Frank Gutch Jr: 2017 Was Strange, I Reckon (and other tales of parties and debauchery)

 Strange, indeed, as proven by this laugh out loud Christmas video by No Small Children.  You have to have followed the string of videos this excellent band has done over the past number of years, but if you have you will get it.  Subtle.  Very subtle.  And funny.  I cannot even begin to tell you the joy I have gotten from following their growth.  One of the best three-piece bands I have ever seen.

But onward.  2017 was stranger than I thought it would be.  Stranger than I thought it could be, in fact.  Perhaps not stranger on the shore.  Maybe stranger in paradise.  Definitely stranger than fiction.  A government run by the asylum?  Never thought it would happen here.  Open carry?  May the only people who die be the ones carrying.  Replenishing funds for non-environmental organizations (meaning mainly oil and gas)?  Why not just raze the forests we have left?  Take food away from the starving and support away from the destitute?  Why not?  As Scrooge put it, “If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”  If that isn’t strange, in my world at least, then nothing is.

Tom House knows strange.  Hell, Tom House is strange.  In today’s world.  But most of us old guys are.  Like I tell everyone, House is a walking field recording.  The guy sounds like he just stepped off of a backwoods mountain shack porch or out of a cornfield.  He isn’t one of those ancient guys you hear in ancient film clips like Uncle Dave Macon or Gid Tanner & The Skillet Lickers (God, I love that name).  He is more modern in his lyrics and a lot less reliant on the traditional songs Hollywood and John Lomax has passed along (click here for a very short piece on John and Alan Lomax and their works).  He is original (and creative as hell) and makes me laugh sometimes just because he writes and sings the way he does.  He is a modern day Jimmie Rodgers and Woody Guthrie rolled into one.

He self-released an album this year titled Strange, I Reckon which captures everything good about Lomax’s recordings— the raw, the honest, the simple, and the complex.  He sat down with some hand-picked friends and rattled off a number of songs, mostly off-the-cuff.  Titles like Bob Dylan at the Opry, Same Old Story Everywhere I Go, Take the Booze Out of the Equation, and After You’re Dead.  Not just House and guitar, though there are those.  This time, he sits down fronting a band of musicians who undoubtedly considered it an honor.

 

That’s what I think every time I listen to his albums.  Honored.  Honored that I know him and that he has included me in his circle of friends.  He is strange, I reckon.  But cool strange, you know.  Like that oddball guy you met in college and always liked but never got to see enough of.  Like that guy who, whenever you meet, reinforces the good in you.

Most people do not seem to appreciate House and his music, yet many have recordings by The Carter Family and Robert Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers in their collections.  It is not that much of a leap, my friends.  Mark my words.  Tom House will have his due.  In the meantime, his music is making an impact among those of us who know the importance of his works.

This is not from the new album but from an earlier one titled Winding Down the Road.  It does, however give you an idea of Tom House, musician.

I guess you have to be Canadian to know Geoff Gibbons these days, but when he was part of a band called Silverlode (a duo with friend Ken Kirschner) you didn’t.  They didn’t hit it big in The States, of course, but they got enough traction in Canada to give Gibbons a running start north of the border.  Quite the start, too.  He has released a fistful of albums over the years, Buffalo Hotel being his most recent.  His songs are reminiscent of a number less rocking artists like Michael Martin Murphey, America, and SoCal’s J.D. Souther and Andrew Gold with a touch of Danny O’Keefe.  Country rock without the country.  Soft-rockin’ gold.  I wish I had had this album back in the early- to mid-seventies when I was actually dating.  Most of the girls I dated would have loved this.  Beautifully produced.

Michael Veitch must have awakened one morning with a surge of patriotism because all of a sudden I have this five-song EP of his in my hands.  I flipped it over to see if the cover was right and it was— the EP starting with Veteran’s Day and working its way through Pledging Allegiance, Voices of the Old Days, White Rose, and ending with Happy Fourth of July.  It is called Wake Up Call and begs for a lyric sheet, though I am sure Veitch has a page for the lyrics posted somewhere (check out http://www.michaelveitch.com to be sure).  I have no idea what prompted the theme but it serves Veitch well, covering ground which does not get much covering these days.

There is much to be said for respect in todays world, partially because there is so little of it.  I am old enough to know what part parades played in the fabric of society, the importance of a Veterans Day, the reverence allowed those who served.  And while I am a realist and know that serving one’s country is only a small part of the makeup of any individual, I feel the pull toward the sentiment if only because when I was young, it was what we were taught.  The truth is, war is never what it seems.  I think you have to fight in one to understand.

Veitch did an exceptional job getting these songs from embryo to full-fledged status and deserves a healthy pat on the  back,  All songs original, well-produced and as folk as it gets.  Five out of five ain’t bad.

