Frank Gutch Jr: Danny Schmidt, Carrie Elkin w/ Maizy— Thoughts Before and After Junction City; It Is F**k Trump Day at Dbawis; and the Notes You May Have Been Awaiting (because “waiting for” would bring out the Grammar Police)

I met Danny Schmidt at The Sisters Folk Festival nine years ago.  He had invited me to attend, though I am sure he forgot it right away.  I know I surprised him.  My first words to him as he passed by to play a set in a tented area were “The Longhorns suck” which brought the Look of Death for Danny was and is a fervent Texas Longhorn fan, him having grown up in Austin and all.  I realized my mistake right off.  He had no idea who I was, having never seen me before.  And it wasn’t his best day.

You couldn’t tell it from the two sets I saw and heard, him being the professional he is (I have never heard anything which even remotely hinted at his not bringing everything he had to every gig he played) and I was treated to music I had heard on his albums but more intense, perhaps because he was tired or on the brink of illness.  During the second set, he surprised me by playing a song he knew was a favorite, Leaves Are Burning, from the first album of his I reviewed— Little Grey Sheep.  It is a magnificent song, though Danny was reluctant to play it.  I was and am so glad he did, though, because he mangled those strings, taking the song to a higher level.  I can still hear those strings scream, and on an acoustic guitar!  (To understand Danny’s relationship to his albums, click on this.  His overview is illuminating, to say the least).

Later that day, I saw Carrie sitting alone in a small restaurant and took the opportunity to speak with her.  I asked if Danny was okay and told her of my Longhorn comment, concerned that maybe he had taken it the wrong way (I meant it as a joke, honest).   He’s tired, she said, and is right now napping at the motel.  While it relieved me to hear it, I even today wonder if I had not driven a wedge between us.  They are, after all, his beloved Longhorns, win or lose.  And some things you cannot put back in the box.  I’m pretty sure Danny remembers this…

I think he felt that since I had driven miles to see him (and Carrie Elkin, who was accompanying him on that tour), he had to entertain me, so after that second set he invited me for a drink at a restaurant with a beer garden setting.  There we were joined by Phoebe Hunt, then playing with The Belleville Outfit, and Kristy Kruger, both playing one of the main stages that night.  Everyone ordered a drink (I may have ordered an ale but I’m not sure, being tanked up on caffeine all day and having to drive home later that night) and we settled in for an hour or so of intriguing conversation and mild libation.  I was crucified by Ms. Hunt, who took offense at my comment regarding The Quebe Sisters, who I had seen and loved earlier that day, to the effect that I wished they had played at least one original.  She considered it a slam and possibly it sounded like one but had not been intended as such.  Luckily, I was saved by Danny and Ms. Kruger who jumped to my defense, having understood the intent of the statement rather than my bungled attempt at stating it.  Shortly thereafter, the hour being late, we shook hands all around and I headed to the car for a long drive home.

I had interviewed Danny before that day.  He was driving from Austin to Fort Worth or some other Texas destination, so we talked as he drove.  He explained the music business as he saw it at that time (remember, this was 2009), his struggles and his beginnings, the loosely arranged band of musicians in Charlottesville (I think he called it the Acoustic Mafia), and his albums and songs.  We talked Virginia and Texas and family and a few other things.  I will be reposting the interview on No Depression soon because what he said is applicable to today and yesterday.  Right now, you can access it here.

I will be heading toward Junction City in a few hours.  Actually, it is closer to Cheshire but the area has somehow been handed a Junction City zip code.  I plan to listen and watch from afar for this is a very small gathering and I will be an outsider.  Carrie had sung with Danny on a few songs at Sisters.  They were just starting.  It has been nine years.  This will be interesting,,,

And it was.  Very occasionally I have been in situations which are so familiar that it feels as if I am writing or editing a movie which has already been completed.  This was one of those.  Nine years has made a tremendous difference and from what I can tell, all for the better.  Danny, laid back and sometimes seemingly aloof at Sisters, was more personable and connected, but perhaps that was the setting for it was a bit hard for even the audience to separate themselves from the scene.

It all transpired in an idyllic setting on the side of a hill covered with conifers and patches of what I call range grass— grass which has grown naturally in the Willamette Valley for as long as I can remember.  In the midst of the trees were hidden a number of houses, each separated by enough land and foliage to hide them from one another but open enough to allow in fresh air (this year, a bit hotter and more humid than usual).  A walk down a one-lane paved road was preamble to the concert, chickens of which were surely a purebred nature, penned and watching Jurassic Park-like  as their food source walked by.  I swear one was a Rhode Island Red as big as any pterodactyl ever in existence, walking the fence, looking for any chance to welcome us with open beak.  Next, the large garage with basketball hoop attached, then a large A-Frame, large enough to warrant a small elevator but fronted  instead by stairs which I happily negotiated with springing steps which existed only in my mind.  By the time I got to the door, I wheezed like bellows at a very successful blacksmith shop, air coming with effort and a sense of mortality.

