· Danny Pound, "The Grand Design": After a brief hiatus from recording, the former guitarist/vocalist for such formidable local crews as Vitreous Humor and The Regrets assembled a new band for "The Grand Design," a quirky low-fi jaunt appealingly peppered with piano.
· Mates of State, "A Control Group": Organist Kori Gardner and drummer Jason Hammel share vocal duties on this brilliant minimalist composition. Both now use the West Coast as their home base, but this track offers evidence of why Lawrence continues to proudly claim them as its own.
· Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers, "Diagram for Disaster": Another expatriate, Dodge now calls Nashville home. Despite offering more instrumentation than the Mates of State track, "Diagram" seems even more sparse, as Dodge's harmonies with guest Laurel Walsh float over a bleak skeletal structure.
· Panel Donor, "System B.A. 19": Reasonably perky on its own merits, Panel Donor's contribution sounds like a Mardi Gras backdrop compared to the pair of downbeat gems that precede it. Panel Donor has been dormant for some time, but its formula -- hazy vocals weaving between intertwined guitars -- remains potent.
· The Ugly Boyfriend, "14K Soul": Gordon provides the stuttering drumbeat, Ben Tuttle adds more rhythm with auxiliary percussion, Chris Kuhlman's slinky bass line holds the jittery tune together and Millard shines with his alternately jagged and twangy guitar riffs and his edgy vocals, which feature a memorable Beck-style possessed-by-soul outburst.
· Everest, "Whisper": Everest creates a behemoth ten-minute epic that's as imposing as its titular mountain. Starting from humble, hushed beginnings, this "Whisper" evolves into a feedback-laced shout.
· Redbones, "Crater Face": In an expert bit of sequencing, this brief percussion-free number follows Everest's titanic drone. Millard appears again, contributing background vocals that add a crucial extra layer to this likably simple tune.
· Shawnee, "The Real Dark Crystal": Shawnee is the latest project of Proudentall's Matt Dunehoo; this animated tune relies on piano and violin interaction to supply its atmosphere.
· Tijuana Crime Scene, "Bad Idea": This veritable supergroup stars former Reflector members Jake Cardwell and Harry Anderson on drums and bass respectively, Get Up Kid Robert Pope on piano, acclaimed producer Ed Rose on lead guitar, and engineer Alex Brahl, just off a stint doing sound for B.B. King, on vocals and guitar. Pope's farfisa work gives this track a gritty, trashy feeling that matches the group's name. Although it seems difficult to imagine that these busy musicians could find time for many live shows, Gordon says it might happen. "It's a side project of a side project, but all those kids love to play."
· Chebella!, "Men Will Moan": Perhaps the finest song on the album, "Men Will Moan," which features Gordon, Tuttle, Millard and Gardner, moves from a guitar-driven haunter with a fleshy bass-provided underbelly to a delicate showcase of Gardner's piano skills. "That was probably the coolest thing I've done in Lawrence," Gordon says of Chebella!, which broke up three years ago. ("Men Will Moan" sports a 1998 copyright date.)
· Appleseed Cast, "Some Wave Pool in Arizona": The biggest "name" band on this compilation, these Deep Elm recording artists contribute the hidden track from their latest disc, Mare Vitalis. Swirling and turbulent, these waves are of the tidal variety, and this tune should leave listeners both refreshed and vaguely seasick.
· T.K. Webb, "Wearin' Me Thin": The former guitarist/vocalist of Uncrush now plays authentic blues, as evidenced by this scorching threadbare romp. Webb dresses up the song's raw core with harmonica and bass organ, but the result remains undeniably dirty in the best possible way.
· Teriyakis, "Uncle Billy's Country Western Freakout": Again, the name says it all. "Freakout," a rootin' tootin' hoedown bullied by an indie-rock outburst, sounds like the disturbing soundtrack for the dreams of a cowboy who just got bucked off his horse.
A disc this substantial demands more than a one-evening release party, so the Braintree Foundation and KJHK 90.7 are cosponsoring three. On Wednesday, March 28, Appleseed Cast, Everest, Shawnee and Tijuana Crime Scene perform at The Bottleneck, with T.K. Webb serving as host of the festivities. Thursday night's bill, also at the Bottleneck, offers Danny Pound, Shawnee, The Ugly Boyfriend and Redbones (host), with a cameo from Arthur Dodge a likely bonus. And on Saturday, March 31, the Pyro Room presents Appleseed Cast, Danny Pound, The Ugly Boyfriend and T.K. Webb.
These engagements, particularly the shows featuring The Ugly Boyfriend, also could serve as supreme send-offs for the departing duo, but Gordon says their departure shouldn't saddle the proceedings with a bittersweet aftertaste. "It's just a lifestyle thing," he says. "It's easier to find labels out there, and it's easier to play and network. But the Artist Workshop (Braintree's parent company) will still be here doing distribution. Nothing really changes. Having Lawrence as a home base is essential. It's the best of both worlds."
When a band called Gunfighter names a disc High Noon, it seems to be a fairly self-explanatory gesture. However, for some pot-rock aficionados, discovering that this disc isn't packed with bottom-heavy, plodding odes to the sweet leaf might be a disappointment rivaling the time The Simpsons' Otto stormed out of a Pottery Barn-style establishment called Stoner's Pot Palace. This misconception about the band's sound was fueled by Gunfighter's appearance on the weed-friendly compilation Inhale, and local buzz has it that the group thought it was contributing its previously unreleased "Anti-Hero" to a metal-themed compilation called In Hell.
Not so, claims vocalist/guitarist Jason Blackmore. "I knew that it was Inhale and that it was geared toward the huh-huh dope-smoking crowd, but I didn't know that they'd push it as such." After Blackmore received his complimentary copy, he discovered that the disc's full title is Inhale 420, The Stoner Rock Compilation. "Don't you think," he says, "they could stop at Inhale?"
Gunfighter's recent creative output did not stop with contributing to discs with psychedelically enhanced leaves adorning the covers. Coming just months after the self-released Pro-Electric, High Noon (which contains tunes from the Electric recording sessions) marks Gunfighter's first album on the Dallas-based Idol Records. Erv Karwelis, who runs Idol, worked at Sony during Blackmore and company's previous stint at Epic, when they were known as Molly McGuire.
Initially, Gunfighter planned to have copies of High Noon on hand for its gig at The Hurricane with Q and The Engineers on Friday, March 23, but those hopes were shot down when the release date was pushed back a month. But even without new product in hand, Gunfighter's appearance merits some attention, since it's the group's first show in the six months since Blackmore departed for sunnier skies in San Diego.
"I'm enjoying my life," Blackmore reports. "The weather's pretty rippin'." In addition to working on his tan, Blackmore still conducts Gunfighter-related business; securing label support for distribution and promotion tops his list of priorities. He's been making contacts -- if not signing contracts -- but the latter might follow if Gunfighter manages to impress the label reps who are likely to be in attendance when the group's upcoming ten-day tour swings back to the West Coast. Blackmore's bandmates plan to rejoin him in San Diego for a more substantial road run in late May, which will include an all-ages show at Recycled Sounds -- unless Blackmore is just blowing smoke.