Amilia K. Spicer could easily be the name of a folk heroine or a title of a song (Eleanor Rigby, Jennifer Tompkins, who was, according to the lyrics, born on a Sunday).  In actuality, the name belongs to a musician with considerable songwriting and performing talent whose Wow and Flutter album has had me wowing for some time.  Her voice has touches of Pieta Brown, Ruth Moody, Lucinda Williams and even feathery touches of Marianne Faithfull during her Broken English days, but the real magic stems from exceptional lyrics and production.  Spicer obviously knew what she wanted while putting the pieces together and was willing to wait until she (the musician) and it (the songs of the album) were ready.  As she tells it…

It is not as easy as she says, of course.  Artists are complicated beings, partially because they are the creators of their own destiny.  What Spicer has created here is one of my favorite albums of this year.  Maybe 2017 isn’t as strange as I at first thought.  Nah.  Even with music this powerful and beautiful, it is.

A few years ago, I wrote this about Ben Rabb:

In the midst of this mountain of new releases I always expect the best to surface on their own but admit to being lost in the forest at times. It took Rabb’s PR people to hammer me about his album for me to finally take a few minutes out of my scheduled routine to listen. That few minutes turned into half a day. I am fascinated by the voice, a cross between favorites Danny Schmidt  and Greg Laswell with a look back to the likes of the seventies’ Jim Dawson and Bill Puka— a voice with a soft but obvious texture.  It applies to his new EP, too, titled Feel Me Fall.

Kyle Carey has completed her third album, The Art of Forgetting, and it is one you might want to hear if you have an ear for Trad Folk.  She headed south to record with Dirk Powell, who produced, and The Mamou Playboys and the result is a mixture of traditional music from a variety of places, all lending influences at different times, from the Trad Folk Gaelic-influenced title track to the jazzy and shuffling Siubhail a Ruin to a string of songs to grip your Americana-loving heart.  Features Rhiannon Giddens on vocal harmonies and John McCusker on fiddle.  If you don’t recognize the names, look them up.  If you love music, you should know them.  And Kyle, for that matter.  Her best yet.

Here is one which just came in the door and won’t be available until February, but allow me to jump the gun and tell you up front, Caroline Cotter is something else.  She wields simplicity like a weapon while tripping around the edges of vocal bluegrass.  She slides her voice over chords to produce a jazzy/Americana mix.  She floats away  with the help of a band known as The Sentimentals (Note to self:  Check those guys out).  She folks and Pops and jazzes her way through ten songs, nine originals begging to be heard, they are so good (the other is a song by Woody Guthrie— words and Arlo Guthrie— (music).  Imagine the musician in this video with full but simply arranged band.

Tentative release date— February 9th.

First track into Rich Krueger‘s Life Ain’t That Long and I’m saying, sonofoabitch, that’s practically Michael Dinner without Michael Dinner’s voice.  And that ain’t a bad thing.  Dinner’s voice is definitely one of the more unique voices I have heard over the years, but Krueger has a voice of quality, too— a little higher in scale and maybe without the deep texture of Dinner’s— but plenty good enough and, in fact, plenty good.  Next track, The Gospel According to Carl, Randy Newman, swear to God.  Third track— I don’t care anymore.  This Krueger dude has some talent!  Each song seems to stretch into different territory.  I mean, I am two thirds of the way through this album and I’ve had a variety of styles thrown at me and I like them all.  Someone told me this was going to be good.  I should have known.  This guy’s been around awhile.  He knows his stuff.  Peter Stampfel of The Holy Modal Rounders, had this to say:  As a lifelong fan of True Deep American Strangeness, I came to a realization after leaving Milwaukee for the last time in 1959: The truest, deepest American strangeness is to be found in the heartland, the great Midwest.  As a perfect example, take a song— any song— of Rich Krueger and you will see exactly what I mean.  Rich is an American Stranger if ever I did see one.    Here’s the one which hints of Dinner.  BTW, the title of the album is Life Ain’t That Long.  Because, as Rich says, it ain’t.

I’m probably mentioning Bob Bradshaw a bit much, but he is more than deserving.  He isn’t exactly folk nor is he rock or Pop. He sort of wraps his music up in all of those to varying degrees and slips in a few surprises for good measure.  I am playing his American Echoes album as much as any these days.  I could not tell you why except that I have the urge.  I need to find the time to search out his other works.  In case you have not heard him, here is a track from the new album.

