Back in the eighties, I stood outside The Fabulous Rainbow Tavern in Seattle (and it was fabulous, in many ways) to watch Red Dress perform in front of an almost-sold out crowd of fans who appeared to be almost as maniacal as the band, which was putting on a powerhouse of a show judging by the crowd reaction. It was raining and I was miserable (the rain can get cold in Seattle, I was finding out) but I was mesmerized. Dancing gnome and head Dress Gary Minkler was giving Seattle a lesson in music-over-the-line as I am wont to call it--- a set of originals so unique that the ones who got it were ecstatic and the ones who didn't felt left out. I remember very distinctly one song during which Minkler strutted across the stage (his version of a dance) with rubber mouse in hand, holding it above open mouth wailing ?I like to eat my mouses raw? while the band funked it up behind him. The moment impressed me so much that I can virtually close my eyes and watch that performance screened on my eyelids today, some almost thirty years later.
That, my friends, is impact, and when I heard that Minkler was heading back into the studio to record a new album a number of months ago, I was intrigued to say the least. You always wonder if the old-timers can do it again--- recreate that or some other kind of excitement on record and, especially, live. Voices change, hands stiffen, the music jumbles. The vision blurs sometimes. The excitement can die with age. Trust me. I've heard a lot of mediocre pap lately coming out of musicians who once had direction.
So when Minkler's new album Little Trailer Rubycame in the door, I put it on with more than a little trepidation. See, I likedRed Dress'sLittle Shipalbum enough that I bought two copies, just in case. And I bought two copies of the Red Dress singleMoney Dreamsb/wI Like To Eat My Mouses Raw, too. I have seldom done that, but I had to with those. Something told me I would need them. I didn't. Not really. Though I did end up giving one of the singles to a good friend who was distraught when his girlfriend trashed his copy during a, shall we say, dispute (I am truly shocked how many times that has happened to my friends over the years). The big question was, could Minkler even approach what he was a number of years ago? I mean,Money Dreamswas a monster of a song andI Like To Eat My Mouses Rawa funky novelty that really rocked. Hard to top those.
Turns out Minkler didn't have to. What he did was pile a few years of maturity onto his creativity and let his soul shine through. Simple as that. His voice is better than ever, unique in the same way that isJeff Kelly's, perfectly imperfect. (Kelly is and has been the core of one of my favorite all-time bands,The Green Pajamas, for decades) Minkler's voice wavers onRubyas does Kelly's on everything he has recorded, but the tone is unique and so soulful that you can't help getting wrapped up in it. The voice is so married to the songs, in fact, that I can't imagine any of the songs with another.
The songs themselves create a world of their own. While they do not collectively tell a story, they are tied together by a musical thread, of sorts--- a feel. The band is somewhat laid back, as is Minkler himself, but so tight and on the same page it gives me goosebumps at times. I mean, Ilovethese guys! They take art rock to a different level.
Minkler signed toGreen Monkey Recordsfor this album, an indication that head monkeyTom Dyerhas not lost his touch when it comes to the truly good music in and around Seattle. Dyer scored big on this one. He already has a stable of artists worthy of way more attention than they are being afforded (includingJim of Seattle,The Green PajamasandThe Of, to name a few) and in addingLittle Trailer Ruby, stands to give the other artists on the label some much needed and deserved attention.
Because that's how good this album is, folks. Like oil in water, it will float to the top. And help Green Monkey do the same. The album is available for streaming at the Green Monkey website as are all of the artists on the label (there are links to any songs streamed elsewhere). Stop by and take a listen. Start withLittle Trailer Ruby. It's a f**king monster.