.

Michael Fennelly…

Who is Michael Fennelly, you ask? Actually, my good buddies in music would not have to ask that because they all know Fennelly from his days with The Millennium and Crabby Appleton. The names sound familiar at all? Well, Crabby Appleton had an actual hit (Go Back— 1970) and The Millennium have become legends after-the-fact. Fennelly also put out a couple of solo albums before pretty much calling it quits. The record biz takes a lot out of you sometimes (and rather quickly).

This new Fennelly album just came in the door a couple of hours ago (remember, this is 2014) and I won’t be able to listen to it until this column is completed, but here’s the deal. This one is personal. Fennelly himself picked the tracks. In fact, most are from his personal archives. Maybe all. This, in fact, seems to be a chronology of what he wanted to do and not what the label told him to do.

Pluses? It is in mono. No fancy dressing up in stereo clothing for these. They are demos on the whole and as demos they should be heard. You get two sets of liner notes. The first is a basic history of Fennelly and his partners in crime, written by one Domenic Priore, author of Riot On Sunset Strip: Rock and Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood. The second is a track-by-track explanation of the tracks written by Fennelly himself. Minuses? I don’t know yet. I have a feeling there will be none, as far as I’m concerned because not only do I deal with demos on a day-by-day basis, I many times prefer demos to finished tracks. The album is titled Love Can Change Everything: Demos – 1967 – 1972.

And by the way, it is available on 180-gram vinyl as well as compact disc, driving a stake into the hearts of the idiots who said that vinyl was dying and are saying that compact discs are also soon a relic of the past. Doomsayers, I say! And idiots.

That ought to do it.  You have spent enough time in my past.  It is not quite done yet, though.  After all, it wouldn’t be a column without some…

Notes…

I ran into this video by Sive courtesy of a site called Louder Than Words put together by a musician friend, Shayne Thomas Byrne. The whole idea is to get someone immersed in music either as an artist or writer or engineer or the like and have them pick ten or so songs/artists which/who had an influence on them.  Sive picked a stream of mainstream tracks but included Ella Fitzgerald and John Martyn, two musicians I might well include on my own list on any odd day.  It is an interesting concept and it told me something about her, but this video told me more.  This is music on the edge.  By the way, there is a bonus.  The video includes film clips of a very young Tuesday Weld (that is Tuesday Weld, isn’t it?) in what appears to be some kind of sitcom.  Wait!  It’s a movie!  Just to get your curiosity up.

I was lucky enough to have been in Seattle during Skyboys‘ rein on the tavern/lounge circuit.  The lines around the block were there for a reason.  Not only did they serve up excellent dance music, they did it with a real musical flair.  Here is one of their live recordings for your listening (and dancing) pleasure.

I spent a bit of time getting to know a little about Sarah White awhile ago and found her very interesting.  She is one of the stalwarts of the Virginia music scene.  Started young and just keeps on going.  This is a video  I had not seen before and just discovered.  The Last Day of May, indeed.

More proof that I am a fool.  I could have seen The Life numerous times but did not bother once.  A bother.  What an idiot I was.

Arlon Bennett, a folk/pop artist I have been listening to for quite a few years, pointed me to this song by John John Brown.  Posted January of 2016.  How do these songs get lost?

Just so you know, I am as interested in listening to ramblings about the fifty years of Sgt. Pepper as you would be to hear my Top Songs of the Last Fifty Years, few of which most of you have ever heard.  I have heard it enough, thank you.  Moving on…

Ladies & Gentlemen, have no fear!  The Fugs are here!

Back in the sixties, there was this whole sub-genre going on which most people ignored, though some artists had hits with folk/psych. Much of it was buried, though— bands such as The Millennium and Southwest FOB and West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band making more of a living (if a living it was) off of the pop and rock side of music. Randy Burns was a second-generation folkie who tied up with musicians to form Randy Burns & The Sky Dog Band and did fairly well on the East Coast but not much elsewhere.  His albums on ESP-Disk Records are legendary, but before that, he was in a band called Randy Burns & The Morning. This is the first indication I have had that such a band existed and it is so obviously a precursor to albums like Song For an Uncertain Lady and Evening of the Magician, two albums which are staples of my collection.  I am amazed that this is seeing the light of day— only one reason I embrace the Internet.

One of my Seattle favorites is back with a new video (well, it WAS new).  I loved C-Leb & The Kettle Black‘s first album, which is slightly reminiscent of Des Moines IA’s Bright Giant.  This next album sounds like it will be another beauty.  Rock & Roll!

The Living Sisters put this video out a few years ago.  It still makes me laugh.

Bow Thayer is big on the East Coast.  What it is about Left Coast ears that he isn’t here?

=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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