Sunday, 22 January 2012

Revealing the naked wisdom of the stars

Master drummer (and polymath electronic music maker/artist) Roy Berry has posted a very entertaining blog post on his early musical influences and output, which contains a couple of rare treasures from the early '90s. I alluded to both of these in this post two years ago, and it's great to find them now available for wider enjoyment: An All-Gourd Band and Bob's Lead Hyena.

Trey Harrison and an All-Gourd Band - "O My Calabash" - As I described in my earlier post, this was an impromptu freak-out featuring Mark Gooch on gourd flute and gourd saxophone (both of which he had made), the late and much-lamented Craig Shindler on a calabash electric bass (also by Gooch), Lee Swets on Fender bass, Roy Berry on drums, Trey Harrison on vocals, and me on a gourd fiddle made for me by Jack Adcock. The text is from a Polynesian poem in praise of the calabash as an essential navigation device on the open seas. ("Oh my calabash, revealing the naked wisdom of the stars/Oh my calabash, bringing me a brother's life-saving love!") This was released on Loverly, and on the flipside was a very credible straightforward rendition of "Polkadots & Moonbeams" with Trey on vocals, John McClure on some very tasty guitar, Doug Easley on bass, and Kurt Ruleman on drums.

Bob's Lead Hyena - "Jelly" - For my money, this was the most interesting band in Memphis in the early '90s, though sadly it was also among the shortest-lived. When Johnny Williams (bass) moved away, I filled in for a couple of rehearsals and one gig, as I recall, mainly (I think) because I knew all the material from a live recording I had of a set they had played on WEVL. "Jelly" was always my favorite, but I was also partial to a song called "Birthday Pony" ("Feeling like a pony at a birthday party/People payin' money just to ride me around."). Jim Duckworth had also left the band by this time, leaving a more stripped down sound, but also without the wild flights of epic guitar which characterized the first incarnation of the band. I always thought he and guitarist Mark Gooch were perfect foils for one another. I have no idea when this recording was made, but there is clearly no Duckworth here. Gooch's guitar phrasing is trippy and beautiful, as was always typical of his playing. As far as I can tell, the personnel here would be Gooch (guitar), Roy Berry (drums), Johnny Williams (bass) and Stoten Outlan (vocals), one of Memphis' most underrated front men.

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