Frank Gutch Jr: Got Them Ol’ Deadline Blues (featuring Philip B. Price, Caroline Cotter, Audrey Martells, and Jon Brion; Closing Down The Fabulous Rainbow; and Notes Not of the Underground

Deadlines suck.  I should just end this right here (the column, not my life, though there have been times when doing that would have been better than slogging my way through what finally ended up “on paper”, the equivalence to “on tape” in the world of recording).  Nothing is ever what it seems anymore, I guess.  And the older I get, the more it seems so.  Oh, to be a Darrell Vickers who seemingly grabs mosquitoes and turns them into eagles, except when they are just mosquitoes.  Even Vickers could not have saved some of my work.  And trust me, at times like this, it is work.

They call it the “white sheet syndrome” and the idea is not just an empty cranium but sometimes a full cranium with no focus.  It have a long sheet of ideas for columns and use it when I can but how do you grab a thought out of the air and expound on it for five thousand words?  Even James Patterson is bringing in other people to fluff out thoughts.  And John Grisham.  Nothing like handing someone an outline and telling them to write like me.  I should try it.  Anyone interested?  Anyone?

I thought maybe listening to music might help so I listened for three solid days.  I mean, I write reviews so the time was not “wasted” (I put that in quotes because to me listening to music is never a waste of time).  In fact, wasted is the farthest thing from what it was.  I learned a lot.  A lot!   For instance:

Philip B. Price is a freaking musical genius!  I knew him only as one of the writers for/members of Winterpills and that would have been just fine, but he had a whole ‘nother life before that band, tracing all the way back to 1987 and Memorial Garage.  1987?  He had to have been five then (or maybe he has aged well).  Were they any good?  F**k yeah.  Later, there was The Maggies, from around 1993 to 2001, then Winterpills, his current band, from about 2005 to the present.  Why am I interested?  Have you even heard Winterpills?  I’m guessing not, judging from the lack of response I have received from various reviews and articles I have written.  Well, that’s a bit dramatic, but they have certainly not received the respect they deserve.

The song is among the first I had ever heard from them, from an EP titled Tuxedo of Ashes.  The tracks were supposedly leftovers (because they evidently did not fit) from an earlier album.  Does that sound left over to you?  Me, neither.  The songs reek of psych/folk from a bygone era— say, that spearheaded by Simon & Garfunkel— steeped in mystery and served warm.

The search, backwards and forwards, uncovered creative music beyond the norm— folk and psych winding around each other here, folk and rock there, even harder edged rock and psych.  Winterpills became a real favorite and I subscribed just so I would miss anything.

Late last year, Price completed a long project he had not made public, at least that I ever saw or heard.  He digitized his older albums, those before Winterpills,  two of which (13 Songs For Right Now and Honey In the Chemicals— 2002 and 2003, respectively) had previously been released on Hear This Records.  As far as I know, the remaining ten albums were digital only.  Winterpills covered three tracks from the Hear This albums— “You Don’t Live Long Enough“,  “Portrait“, and “Found Weekend“.

The two-disc set, titled Without Your Love I’d Be Nowhere At All: Best of the Solo Archives 1988-2004, begins with five tracks from 1988’s Vitamin, all five good but not with the full punch of Price’s later songs.  Then a track from 1989’s Goodbye Bambi Manor rearranged a few brain cells.  Run Downhill, with its brassy single-note guitar approach approach, is lo-fi only in its recorded structure.  Rhythmic, brassy and melodic, it captures the eighties approach of bands like Talking Heads and their ilk— the semi-funky rhythm belying its pop arrangement.

Price picks what he considers the best of the early albums, zeroing in on not only the sound but the period and thought behind each song.  For example, this written about Run Downhill: (taken from the liner notes…)

I had read that if you are being pursued by a bear and there is a hill nearby, run down that hill; bears can’t run downhill very well (something about the length of their front legs) and you stand a chance of beating it.  This is a myth.  Anxiety and depression were the bears that kept me seeking a lot of downhills, and as many failures to outrun.

Cohort Paul Baumann, invited to chime in, posted this regarding the track and comments on many of the other tracks as well:

The technology is deployed very differently in places from The Beatles, where the analog nature of every timber and texture is unmistakable, whereas Price gets a more contemporary sense of anxiety by using drum machines, and electronic effects, and harsher voicings, sometimes a drama in the singing that pushes toward hysteria, presenting as an alter ego of sorts, the restless mind running amok, fleeing— or maybe overwhelmed by sheer riches of material.

