But I don’t need no friends
Elliott Smith made some fine pop records. The late, tortured pop artist, who died almost four years ago from a stab wound, possibly self-inflicted, recorded introspective but utterly compelling original music that used Beatles-style power pop as a springboard for his own neo-Baroque songwriting. His songs may have been delivered in an offhand manner, especially later in his life, but they were perfectly crafted gems.
So it was surprising earlier this year when Jerry Perry threw one of his periodic themed nights at Old Ironsides, this one centering around the songs of Smith. Many of the acts involved, it seems, learned the songs earlier that afternoon, the result being somewhat of a train wreck. The two non-ramshackle surprises were singer-songwriter Sherman Baker and Daycare; both acts really learned Smith’s songs and put an original spin on them.
Baker and Daycare appear on a new compilation of Smith songs put together by local musician Josh Chesney, who enlisted them and 13 others to record cover versions, the proceeds of which will benefit a center for displaced children in Portland, Ore., Smith’s adopted hometown. Baker does “Say Yes” and Daycare plays “Coming Up Roses”; others involved include Adrian Bourgeois, Satellite, David Houston, Radio Orangevale, Michael Cardenas, Squish the Bad Man, Be Brave Bold Robot, Spider Silk Dress, Sam Coe, Sunflower Revival, Dusty Brown, Damian Sol and Cleo Ashby. Can’t wait to hear Bourgeois’ take on “Waltz #2 (XO).”
These songs were recorded a while back when Dana Gumbiner’s Brighton Studio was located in an old filling station on Folsom Boulevard; it’s since moved to Nevada County near Grass Valley, and Gumbiner’s brilliant pop band, Deathray, has disbanded.
Baker recently released a five-song EP of his own songs that’s a real delight. Dreamers takes him out of the Americana pigeonhole and plants him in pretty firm pop-rock territory. The title track of his 2004 debut Carry Me Home was re-recorded for this set, but that’s the only real connection to his earlier sensibilities. The rest of the set, especially the first two tracks, evoke Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne; Baker has a reedy voice similar to Collingwood’s, and his sense of melody—especially on the pastoral “San Francisco”—would fit right into a Fountains album. Baker had some A-list help: the talented, former Sacramento producer Robert “Flossy” Cheek co-produced four songs with engineer Matt McCord at the boards for two; Jackie Greene produced “The Glass.” The only unfortunate thing about Dreamers is that it’s so short; a full album as consistently good as this might really turn some heads.
Speaking of coverfests, the Kinks Katastrophe this Sunday night—a co-production between Jerry Perry and Record Club—at Old Ironsides will start at 9 p.m.; the 21-and-over show’s cover is $8. While perhaps an act or two listed might have trouble telling the difference between Ray Davies and Ray Walston, here’s hoping that the rest put more into their versions than the bands on the above-mentioned Elliott Smith bill. At least one will: Baby Grand always puts extra effort into its fine cover versions.
Oh, I’m just jealous. I love the Kinks. Wish I was on that bill.