New Album Announcement: Gilead

Gilead Cover

I am currently in the process of recording three new musical projects, and I’ve decided to release “Gilead,” an acoustic album in memory of my father who passed away in 2015, first. The title is taken from the novel “Gilead” by Marilyn Robinson. We read the book, which is written as a letter from an aging father to his son, as part of my seminary studies. Since this album is basically my own final farewell and tribute to my own dad, it seemed fitting. The tile also evokes a bit of a nostalgic longing for a place that I’m not sure exists.

In addition to that book, I was also inspired by Bob Dylan’s early acoustic albums, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, and Leonard Cohen’s early work.

After messing around with a lot of electronic experimentation for my last two releases, this one is going to depart from that and be very, very bare bones. Acoustic guitar, harmonica, and my own naked voice. It’s shaping up to be very rough around the edges so far but that also seems fitting. It’s the first time I’ve done a collection of songs using just acoustic guitar and harmonica since 2007 and back then it was just because I didn’t have anything else to work with, honestly.

I have three songs out of a possible ten or eleven completed so far and it’s coming along quickly. The cover image is of my dad, just after he came home from the Army in the early 80’s, though it looks a lot older than that.

I will be donating any proceeds from Bandcamp downloads (and possible CD sales) to Saint Jude’s Hospital.

To view my past releases, you can visit rancegarrison.bandcamp.com or search for me on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and other digital music retailers.

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29 Years. 29 Albums.

I turn twenty-nine in tomorrow.

In honor of the beginning of the end of my twenties, here are twenty-nine albums (one from each year of my life so far) that have really spoken to me in some way. Although these are not necessarily my favorite albums of all time (though many of them would make that list), these are my favorite albums from each year of my life.

1986: Paul Simon: Graceland. Paul Simon collaborates with African musicians and creates a one of a king masterpiece. My dad had this one on cassette tape when I was a kid. I rediscovered when somebody played it a party when I lived in Johnson City. Still one of my favorites.

1987: Tom Waits: Frank’s Wild Years. The final part of Waits’ Rain Dogs trilogy, and his strangest record up to this point. It has the sound of Coney Island sometime in the 1920s. I first discovered Waits in high school, and he’s been my favorite solo artists ever since. There’ll be a lot of him on this list.

1988: R.E.M.: Green. Not my favorite R.E.M. album, but this is as good a place to start as any if you’ve never listened to them. It’s the perfect transition between their earlier Athens-based indie rock-period and the major label super-stardom that would follow in the 1990s. The album also features the first time Peter Buck would use the mandolin extensively in the band’s arrangements, a distinctly southern influence that would appear again in their 90s work.

1989: Bob Dylan: Oh Mercy. Legendary songwriter Bob Dylan teams with legendary producer Daniel Lanois and once again reinvents himself after floundering throughout most of the 1980s. “The Man in the Long Black Coat” is the stand-out track on this one, a ballad with religious and Western overtones. Other notable tracks include “Ring Them Bells” and “Shooting Star.”

1990: Depeche Mode: Violator. I have a confession. I didn’t discover Depeche Mode until two years ago. I found this album in the bargain bin at Walmart and didn’t stop listening to it for a solid month. “Personal Jesus” has been covered by everyone from Marilyn Manson to Johnny Cash, and this album arguably laid the groundwork for the electronic industrial of bands like Nine Inch Nails.

1991: Nirvana: Nevermind. The album that launched Kurt Cobain to into the reluctant role of “voice of a generation.” A true rock and roll classic. Enough said.

1992: Tom Waits: Bone Machine. Waits completely reinvented himself in the 1980s from the role of drunken crooner into the role of a true avant garde artist, with his wife and songwriting partner/co-producer Kathleen Brennan helping facilitate the change. Here, Brennan’s role becomes even more important in Waits’ work as we really hear the influence of Captain Beefheart and see why Waits is regarded as hero in the primitive and punk movements. This album also has a distinctly rural flavor that I love. I’ve read that most of it was recorded in a barn, and it definitely shows, most notably in the upright bass and dobro based Gospel blues of “Jesus Gonna Be Here.” The songwriting on this is album is some of the best of Waits’ career in a songwriting career that is right up there with Dylan’s. Arguably Waits’ greatest artistic achievement.

Honorable mention also has to go R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, possibly the best album of their career.