I’ve told the story of how I discovered Wayne Berry so many times that even Wayne is tired of hearing it.  Suffice it to say that he was with the band Timber at the time and I followed him since.  His story is quite the story, a series of misadventures, if you will, but he was so close to making it numerous times only to just miss the brass ring.  (You can read his story here)  Eventually, he sequestered himself in a religious setting and answered a call.  The good news is hat he is back and as positive as he ever was during his major label run.  A bit over a year ago, he felt the urge to once again take a dive into the musical swimming pool and put together a band and an album which resulted in his new album, Journey Mercies.  He has not lost his touch.  And he is still true to the music, this album a tribute to The Kingdom, as he refers to it.  Though you were doing good work, you were gone too long.  Glad to have you back.

I have been a fan of the Droogs since my days working at Peaches Records in Seattle.  More than a few of the kids who worked there were Droogs fans and as hard as I tried to fight the urge, I soon fell under their spell.  This writing thing has luckily put me in touch with bassist Dave Provost, who has been in various phases of the band.  When I heard a new album was being put together, I put in my two cents worth and Provost provided me a copy.  I’m pumped!  Young Guns has that crunch pop edge I remember from the old days— a sound steeped in 60s Pop and Pac NW garage (though we didn’t call it garage— it was just music back then— I mean how lucky was I to live in the Pac NW and have bands like Paul Revere & The Raiders and The Sonics and The Wailers on the radio on a constant basis?).  Listening to this album makes me smile until my face hurts.  It’s all there— the fuzzed out, heavy guitar— the lo-fi sound— the booming drums— the pounding bass— the voice from the other side.  I knew I would like it before I heard it.  Now, it’s a matter of not playing it too much because I have work to do!!!  Dig this:

Man, that is some good stuff there, but don’t go away because there is more in the…

Notes…

Ex-Charlottesvillain Wes Swing has me scratching my head about his latest video, inspired by a lighthouse keeper named Ida Lewis.  Time for research because what happens within, supported by an eerily beautiful song titled Mirrors, begs for answers.  When I was young, lighthouses were places of mystery and intrigue and settings ripe for mental alchemy.  The young today do not understand the isolation and hardships involved in manning cement tepees sometimes placed on small rock outcroppings isolated by water of consequence.  A topic of many a radio or TV program of old.  Beautifully done.  Starring Diane Cluck with cameo by C-ville’s own Devon Sproule.

This just hit my inbox.  Typhoon.  I was unimpressed for all of ten seconds.  I love the way this was put together.  Good production and song too.

And then there is this.  I think I like these guys.

A little Christmas music ain’t gonna kill you…

Seems that Shannon Lay is spending December in residence at The Echo!  I am assuming this is in Los Angeles.  This is one musician who clubbed me over the head with her recent album Living Water.  A beauty of an album.  If I lived anywhere near, I would be making plans now.  Here are some videos to make you understand.

Jaime Wyatt has been turning heads for awhile now.  The new video is helping.

I love YouTube’s algorythms.  I type in Kyle Carey and they give me one video at the top and not even a new one, then a handful of Mariah Carey, then another couple of Kyle Carey, then a Taylor Swift?  They obviously believe I am inept and do not know what I want.  I mean, if six million people are logging in to Taylor Swift, that must be what I mean, right?  Fucking idiots!

Is Calexico‘s music all this good?  I have heard some earlier tracks and they did not impress me anywhere near this much.  Do I need to go back and take another listen?  This is outstanding!

Speaking of killer, this video from the Ben Miller Band is plain cool!

WTF?  A visual album and MOVIE?  This may be the future for a lot of multi-media people.  The ones who don’t want to fall into one line.  I have bookmarked this because I have a deadline, but I will watch it tomorrow just to see where it goes.  A bit intriguing.  Maybe more than a bit.  From Jeff Mix & The Stronghearts.

Violet Bell.  Another name to remember, if the album is as good as this song.  Good stuff.

Jesus!  What a way to end a column.  Things just keep getting better and better.  I’m freaking out!  The Novel Ideas with The Wahconah High School Symphonic Band and Choir.  Outstanding!  The crowd should have given them more applause.  Moments like those do not happen that often.

Man, I am in love with these guys!

This is why I hate major labels.  These guys have been around since 2012.  To my mind, they have never been signed.  Hooray!  Major labels do not deserve music this good.  What I want to see is a big grassroots movement.  I want to see their videos shared and their album(s) bought.  See?  I’m so excited about these guys that I refuse to take the time to find out about them, they’re that f**king good!  I’ve seen choirs who couldn’t put out the harmonies they do.  Seriously.  Pass the videos on.  Check out their Bandcamp page!  Download the album(s).  Yeah, you’re right.  I really have to find out more.  You can bet I will be writing more about this band.  Remember the name!  The Novel Ideas!  Stay tuned!

=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.”

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: 2017 Was Strange, I Reckon (and other tales of parties and debauchery)”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    You’ve done it again, Frank! Bravo.

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