The entry was through the kitchen which might have been odd except for the deck outside, perfect for breakfast scenes in a well-financed romance flick.  To the left, the living room which contained five rows of chairs, one of which I claimed for my own, the wheezing somewhat abating, though not enough for people who had taken first aid courses to stop hovering like vultures.  They knew a possible chance to use CPR when they saw one.  I sat.  I breathed.  My vision returned.  And just in time for the music.

Watching Carrie and Danny take the stage (a couple of mics against a slanted wall of probably fir but which in my youth could easily have been knotty pine) was deja vu for the first time.  There was fumbling and tuning and banter and children and parental voices, plunking of guitars a sign of impending music and the crowd settled.

It started with stories— lots of them.  I had no idea that Danny and Carrie had incorporated comedy routines into their act but they have, the most notable being the one about Carrie’s father.  With all due respect. Carrie told a story of 600,000 pennies, rolled and ready for deposit— three tons of them.  It was “The Italian Job” all over again but without the Mini-Coopers and the movie superstars and the flight from reality.  I always laugh when I see Carlize Theron and Mark Wahlberg and Jason Statham tossing around gold bars like they were pieces of 2X4.  Carrie and Danny put that fantasy to rest by describing the tribulations of loading pennies into the car, the shocks giving way and the car bottoming out.  I mean, even with super-industrial strength shocks, gold would have had those little cars digging paths through the streets of L.A.  It did take place in L.A., right?  No matter.  The result was a three or four minute ride through the world of Danny and Carrie courtesy of her father, who had not told anyone about his propensity toward hoarding pennies.  She struggled to get through the first part, the tears trying to work their way up, but she got past it and between her and Danny told a story standup comics wish they could have written.

The music… yes, the music.  I am happy to report that the music has never been better.  Danny sang three or so from his new album, which is slowly taking form as he tours.  They were soft but powerful, a combination and a tribute to his ever-evolving songwriting prowess.  His picking is as clean and impressive as ever, and the voice as unique.  Be expecting a crowdfunding campaign soon.  He played older songs too, all presented in typical Danny Schmidt form— just short of perfect.  Carrie played a few from her latest album, this year’s The Penny Collector, the concept starting with the death of her father but taking a left hand turn with the news of her pregnancy.  It is an interesting combination— death and birth.  She seemed to hint that it was the circle of life without saying it.  Like most musicians, she sings it instead.

I won’t say it was a long concert because by the end I had barely noticed the time pass, but they certainly gave the audience their moneys worth and from what I could tell the audience loved it.  I think they left feeling connected but maybe that was what I wanted to see because of how connected they made me feel nine years ago.

I shook hands with Danny on the way out, assuming that Carrie was somewhere with Maizy, their daughter, who has been having a tough time adjusting to the tour schedule lately.  I wanted him to tell Carrie that she has come a long way with both her music and her performance, her voice and stage presence first class, far from the old boot stomping days of places like the Alberta Street Pub in Portland.  She was standing right behind me, a bit of an embarrassing moment for us both I would think.  I try to not say things like that to musicians, preferring instead to let my writing do my speaking.  But it turned out okay.  When I turned toward her, she was glowing, as some of my old girlfriends would have said, the praise accepted as it was intended.  (I also learned at that moment why Maizy’s name is spelled with a ‘Z’ instead of an ‘S.’  I would tell you, but…)  I must say that parenthood is serving them both well.  Maizy is indeed doing her job.

They will once again be playing The Sisters Folk Festival this year and from what I see of the lineup, they have been placed in good company.  A whole string of the top acoustic musicians in the country are on the bill and I am sure the three-day event will have people scrambling to catch their favorites, from Danny and Carrie to Phoebe Hunt & The Gatherers (yes, she is back too) to Sarah Jarosz to The Jon Stickley Trio to…  The list goes on and on.  Dates are September 8th through the 10th.  If you have never been to Sisters, this would be a good time.

With a glance toward Charlottesville…

That’s Right, It is F**k Trump Day at DBAWIS…

It’s a bitch what guys like Trump make me do.  Just thinking about the alt.right turns me into a person I do not like to be… do not want to be, but I remember the days of protest against the Viet Nam War and I felt pretty much the same then.  Well, maybe not.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt a negativity toward a politician like I do toward him.  The man is not only a complete idiot but a waste of oxygen.  But why should I add my hot air to everyone else’s when music makes the point just as well.  Set yourself because I am going to run down a string of protest songs geared toward the orange gasbag.  Starting with Roger WatersPigs (Three Different Ones).  I have no idea why so many people jumped down Waters’ for his stance against Trump but they did.  I would think that we would all be in agreement that Trump was an embarrassment to mankind, but noooo…  Well, I seldom write about artists who have jumped the fence from artist to superstar but I make an exception here.  We need to stick together and we need all the help we can get.  Roger, you’re aces with me— on this topic, anyway.