1993: Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream. 1993 was a year full of great music, so this was a really tough one. With songs like “Disarm,” “Mayonaise,” and “Today,” I have to give Billy Corgan and company the edge. Honorable mentions include Counting Crows: August and Everything After, Pearl Jam: Vs., Radiohead: Pablo Honey, and of course, Nirvana: In Utero.

1994: Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Sleeps With Angels. Partially inspired by the death of Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain, Sleeps with Angels is Neil Young’s most haunting and under-rated album. A bittersweet lament with spiritual overtones, I remember thinking, even as a kid when my dad bought it for me as a seven-year-old (I’ve always been a Neil Young fan) that this album sounded very different from the Neil Young material I’d heard before. This is probably the best that Young’s backing band Crazy Horse has ever sounded, and it also marks Young’s final collaboration with longtime producer David Briggs, who would die shortly after the album’s completion. The end of an era from the godfather of grunge.

Honorable mention for me personally has to go to the final real Pink Floyd album (I don’t include The Endless River), “The Division Bell.” This was the band’s second album without longtime bassist/chief songwriter Roger Waters. It’s also the first album that I ever owned on CD. Though the lyrics aren’t what they were with Waters at the helm, musically, the band hadn’t sounded this on top of their game since Wish You Were Here.

1995: Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Speaking of Pink Floyd, this is the greatest double album since the Wall. Corgan and company spread their wings artistically, and give us some of the finest songs of the 1990s. The radio-friendly pop of “1979,” and the symphonic-driven “Tonight, Tonight” show us the band’s softer side while “Zero” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” are some of the finest hard-rock anthems of the time. The best thing about Mellon Collie is its diversity. With twenty-eight songs total, there’s literally something for everyone here.

1996: R.E.M.: New Adventures in Hi-Fi. The band’s final album with drummer Bill Berry, and what a way to send him off. Recorded during their North American tour, the album is a showcase of why R.E.M. was considered one of the best bands of the time with everything from rockers like “Leave” to the understated acoustic folk of “E-Bow the Letter” having a place among these fourteen tracks. Though not their best album of the decade, this is my favorite album released in 1996.

1997: Radiohead: OK Computer. This was such a tough choice as Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind was also released in 1997. At the end of the day, I have to give a slight edge to OK Computer. This album introduced me to Radiohead, and all these years later, it’s still one of my favorite albums of all time. A masterpiece in every way and foreshadowing of the band’s more experimental work in the new millennium, there’s really nothing I can say about it other than if you have not listened to this album, stop what you’re doing and go find it.

1998: Dave Matthews Band: Before These Crowded Streets. The peak of DMB’s career, everything about this album is perfect. Boyd Tinsley’s violin, LeRoi Moore’s saxophone and various wind instruments, and Tim Reynold’s electric guitar interplay beautifully with each given a chance to shine, while Matthews crafts the best songs of his career, using his odd vocal techniques to even greater effect than on their first two major label albums. Rounding out the rhythm section is Stefan Lessard’s bass and Carter Beauford’s drums, with a host of guest players including Alanis Morisette, Bela Fleck, and the Kronos Quartet making appearances throughout the album. Never again would the band make an album this beautiful or this dark.

1999: Tom Waits: Mule Variations. Waits returns to the boneyard once again and crafts one of the most personal albums of his career. More polished than Bone Machine and less experimental than his eighties work, Waits shows why he’s considered one of the greatest songwriters working with the album including ballads like “Hold On” and “Georgia Lee” to bluesy numbers like “Cold Water” and “Get Behind the Mule.” Also, when I die, you all better damn well play “Come On Up to the House” at my funeral. This wasn’t my first encounter with Waits’ music (that would be Alice), but this was the album that got me hooked, I discovered this album as a sophomore in high school. If only I could discover it again.

2000: Radiohead: Kid A. OK Computer saw Radiohead beginning to experiment with electronic music. This album sealed their reputation as musical geniuses. “Idioteque” was the first thing I ever heard from Radiohead, as I saw the music video on MTV 2 late one night. Simply put, I had never heard music like this before, and it blew me away. To this day, this is my favorite Radiohead album.

