Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rare, Rare, Finds: Damon Bramblett, Gary Floyd

The title comes from a Nick Drake lyric ... "Time has told me/You're a rare, rare find."

I remember the exact moment I heard those words. I was at the counter of Mojo's coffeehouse. Austin. A weekday, sometime around 10am. I ordered a cup of coffee. For here.

The guy behind the counter was a no-name-ever-given, familiar face. I asked who I was hearing. He told me, Nick Drake, and the song, Time Has Told Me. I spent the next hour or so next to someone who was probably reading Sartre and across from someone who was probably sketching someone reading Sartre, listening to Five Leaves Left all the way through.

When it ended, I left. And then I learned, and bought, and learned, told and bought more. But I also found that many others already knew this story that ended in suicide.

Over the years, I have gone through the same with Alejandro Escovedo, Phil Ochs, Richard Buckner, Reverend Horton Heat, Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Roky Erickson, Fishbone, Fastball, The Glands, Doug Sahm, etc., etc., etc.

But along the way, there have been the few that you would only know if you were in that place, at that time. Maybe there are good reasons they never made it even as big as the just-listed acts above. Though, the songs below would argue differently.

This is the first in an ongoing installment of Rare, Rare Finds. Recordings that didn't seem to make it out.

Damon Bramblett - Self-Titled (Namesake Records)
"Heaven Bound"
"Nobody Wants to Go to the Moon Anymore"
He sounds like a thin Johnny Cash. Kelly Willis and Sara Hickman have covered his songs. His close friends are Bruce and Charlie Robison. He dated Amy Farris (Dave Alvin's fav fiddler). The Damnations appeared on his self-titled album. Weeks following Townes Van Zandt's death, a memorial/tribute was held for Townes at the intimate Cactus Cafe in Austin. Joe Ely, Kelly Willis, and more played. The crowd begged only Bramblett for one more ... until he did.

Gary Floyd - World of Trouble (Glitterhouse)
Gary Floyd got his start in Austin with the punk band, The Dicks. I found him years later in the Bay Area fronting the rock quintet, Sister Double Happiness. The sexy, female drummer/bassist for Sister Double Happiness later became the sexy, female drummer/bassist for Imperial Teen. Post-SDH, Floyd released a country-blues album called, World of Trouble. The album was released on Glitterhouse, the same label that picked up Richard Buckner's debut after it was dropped by DejaDisc. Fans of I-got-a-girl-she-lives-on-the -hill-she-won't-do-it-but-her-sister-will-era ZZ Top should warm up to "Tough."


And, in case you haven't heard it:

"Time Has Told Me" - Nick Drake


At 7:48 AM, Blogger princessmalin said...

Brilliant post. I was just talking to someone about Nick Drake the other day. And now ... need to re-acquaint myself with Damon Bramblett. Think it was at Stubb's that I saw him ... it's been too long.

At 9:00 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Not surprisingly, I too have a story regarding Nick Drake's appearance on my radar. My friend Matt used to live in a "party house," as he called it, in South Austin. Most of the house was a rabbit warren of small rooms, but there was a large back yard with a patio, and on the second floor they had a banquet hall-sized living room with a cathedral ceiling, attached deck, TV, and two computers with high-speed connections.

Matt had three room-mates: Tony, an aloof and snooty Middle Easterner, Nathan, a likeable, but morbidly obese computer expert who ate a major meal every 90-120 minutes and was prone to narcolepsy and incontinence, and a guy I'll call Jerry (I can't remember his name), who was a slob.

Jerry's room looked like a crime scene--there was no place on his floor you could step and actually touch carpet--there was just junk from wall to wall. He used to leave toenail clippings on the living room coffee table. He was also at the time banging a much older chick with a kid.

Matt, being a very social creature, used to like to have parties at least once at month at this house. His roomies seldom paid their share of the party expenses.

Nathan never seemed to invite anyone to these things, and Jerry only invited his elderly girlfriend. Matt worked for the State at the time, and for some reason he would invite his co-workers, who were uniformly dull, middle-aged wallflowers who didn't like to talk much and who affected the rather pointless smiles of the lobotomized. Tony invited most of the guests, and though some seemed potentially interesting, they were to a man all very cliquish and snooty---if they didn't already know you, they didn't want to bother.

As a result of this, Matt encouraged me to invite my own friends along too, since my friends tend to be much more entertaining. My friends repeatedly tried and proved my hypothesis about Tony's guests, and usually wound up talking amongst themselves and doing a lot of drinking.

In the last decade or so I have gotten to where I don't really enjoy parties. As with just about everything else I do in my life, I usually spend parties looking at the clock, wondering when they'll be over and I can go back home to my more solitary pursuits. I always spent Matt's parties eating to excess, getting a mild buzz going, and using the computer.