Put those two together and you have an explanation of both song and recording process.  I think.  No, I’m pretty sure.  Each song is either analyzed or explained, which makes the folded sheet of the insert invaluable.  I have read the notes as extensively as I have listened to each  track.  Much better than reading just label info or mere names as it was during the early days of rock music.

One more note about Winterpills.  I hate covers.  I find them a waste of time and energy.  But I love Winterpills’ Echolalia album.  All covers but covers arranged so well that they fascinate me.  On the whole the tracks only resemble the originals, not copy them.  Only one other band has done as good a job— The Big Bright on their excellent I Slept Thru the 80s EP.

Oh, wait.  One more thing.  Amongst the reissued Price albums, Winterpills demos are hidden.  Demos!  I have not gotten there yet but you can bet I soon will.  It is like Christmas all over again.

Again, these can be scoped out at https://philipprice.bandcamp.com/music…

A little traveling music, Ray…

When the Words Won’t Come…

For the past month I have been listening to a new album by Caroline Cotter and the results, in terms of writing a review, has been nil and I can’t understand why.   Sometimes it just happens that way.  Cotter has a sweet voice and a presence to match and writes as good as any folkie/Americana artist out there.  The new album is titled Home On the River and the songs are personal without the I, Me, My lines that can stop the music dead in its tracks.  I have been most impressed with a song about her dad— When I Think of You.  Beautiful and flowing, it captures love between a father and daughter in a most personal way.  Unfortunately, I cannot find a video of the track, so I will give you this— an original by Cotter, recorded live.- Peace of Mind.

Here’s a bonus, a live version of the title track.

My problem with Audrey Martells is of a different kind.  I could write effusively about her songs and her voice and, well, her talent, but I have a tendency to oversell.  I have been listening to her since her first album, Life Lines, having delved even into her singing on jingles (background for ads, babies) and her work with other artists including one of my favorites, Luther Vandross.  She wrote a letter to me asking if I would listen to that album because she had read a review I had written for Gabrielle Gewirtz and her Wide album (it’s a beauty).  I may have replied, sure, but no promises, as I usually do, but one listen and I was hooked.  Her voice was masterful and her songwriting exceptional so I wrote a glowing review which, of course, no one read.

Well, she is back with another superb album, this one leaning heavily into jazz.  The problem is, the album is so good that I have to constantly tone down my enthusiasm.  I sound like I’m her PR man and I swear to God that I am not.  And I’m not even a jazz kind of guy!  Well, maybe I am, a little.  I have adopted Annabel lee, as well.  My point being that it is plain to make anything I write about Martells sound reasonable, I gush so much.  I do like to let the music do the talking, if that is at all possible, and (lucky for you) this time it is.  Here is a live version of a song from Life Lines as redone on her new album, Soul Survivor.

And speaking of bonuses (or would that be boni?), I am tossing this one in because I think it is cool.  Another track from the new album.  That dude leaning on the bass?  That is her husband, Belden Bullock, who joins Martells on the new album along with very talented sons,  Nile and Cole.

I will get the review written soon, I am sure.  I figure the right amount of caffeine should do it, though there is a window.  With beer and pinball, it was between the second and fourth beer.  I’m not sure about caffeine, but I’ll figure it out.

Lady Bird… A Soundtrack By Any Other Name…

Now, I never said that I didn’t like soundtracks.  I just said I didn’t care much for The Sound of Music (though I do laugh heartily whenever I see pictures of Julie Andrews spouting “Ace of Spades, Ace of Spades”).  No, I grew up on soundtracks.  My whole family loved them.  Carousel, Oklahoma, Around the World In 80 Days (a classic!), Victory at Sea.  I stopped even trying to listen to soundtracks when Cats hit the racks, though.  Until now.

There is evidently this movie making the rounds, a movie which I thought I wouldn’t want to see— Lady Bird.  Seems they got this cat named Jon Brion to write the music.  I would not have even noticed except for a friend who told me I should make an effort, so, as a favor, I did, and I found a gem.  This is not a soundtrack in what used to be the normal sense.  This is theme and variation, or maybe “incidental music”, but incidental music of the highest order.  It is smooth, soft— perfect music to set a mood or scene.  It is Satie-like without being Satie.  I close my eyes when I listen because it enhances the music.  There are upbeat moments but most are floating, background moments.

I really need to do some research on Brion.  More than a few of my musical friends have made positive comments on works from his past.  I hear enough on this soundtrack to make me think it will be worthwhile.