Lots of musicians take what Trump stands for as an offense, none more than The Green PajamasJeff Kelly.  When I first heard Kill the Power, I was taken back to the early seventies and the Kent State Massacre (I call it that because to me that is what it was in result if not in intention).  I hear the hard edge of Neil Young and Ohio.  I hear resistance.  I see resistance.  There is something about the crunch of marching boots…

I know little about Jello Biafra and even less of Napalm Death, but there is no mistaking his attitude toward the orange shitgibbon.  This, friends, is what punk could and should be doing.

On the other side of the spectrum is Joan Baez, who knows more than a little about Resistance.  For those who don’t know, her then-husband David Harris was a leader of The Resistance when the Viet Nam War was a constant topic at every college campus.  I was a member.  I still have my button.

Keith Morris, who fronts Charlottesville’s The Crooked Numbers, has stories to tell.  He was there when the Nazis invaded C-ville and has stories to tell.  Incensed by the injuries to many and death to one of the C-ville protesters, he took a song he had been writing about she stench of Trumpside politics and rushed it out in video form.  He is presently working with a few people to revamp the video to apply specifically to the alt.right.  When that video is ready, I will post it in this column.  Until then, here is what we shall see and hear.  It is, simply, A Message From Charlottesville.

Entrance is new to me but friend David Graves pointed toward it as perfect for this column.  I cannot disagree.  The added benefit is that all proceeds go to Planned Parenthood, which probably has the orange shitgibbon who shall go nameless pulling out what left of what kind of looks like hair.  I really like this.  Reminiscent of the old days of protest music (the sixties and early seventies).

They actually have a festival known as the Punk Against Trump Festival?  God bless the punks!

I don’t want to have to jump on the Pussy Riot bandwagon here, but how can you not support a band which hashtags “PussyGrabsBack”.  Seriously!  Putin and Trump in the same swift blow?  First time I saw this I chuckled all the way through.  It makes its point, too!

Aimee Mann has captured the crux of the matter in Can’t You Tell?, a song which is probably more true than it seems.  Read the lyrics.  You will understand.

Radney Foster pretty much wraps things up here with a song which not only hits the nail on the head but echoes the feel of the Donovans of the world were singing anti-war songs.

I could have ended this with Foster’s video but there was something about the all-inclusive aspect of Iris DeMent‘s We Won’t Be Quiet.  The community choir says more than what it seems.

Like I always say, when you can get people to do it for you, why do it yourself?  We haven’t put it to a vote yet, but there is a movement here to make every day a F**k Trump Day.  I will let you know how that turns out later.

Which brings us to this weeks…

Notes…

While I won’t go so far as to say that Keith Morris and Devon Sproule speak for all of Charlottesville, they speak for those who have compassion for what C-ville is going through.  This is a calling out of the Republican Party and their silence regarding what obviously happened there.  Let me say this to you.  Just because you don’t live there does not mean it does not apply to you.  It is OUR problem and one we All must confront.

 

Last week I posted a Phoebe Bridgers video of this song, recorded live.  Here is the official video. I think she is ready to take over the world.  It has been a long hard road, but she has the persistence (and the talent).

Adam Marsland sometimes does the damndest things just to put an album out.  For this song, he traveled to Laos and ended up tracking down a Laotian vocalist to sing on his latest, Bule.  The story is part of the video and it’s a good one, just not something I would expect Marsland (or anyone else) to do.  It worked, though.  Take a gander.

Did I post this before?  Are you sure?  Maybe I should post it again just to make sure.  I’m afraid if I don’t, Sean will put a hit out on me.  Or call me names.  Or something.

I willingly admit to being a huge fan of Canada’s Dala from their second album on.  The combination of Sheila (Carabine) and Amanda (Walther) is a force, even from their early days singing of teen angst and hockey sweaters.  I gladly gave up songs about California and the beaches of for the music promises of Winnipeg and other Canadian hideouts, just to hear their outstanding harmonies.  Well, the ladies have done all right by themselves and have even gone solo while staying together as a duo.  One thing I have looked for on every release is one song by Carabine which drives a stake through my heart.  On her latest solo album, All In, it is Fishing Boats.

Just to show you that it isn’t a fluke, here is one from Dala’s Best Day.  It never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Kate Grom‘s new video.  I wrote a very positive review of this album.  After watching this video, I’m pretty sure I got it right.

Hot damn!  Another crowdfunder I can really get behind!  Mad Anthony needs help getting The Mad Anthology to you, the public,  Watch the video, pledge/preorder!  I saw these guys play live once and I have never been the same.  One helluva show!  Here’s the pitch!  Now it’s up to you…

Huh.  This is interesting.  From Broken Baby.

Would someone tell me why Beth Garner is not a household name?

Hell, let’s go on a Garner binge!

That is all.

=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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