There are many people who consider the first two albums by the dB’s to be just as influential as those revered early Velvet Underground releases. The singing/songwriting backbone of the dB’s was the tandem of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, whose simpatico musical attraction was strong enough to fuel Mavericks, an excellent 1991 album by the duo. Eighteen years later, the longtime friends have released the equally stirring Here And Now. The pair has also begun recording again with the dB’s, including original bassist Gene Holder and drummer Will Rigby. Holsapple and Stamey are guest editing magnetmagazine.com all this week. Read our Q&A with them.
Chris: I mix a lot of records these days, and sometimes I don’t know much about the band before the tracks arrive. I’d mixed a record that I loved by the Rosebuds, called Life Like, and I knew that they were touring with a bassist from a band called Megafaun, a trio that had, in an earlier iteration, once included Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Knowing that their instrumentation was banjo, acoustic guitar and percussion and seeing some energized, noisy clips on YouTube didn’t prepare me for the record that showed up: It was a Crosby, Stills & Nash record! No, it was Workingman’s Dead! No, it was Zappa and prepared-pianos Stockhausenian electronics! No, it was alt-country with some Pete Seeger in there, too! The first track I mixed, “Kaufman’s Ballad,” told the tale of the stealing of Gram Parsons’ body by Phil Kaufman, his road manager, and its subsequent burning in the desert. This modern but almost mythological tale was set to harmonies and shimmering chords that remarkably evoked that desert night, the atmosphere seemingly warped by the flames as Parsons’ ashes danced. I was transfixed. Every track was distinct (the band has three different writers; this helps), and yet, all together it felt like an album—a connected piece of work—culminating in its dynamic peak, a song called “Guns,” that lifts the spirits like the Clash and then dissolves them like Edgar Varese. We all know that “shuffle” and the iPod have made the long-playing album sequence a bit of a dinosaur, but I still believe in the long form, and Megafaun’s Gather, Form And Fly is a good reason to worship there.
“The Fade” (download):
This concludes “Holsapple & Stamey Week” here at magnetmagazine.com. Thanks to Peter and Chris for their thought-provoking posts. Be sure to check out Here And Now.