Grouse Mountain Skyride
—- by Winona
I have been accused of reacting viscerally to things. Not always in a terrible way though, sometimes it’s in reference to my immediate and mostly uninformed responses to music, movies, pop culture, etc. I’m the first to admit that it can sometimes be a strong reaction, and I can see how it might incite anger in others. However I’m blessedly selective as to who witnesses these… manifestations of opinion… so they’re generally limited to a very, very small group of people (Joseph, family, boyfriend, dog, fish).
Before this Spin Doctors post today, I thought about something my co-worker jokingly said in response to my writing. It is done quickly, emotionally, and usually as a knee-jerk reaction to the music I blindly select. In a lot of ways, I feel like it’s an accurate portrayal of how I pick and choose music in a limited time frame when I’m on the air and frantically searching for something to play after Mikal Cronin and latch on to the first album that says “garage rock” while the final 28 seconds of the song are ticking away and I need to cue up the next new thing! This is not to say that I don’t come in an hour early for every show that I do, it’s just that sometimes you have a final 10 minutes to fill and need to pick an album quickly from the new music bins, it happens.
So today, I decided to choose something that would allow me to “calm down” my reviewing style. I wasn’t going to choose anything too exciting (or so I thought). I looked for something gentle, maybe even blase. As I walked into the vinyl library, sneezed a few times from the loose dust floating around, I selected a small 7 inch from a band that intrigued me. Their name is the Grouse Mountain Society.
Upon first glance, I could tell it was an Americana album. The featured instruments are banjo and ‘fiddle,’ not violin. My first response to the music was comfortable familiarity. Bluegrass! I knew that. After working as Americana music director for 3 semesters I’ve seen my fair share of down-home bluegrass. But this was different than most in that it was actually really, really good. The third track I listened to was called “Unquiet Grave” and is a well-known classic amongst most bluegrass musicians.
The track is beautiful and solemn, and features such lyrical tearjerkers as:
“Tis I Tis I thine own true love,
Who site upon your grave,
For I crave one kiss from your sweet lips,
And that is all i seek.”
The music, though classic and an obvious standard, seemed to me to be subtly creepy. Banjo always brings me back to a memory of watching “Deliverance” at way too early an age, but there was something else… the male-female call and response was an actual conversation with the dead, and lyrics aside, the song seemed playful and maybe even hopeful.
After digging around a bit more, I discovered that “Mister Christe” was actually Ian Christe who (in)famously contributed a large portion of music to the frightening soundtrack for the even-more-frightening Harmony Korine film “Gummo.” Watch.
Good. So I wasn’t the only one who thought that Christe’s vocals held something a little bit more sinister sounding than bluegrass.
So maybe today’s album wasn’t the type of thing to incite wild rage, or tearful lamentation, or a solo dance party. But it was surprisingly thoughtful, even scary at times! I chose a 7 inch of bluegrass standards and still managed to find the one that is fronted by a man who is in a number of metal bands and did the score for one of the most stirring films I’m aware of. I don’t know if it’s my magnetic draw to things that stir me, or maybe KSPC is just that kind of a place.
The 7″ was released in 1993 by Nuf Sed Records, a label founded in 1984 by Brandon Kearney, who is also Job’s Daughters bassist. The label released music until 1996 when, according to Eabla Records, a label currently re-issuing old Nuf Sed releases, it was sold to a Korean tool manufacturer and now makes “CNC lathes, engine lathes, and CNC knee mills.” That whole story smacks of obscure in-jokery but I include it here in hopes that it’s true, even though the truth in this case is pretty sad as well as baffling and hilarious.