2001: Bob Dylan: Love and Theft. This was the first Dylan album I ever really listened to, and it’s still one of my favorite albums of all time. After the musings over mortality that marked much of Time Out of Mind, Dylan comes out swinging with some of the best lyrics of his career with his best backing band since, well, the Band. These are songs that only an older man, full of world weary wisdom yet too much of a son-of-a-bitch to die, could write. I hope to one day be half this cool.

2002: Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. What can I say about this album? A combination of experimentation and folk-rock that never fails to disappoint, every track on this album is a finely crafted masterpiece. Jeff Tweedy and company deliver. Big time.

2003: The White Stripes: Elephant. This album was my junior year of high school. “Seven Nation Army” and “Ball and Biscuit” saw the mainstream embrace Jack White as a guitar god. I just really dug the color scheme.

2004: Tie: Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose and Tom Waits: Real Gone.

Van Lear Rose: Speakin’ of Jack White, how about we team him up with Appalachia’s own country music legend, Loretta Lynn? Lynn shows that she’s still got it as both a singer and a songwriter while White tries his hand at producing. The result is a modern day country music classic that was largely ignored by the mainstream country establishment. The album still managed to win a Grammy for Best Country Album. Not bad, Jack. Not bad at all.

Real Gone: Waits incorporates elements of hip-hop into his music for the first time, with samples and beat boxing being used to great effect on many of this album’s sixteen tracks. This is also the first Waits album to feature none of his signature piano playing, with electric guitars, found percussion, and kick ass take-no-prisoners band making this the loudest, most distorted, heaviest album of Waits’ career, like Bone Machine on acid and steroids. The spoken word “Circus” and “Don’t Go Into that Barn” are downright creepy while even the quieter moments like “Dead and Lovely” and “How’s it Gonna End” are full of murder, mystery, twisted tales, and broken promises. Waits would also write his first protest song on this album, “Day After Tomorrow” an acoustic ballad about a soldier longing to be home from the battlefield. Though reportedly written with the Iraq invasion, the song could be about any soldier in any war.

2005: The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan. Let’s face it. During this time, Jack White was unstoppable. Get Behind Me Satan is the White Stripes’ most experimental work, and in my opinion, though I know it’s an unpopular one, it is the band’s best album. White seems to be fighting back against the mainstream success of Elephant here with electric guitar largely taking a backseat to acoustic and piano based arrangements. The vibraphone even manages to make an appearance.

2006: Bob Dylan: Modern Times. Dylan continues his latter day resurgence with songs like “Thunder on the Mountain,” “Nettie Moore,” and “Ain’t Talkin’” showing that he is still rock’s finest poet and one of its best bluesmen while “Working Man’s Blues # 2” sees Dylan channeling the ghost of Woody Guthrie once again in a song about the trials of the working poor.

2007: PJ Harvey: White Chalk. Harvey, before known as one of the biggest badasses in women’s rock, hangs up her electric guitar and sits down at the piano. The result is one of the most haunting and heart wrenching albums I’ve ever heard. The album opens with the foreboding line, “As soon as I am left alone, the devil wonders into my soul,” in “The Devil” and closes Harvey’s banshee wail in “The Mountain.” In between are nine of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. If ghosts could make music, they’d make White Chalk.

2008: Coldplay: Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. I lost my baby cousin the year this album came out, and I have to say that this album helped get me through it. Coldplay creates their masterpiece, and the result is breathtaking. Full of gorgeous production and breathtaking arrangements, this is pop-rock at its finest: uplifting, soulful, intelligent, and beautiful.

2009: Vic Chesnutt: At the Cut. Sadly, Chesnutt would commit suicide shortly after this album’s release, and there are definite hints, if not outright signs, of the tragedy to come in the album’s lyrics in songs like “I Flirted With You All My Life” and stormy musical arrangements like the brooding opener “Coward.” Other stand out tracks include “Granny” and “Chinaberry Tree.” A tragic farewell to one of the most under-rated songwriting geniuses of our time.

2010: Bonobo: Black Sands. This mostly instrumental album from British DJ Bonobo is one of the most relaxing albums I’ve ever heard. Lavish arrangements and groovy beats meet with Eastern and jazz-influences. If you just need to chill for awhile, you’d be hard pressed to do better than this.

2011: PJ Harvey: Let England Shake. An album about the ravages of war, Let England Shake is Harvey’s most political work to date. It’s also her most beautiful. Most of the songs were written on autoharp with the instrument being featured prominently on most of its twelve tracks. Like a female version of an Old Testament prophet, Harvey calls out the hypocrisy and violence of our time. A modern masterpiece in every sense of the word.

