Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lost Classic - Down, Not Out – Down, Not Out

Down, Not OUtThursday Night used to be jam night.  The boys would get together and break out the instruments, amplifiers and vocals.  Soon, we didn’t sound half bad - maybe 60% good.  Encouraged, we continued this musical play for a few years.

One of the guitarists, Jim, got into digital home recording studio technology.  Whether it was adding a new (or old) computer, a patch bay or shielding the pickups on a Stratocaster, Jim was, and is, always tinkering. He builds, markets and sells homes for a daytime job. His mechanical skills match his tinkering skills.

In 2004-2005 Jim’s recording studio hobby coincided with the remodel of his home. Most of the work he did himself. The roof of the house, from the kitchen over the garage, is gabled.  This leaves a small room under a pitched roof above the garage.  Jim is 6 ft, 4 inches tall and cannot stand up straight in the room. The floor is heavily cushioned with carpet and there is a single window that opens to a second story view of the driveway. The roof and walls are strategically covered with acoustic foam egg crate tiles. The space is furnished with two chairs, an old sofa and a desk covered with recording equipment, mixing boards, interfaces, computers and other electronic wizardry.

In order to get to the studio there is a rope ladder to the top of the refrigerator.  Standing on the refrigerator the room is accessed via a short door behind and above the refrigerator.  To actually record in the space requires at least two people - one person in the kitchen and one person on top of the refrigerator to whom gear is handed so the ladder can be climbed.

As I understand it, Jim is friends with guitarist and singer Andrew Freeman.  Andrew Freeman, in turn, is friends with drummer and singer Eric Kurtsrock. Eric and Andrew formed the band Down, Not Out, a “High-Energy Acoustic Americana” band with bassist Brad Russell (who played with Rick Derringer and Pat Travers), mandolin player and violinist Chojo Jacques (founder of the “Waybacks”) and a slew of background vocalists to sing harmonies – Tim Hunt, Joel Streeter, Patrick Archer and Reggie Mack.  Pedal steel player David Trabue also joined in.

Down, Not Out wanted to record their first album. Jim told Andrew he could engineer it and showed him the small recording studio above the garage.  Andrew loved it and the studio became known as “The Loft.”

The album that was produced at "The Loft," “Down, Not Out,” is nothing short of phenomenal.  It is intensely intimate and highly reminiscent of the best of the acoustic Grateful Dead with its touches of bluegrass, folk, country and blues. Andrew wrote four of the tracks himself – “Plant A Tree,” “Distant Lullaby,” “Rear View” and “The River.”  He also co-wrote “Back To Me.” Additionally, “Down, Not Out” contains covers of “Hobo Song” by Jack Bonus, “If I Had A Boat” by Lyle Lovett, “Dig A Little Deeper” by R. Bowling and J. Emerson, “These Days” by Jackson Browne and “White Freightliner Blues” by Townes Van Zandt

The musicians that are known collectively as Down, Not Out are all staples of the Bay Area club scene. The last time I saw and heard the band from the album live was at Murphy’s Irish Pub in Sonoma.  However, I’m told Andrew and his friends continue to play every Tuesday Night at Giordano Bros. on Columbus at Broadway in North Beach in San Francisco.

Even if you do not have the opportunity to hear Down, Not Out live, try to find the 2005 album “Down, Not Out.”  It will be one that you will definitely cherish.

- Old School

Buy here: Down, Not OUt

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