Though you many not have heard of him, Joe Guido Welsh is an artist who’s spent years making music both in front of and behind the scenes. In 1998 he established GrownUp Records, and his albums have featured talents like Levon Helm and Garth Hudson (The Band), Joey Spampinato (NRBQ), Gary Tallent (The E Street Band) and many others too numerous to mention. He’s produced and released music in several different styles, including two raucous albums with pianist Steve Million in the jazz-synth duo Thelonious Moog. During his twenty years being active he’s sold several thousand copies of his work and been reviewed or referenced in Mix, Keyboard, EQ, Electronic Musician, The Wall Street Journal and Jazz Times, not to mention Divide and Conquer!
Like the legendary R. Stevie Moore, Welsh is the kind of artist that pricks your interest just by looking at his Bandcamp page, with several releases featuring wild, professional cover art. Just a minute or two listening to any of this songs is proof you’re hearing a rare talent indeed. Welsh’s newest release is called The House of Sound. His lineup includes vocalist Jordan Smith, guitarist Kenny Vaughan, bassist Brad Jones, flautist and sax player Miqui Gutierrez and drummer Steve Ebe. Background vocalists include Wendy Moten, Brad Jones and Ross Rice.
Welsh cites as influences “Bowie, The Beatles, Stones and even some electronica and drum and bass styles.” Recording took place at Trace Horse and Guido’s Joint in Nashville, with mastering by Jim Demain at Yes Master. The album is available for download as well as in a snappy red vinyl pressing.
“Earth Station One / John Was Trying to Contact Aliens” is a terrific psychedelic opener. Immediately I thought of “Strawberry Fields” by the Beatles and “Starman” by David Bowie. I love the idea that a loner named John in Michigan (I’ve been there so I can imagine!) is building equipment to communicate with our space brothers, when in actual fact he’s struggling with being gay and alone. Thankfully there’s a happy ending: “They say that there’s a match for everyone / and while reaching for the stars, he found one / though it’s lonely in the Great Lakes state, he finally found his mate to share his place / and throw radio waves out into space.” Musically this track is jam-packed with instruments and sounds, with Jordan Smith’s terrific lead vocals right up front.
“3 Margaritas and a Sleeping Pill” is a stompin’ Stones-y blues rocker with Smith taking an especially unhinged vocal turn, which only builds in energy as it progresses. At some points the lead guitar almost sounds like it’s gargling! A great upbeat rocker that contrasts nicely with the previous psychedelic epic. “The Revolution Was Canceled” is a clear-eyed look at our political present that’s all too true: “The revolution was canceled / man it never happened / It never moved an inch man / it just itched and we can’t scratch it cos somebody hacked it / the revolution was canceled like it never happened.” This one has a jazzy energy like Joe Jackson, with some terrific sax by Gutierrez. “Baby, You Move Me” is a very slow techno love song with a simple robotic melody and lush, closeup vocals. Great moment when the shimmering electric guitar and mournful accordion brings the song down to earth, so to speak.
“The Orange Rooftop Of Your Mind” is another blatantly psychedelic construction. Like the XTC side project The Dukes of Stratosphere, this Sixties tribute somehow sounds like everyone from that era at once, though “Incense and Peppermint” is a good start. I’m a sucker for such things so this is a favorite; if you don’t find this tons of fun, then I may not want to know you!
“Cuckoo” channels the funky side of John Lennon’s solo work, with a bit of War in the flute parts. “Paperback Kafka” is a fully produced epic with some great lyrics. “Yer a paperback Kafka with half the pages gone / That you borrowed from me a long long time ago / you’re no Scott or Zelda, just a terrible Hemingway.” A brilliant, heady takedown of a former friend who wants to bed the narrator’s wife (and lots of other women besides his own wife, apparently). A Bowie-like sax break tops the package. “Florida Man” is another rollicking Rolling Stones-sounding song but with Oasis-like vocals. “People Who Stare At The Sun” ends the collection on another political note with a thinly-veiled swipe at our recent “leadership.” It’s a roiling, clanking techno rocker with tons of drama. There’s even a full-circle surprise at the conclusion.
These songs are all so good that I’m probably just another in a long line of ecstatic reviewers, but if you heard about it here first, check out Joe Guido Welsh!
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