2012: Bob Dylan: Tempest. The body count on Tempest is high. In nearly every song, someone’s drying a violent death whether its John Lennon being shot in the back in “Roll On John”or the sinking Titanic carrying its passengers to an icy and watery grave in the title track. When people aren’t actually dying, Dylan is threatening to have his dogs “tear you limb from limb” in “Pay in Blood” and demanding the bar keep plays for his “flat chested junkie whore” in “Scarlet Town.” Dylan’s voice fits the lyrics as it has now deteriorated to the point that it sounds as if he’s been gargling lava while shooting straight moonshine. Despite the ravages of age, Dylan assures us he “ain’t dead yet” and “his bell still rings” in “Early Roman Kings.” Even though time has left him ragged, Dylan has rarely sounded more on top of game.

2013: Phosphorescent: Muchado. “Song For Zula” is one of the most beautiful indie rock ballads in recent memory. The rest of the album is tinged by heartbreak and hopeful melancholy. Recorded in singer/songwriter Matthew Houck’s makeshift studio, the album’s production has an unfinished quality to it that some may find challenging. That doesn’t diminish the album’s overall power.

2014: Sun Kil Moon: Benji. Singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek, aka Sun Kil Moons, presents stream-of-conscious lyrics about family, mortality, and the meaning (and possible meaninglessness) of life over mostly acoustic arrangements. A deeply personal album that, in my opinion, was the best album of 2014.

2015: This year ain’t over, so I’m not going to cast my hat on this year just yet. I definitely have to list Modest Mouse’s return, Strangers to Ourselves, as a rock frontrunner, although the infectious hip hop of Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” featured on “To Pimp a Butterfly” has also got my attention. We’ll see where the year goes.

Trying Something New This Month

Gonna try something new this month. Hopefully it will be successful and will become an ongoing thing.

One of the things I gained from my business degree was an appreciation of an emerging trend called “conscious capitalism” which seeks to integrate doing good deeds and community involvement into the daily practice of a business. I decided that if I were to run a business, I would want to incorporate some of the ethics behind conscious capitalism into my work.

I just realized that I already have a potential business under my watch, which is the music I’ve been making and attempting to market for sometime. Over on my Bandcamp page, there are five full length albums, one EP, and one single available for download. You can also download my cover of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” through iTunes. In an attempt to raise money to go toward my goal of releasing a vinyl version of my next project and to have something positive come out of my music which has usually come from a rather dark place in my heart, I have decided to donate twenty percent of all sales to charity, with the various causes rotating every month or so.

This month’s charity is going to be St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For those unfamiliar, they are an excellent organization that has been providing excellent care for children with cancer for decades and they have a pristine reputation.

All albums on my Bandcamp site are available on a pay what you want basis, but remember, if you download and pay, I’ll be giving twenty percent of that to St. Jude’s and the rest will be going to cover my costs and help fund a vinyl project, which has been a long time dream of mine.

So, let’s give this a shot and see where it goes. Come download some music and help support a good cause.

http://rancegarrison.bandcamp.com/

Trichotomy

Trichotomy

Ladies and gentlemen, I humbly submit my first attempt at completely electronic music, “Trichotomy,” a brief three track EP that is now available on my Bandcamp page.

While I’ve almost always been an acoustic-driven singer/songwriter in the past, over the past few months, I had the opportunity to expand my horizons into electronica.  The experience of crafting these three tracks and learning the ins-and-outs of electronic music has encouraged me to grow as a musician and as an artist, and I have begun incorporating some of these elements into my next full-length album, “The Fireside Season.”

A special thank you to Donald Sorah at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and the music department for providing the breeding ground, tools, and technical guidance in the creation of this project.

Compositions by Rance Garrison
Produced by Rance Garrison with Donal Sorah
Cover photo by Christen Gilley; design by Rance Garrison

Making Time to Be Creative

Those who have known me for sometime know that I’m a musician with a home studio set up.  The process of writing and recording music has served as one of my favorite pastimes all the way back to my childhood, when I started with a cheap battery operated tape recorder, a Yamaha keyboard from JC Penney’s that my great-grandmother bought me for Christmas, a child’s drum set from Sears that my grandmother bought me for another Christmas, and wonderful device called a Jaminator which looked sort of like a guitar and had all these pre programmed guitar samples that you could access with the push of a button.  Licks from famous guitarists like David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin could be accessed by buying these little cartridges that were inserted into the side of the Jaminator.