About the only one of Tony's guests with whom I exchanged more than a couple of words was a guy named Will. He worked at legendary Waterloo Records and looked quite like an unmade bed.

Apparently, there'd been a car commercial that used Nick Drake's song, "Pink Moon," and it had gotten the masses interested in Drake. (I seldom pay attention to advertising, and so didn't see this one until months after its popularity had peaked.) But around the same time the commercial came out, a biography of Drake by Patrick Humphries, which had been published originally in the UK, was released over here.

So towards the end of one of these parties, Nathan managed to stay awake and unsoiled long enough to look up and print up for Will a collection of Nick Drake lyrics and guitar tabs, while Will explained to us the story behind his new interest. Will said that one of his co-workers had read the Humphries book, then passed it on to someone else on the staff and so on, until the entire store turned into an intense, albeit short-lived, Nick Drake cult.

What Will had to say got me interested and I sought the book out myself.

Now I entertain the perhaps simplistic notion that the best music writing should make you want to listen to the music under discussion (provided, naturally, that the critic is praising and not condemning the music). How, for instance, can you read Peter Guralnick's "Sweet Soul Music" and not want to go out and buy armloads of old soul and R&B classics?

Well, the Humphries bio makes you want to listen to the music of Nick Drake. And even if Drake's music proves not to be to your taste--some may find it too mannered--the book is still a fascinating depiction of the British music scene in the 60s and early 70s.

Now I have to head you off at the pass. You object. You say you have read all about the British music scene in the 60s and 70s. The Beatles, the Stones, the Who, Zeppelin--you know every jot and tittle about their histories, every gig they ever played, every review they ever received, every drug they ever took, the hidden story behind every minute they spent in the studio. These are like Bible stories to you--you grew up on them at your Grandma's knee, you know them backwards and forwards, and frankly, they're all old hat to you.

Well, the Humphries book presents what I would call not so much an alternate mythology as a parallel mythology. It depicts a British musical scene you might not have ever heard about before (I know much of it was new to me), but one which was very much there, thriving and flourishing in the shadows of the more familiar super-groups. It's a fascinating story, and much recommended to lovers of music.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Luke said...

Hmm...I think I know the source of Bankston's antipathy toward editors.

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

great idea TripleJ. I am going to start a folder to keep all these in as you post them.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Antipathy towards editors? How so? I'm not sure where you're getting that from the Drake piece.

I've never had any trouble with professional editors, but with amateurs on school papers or fly-by-night, small-time newspapers--yeah, I've wanted to play a chukker or two of polo with their severed heads.

Amateur editors don't feel they are truly editing unless they chop something out, and the amateurs I've dealt with will move periods and commas, totally changing the meaning of a sentence, or lop off the whole end of the sentence before I've reached my point or climax. The interrupted flow is akin to coitus interruptus. My stuff has been so badly edited before that I have wanted to take my name off some pieces, because they no longer resembled what I'd written.

On the other hand, I've been edited by professionals so skillfully that I was once doing a reading out of something I'd dne that had been anthologized, and I got to the end before I even noticed several supposedly "key paragraphs" had been removed. That was a pleasant surprise.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Luke said...

hee hee hee...

Your response perfectly illustrates my point, my good man. Why say in 500 words (or however many were used) what can be said in three? A simple "fuck off, Seldom" would have sufficed.

The soul of wit...the soul of wit...

At 4:26 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Because I regard this place as a safe haven. I've got too many flame wars going on right now out there in the real world. Now don't be hatin,' Seldom.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger TripleJ said...

I wonder if Bankston or Seldom_Seen heard the clips of Gary Floyd????? Just kidding lads.

Nice to see the banter back and forth. Missing the old days.

At 5:51 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

I like the Floyd cuts. Nice and simple. Wonderfully stripped-down. As for the cover photo, Floyd looks like the love child of an unlikely union between Steve Earle and Walter Benjamin.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger TripleJ said...

Well ... Floyd has come a long way. Here's an early photo courtesy of the UT paper.

Floyd is on the right. But does it really matter which one he is??? Either way he has come a long way.

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At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blogs on the job: US workers waste millions of hours online
That co-worker staring, eyes scrunched up, at his computer monitor may look like he's sweating ... The AdAge survey mirrors a poll conducted by America Online and Salary.
Find out how to buy and sell anything, like things related to road construction colorado on interest free credit and pay back whenever you want! Exchange FREE ads on any topic, like road construction colorado!

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Luke said...

I prefer Gary's older brother, Pink.


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