Seattle’s Venue of Venues— The Fabulous Rainbow…

It was only a tavern— a counter with stools in front, a stage, a dance floor, a bathroom, and a sign that said either “Capacity: 250” or “300”, though that big of a crowd would make it hard to move.  It smelled of stale beer and urine, but mostly beer.  Unpainted shakes covered the outside walls and there were a couple of plate glass windows facing 45th Street, across which stood Pacific Stereo, Peaches Records, and a parking lot.  Inhabitants were either drinkers or dancers because those activities were king.  For a short time, they were the main game in town when it came to music, outside of the larger venues such as Parker’s, which was trying to get back into the live music game after giving it up, and The Paramount Theater and The Seattle Arena and Coliseum.  There were other places to play, of course, but few allowed original music in their establishments, preferring cover bands. The rule was the more beer sold while you played, the better your chances for a return engagement.

Lots of bands played the tavern, mostly local, but there was a period when The Rainbow rivaled Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern and L.A.’s Whiskey and Troubadour.  More difficult to book (because it was, after all, Seattle), they still brought in some names.

Before I got there, bands like Lance Romance and Skyboys and Crome Syrcus and Child and Jr. Cadillac ruled the roost.  While I was there (I came the Spring of 1978), the list got longer— Annie Rose & The Thrillers, Isaac Scott, The Heaters (Heats), The Allies and a number of rock and roll and punk bands fought one another to get weekend gigs.  The Robert Cray Band played there before most people had heard of them.  The Mission Mountain Wood Band played there whenever they came through town.  Kidd Afrika and Linda Waterfall and various members of Seattle’s many classic bands played in various combinations under different names.

But they had a real run in the eighties.  Larry Raspberry & The Highsteppers played shortly after I got to town.  Gatemouth Brown stopped by for a couple of gigs.  John Hammond Jr. and The Powder Blues Band and even Doug & The Slugs played.  I remember (barely) one night Big Joe Turner stopped by and played with some local boys— quite the thrill for them, I am sure.

I ran through a list as long as my arm when I again ran across the video of the closing of the tavern.  I say again because I posted this video a number of years ago, lamenting the loss of music venues in the Pac Northwest, especially The Rainbow.  I thought maybe some of you Seattleites or people who have some fascination for the music of the Pac NW might get a kick out of seeing it again.  If you really want to understand, think of the El Mocambo in Toronto.  It was kind of like that.

I cry a little on the inside every time I see this.  The Fabulous Rainbow was my haunt.  Damn, but I saw some bands there!  The Neville BrothersThe Flying Burrito Brothers (maybe by that time they had changed the name to just The Burrito Brothers).  HorslipsThe David LaFlamme BandJim Post.  I missed the chance to see Jim Ringer & Mary McCaslin, for which I have been kicking myself in the ass ever since.  I was there the night of the Skyboys album release party.

Watching the video, I am reminded of Jack Conroy, who poured me many a beer (he had a great sense of humor) and Glen(n).  I never knew how to spell Glen(n)’s name, but they put a plaque on the bar at the very end.  No one was allowed to sit there but him.  He was a great guy.  And Rhoda.  She could out-argue and out-cuss anyone if they fed her shit, but she was the key behind the music.  We all loved her.

Man, I am bringing myself down.  What say we get to the…

Notes…

People around Charlottesville have been telling me about local band Chamomile and Whiskey for quite awhile now and I dabbled but seem to have been so busy I never got there.  Until now.  Here is a song (and evidently, band) I can get behind.

Some days there is no substitute for Monowhales and there is never a substitute for Ginger Ale.  Man, I would like to see these guys live!

I know nothing about Mike Spent other than he is from Southern California and he has this video.

Sometimes to get to authentic sounding American music you have to go to another country.  Lady Hardanger is from, judging by the spelling, from Norway.  Old-timey goodness.

I remember when hardly anyone knew who The Honeycutters were, but I knew from first listen that wasn’t going to last.  They’ve changed the band name (now referred to as Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters) but they are still the same country-rockin’ outfit they were from the beginning.  They would have fit right in back in the early seventies when Country Rock became a genre of its own volition.

Bob Schneider‘s going down to Lake Michigan.  Pro’ly be the last we see of him.

Dori Freeman has been turning some heads.

=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: Got Them Ol’ Deadline Blues (featuring Philip B. Price, Caroline Cotter, Audrey Martells, and Jon Brion; Closing Down The Fabulous Rainbow; and Notes Not of the Underground”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Good job!!

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