 

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Today, I’ve upscaled my home studio recording a bit.  No, no, that’s not my home studio setup pictured, though I wish it was.  It’s certainly my dream to have a set up like that one day, but for now, I use a Tascam 2488 Neo, a Macbook Pro, Garageband, and a fairly good assortment of digital effects and instruments from Native Instruments.  Nothing too fancy, as I just simply don’t have the budget to be too fancy with anything in my life.

To date, I’ve released one “official” album, “Black Crow,” which I released via CD Baby’s digital distribution in 2012.  Sales were dismal.  Like, maybe twenty copies sold so far dismal.  But I’m still proud of the work I did.  I built something that no one else could have built, completely from scratch.  The songwriting.  The performance.  The production.  All of it was mine.  And I am proud of that.  I’ve also released several other “albums” via my bandcamp page (rancegarrison.bandcamp.com) that are collections of various material that I’ve recorded since high school, of varying degrees of quality, but I remain proud of that material for the same reasons:  when you engage in something that is a completely creative act, the world cannot take that away from you.  Sure, people can belittle it.  People can criticize it.  People can make you think that you had better just give up on it.  And you can convince yourself to do the same if you aren’t very careful.  Because when you engage in the arts, whether it’s music, or painting, or digital design, or a sculpture, or hell, even a blog, you are baring your soul for the world to see.  And sometimes, the world doesn’t want to see it, and sometimes, you might not want to see it, either.

Lately, I’ve been in the midst of both a creative high and a creative rut.  I’ve been on a creative high because my mind is constantly full of creative ideas that I want to pursue, ideas for songs, for writings, even ideas for how to go about producing other people’s work.  But I’m also a senior in college and I’m getting married this summer, so no sooner have I retreated to my home studio to begin hashing these ideas out than another responsibility has to be tackled and the creative process has to be pushed to the side for the moment.

I’m working on new material which I believe will be the best music I’ve made so far.  I have three songs for a new album completed.  They’re done, aside from mastering.  I have a dozen more written, just waiting to be recorded.

I have started a project in which I try to allow myself at least an hour a day for creative pursuits, and as life throws more and more responsibility on me, this will likely be the way I will have to create from now on as I don’t see the opportunity to quit working and become a full time musician opening up anytime soon.

Although, I am firm believer that one ought never to say never.

For now, though, you’d be surprised how much art a person can turn out just by working at it for an hour a day.

How about you other creative types who are also full time workers and/or students?  How do you still manage to keep your creativity alive while also keeping track of your other responsibilities?

Relaunch

I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a blog for quite some time now and have been urged to so by several people.  Having a few spare minutes this morning, I remembered that I actually already had one which I had to start for a business oriented communications course a couple of years ago.  I figured today was as good a day as any to revamp what used to be called “The New Century” and was previously geared toward discussions of alternative energy and corporate news into a blog that was far more personal.  In the coming weeks, I hope to being writing about topics that are of great interest to me:  music, the arts, religions, politics, philosophy, movies, professional wrestling.  Some posts will be deep.  Some will be shallow.  I hope that all will be enjoyable and thought provoking to some degree.

There’s a good chance that I’ll integrate much of this with my blog on Tumblr.  Feel free to follow me in both places.

In the mean time, it wouldn’t be proper of me to leave without plugging something, so. . . . . .

Check out my Bandcamp site, where you’ll find a shit-ton of my music available for download at rancegarrison.bandcamp.com.

I also highly recommend checking out this lovely album called “Wet Wood” by Philadelphia based musician The Ghost in You.  This album is simply beautiful, especially the song “The Shape.” All of the music is haunting and melodic, with sparse acoustic and synth arrangements. I started listening and got to feeling sentimental and wrote a love letter to my wife, inspired by the beauty of this album while thinking of memories of her and I together when we first met nearly five years ago. This album is so beautiful with such simple yet lavish production that is sure to stir the emotions of any listener that has a heartbeat.  Do yourself a favor and check it out at  https://theghostinyou.bandcamp.com.Image