Field Reportings from Issue #7
In last issue’s “Find That Band” section, we decided to take up erstwhile Jayhawk Gary Louris’ suggestion that we seek out the latest info on Souled American, a Chicago band that he and several other folks we know held in high regard in the late 1980s. The most detailed and enlightening response came in from Reinhard Holstein of Glitterhouse Records in Beverungen, Germany:
Souled American is amazingly still together, or at least two of the original members: Joe Adducci (bass, guitars, vocals) and Chris Grigoroff (vocals, guitar). Fellow founder Scott Tuma (guitar) is a side member now, along with Brian Smith (trumpet) and the Scott Lucas (drums). They still live in Chicago. They also have a pretty good following in Germany; one reviewer wrote that “the bass sounds like someone stepped on a bullfrog.” I think they spearheaded the whole slow-and-weird movement.
They were signed to the now-defunct Rough Trade America on the strength of a showcase at the second South By Southwest conference in 1988. The did four albums for Rough Trade: Fe (1988), Flubber (1989), Around The Horn (1990) and Sonny (1992, mostly covers). None of those records are now in print.
However, they released a fifth album, Frozen, on a German label called Moll in late 1994. Their sixth album is called Notes Campfire and was supposed to be released in late ’96, but as the band works as slow and meticulous as their sound, the record did not get finished in time. It will be released in early ’97, again on Moll. Their stuff is well worth hearing. I don’t think there is anyone that this band can be compared to. Both Moll albums were also released on vinyl.
(We also received the following note from a Souled American fan who didn’t know their current whereabouts but had some interesting observations and opinions about their music that seemed worth passing along…)
Gary Louris is definitely right about them being “gutsy.” They have a sound that is so awkwardly astray of conventional country-western, that even the “whatever that is” lasso misses. Certainly reverent of their influences and the songs they cover (including “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain” and the Louvin Brothers’ “Changin’ The Words” on Sonny), they do however push a listener’s limits with sparse arrangements and seemingly deformed playing. The songs unfold beautifully, though, and sloth their way into those indelible alcoves of your brain where they typically get replayed in that zone between turning out the light and falling sleep. I wouldn’t necessarily call their playing “spooky”; it’s sort of near tilt sometimes, but always earthly and warm, like a family reunion at the county trailer park. I hope shooting the flare that you shot finds them still making music.
[Ed. note: Mission accomplished!]
There was a reason I didn’t take to drink, or worse, until I turned 18: a frightening version of the cowboy cautionary, “Hellbound Train,” turned in by banjo player Billy Faier. Faier was somehow associated with the late ’50s Berkely folk scene, recorded at least two LPs for Riverside (Travelin’ Man and The Art of the 5-String Banjo) and appears on at least one other sampler ma’s hanging onto.
Now that’s part of the problem – I can’t find the bloody records, and I’ve been looking for almost two decades. But there are rumors of more diss, and whatever happened to Mr. Faier himself?