In this biz, there are just some guys you like to see out there "still doing it"... Steve Earle, Tommy James, Willie Nelson, Peter Holsapple...
Therein lies the brilliance of a career that now spans six, count 'em, six decades. Even so, those who know Holsapple only from his lengthy R.E.M. and Hootie & The Blowfish tenures probably have no idea of the post-punk/DIY lineage of the man in the shadows.
|Holsapple's new single, due February 4 2017|
Even so, securing a Stateside record deal proved endlessly frustrating, eventually contributing to Stamey's decision to leave the band after the release of Repercussion, which many now regard as the band's creative high-point.
Fittingly, with Stamey gone, the band secured a U.S. deal with the troubled Bearsville label. After numerous delays, the label issued Like This in 1984 before effectively closing its doors and leaving the band contractually committed to a label that, for all intents and purposes, no longer existed.
Enter R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, whose tireless championing of the dB's as an influence created the same renewed interest in an otherwise overlooked band that Buck's previous lauding of Velvet Underground had done for Lou Reed's long-defunct combo.
By then, of course, the dB's had all but joined VU in the rock & roll afterlife, while Chris Stamey's major label debut It's Alright racked up the critical lauds.
With the help of R.E.M.'s label, I.R.S. Records, the dB's rose like a mighty phoenix from the ashes of inactivity and cut 1987's The Sound of Music. For any longtime fans who may have ever found themselves ruminated on the eternal "What If" of a band like the dB's ever "playing ball" with their label and "giving them something that could compete with the big boys", 1987's The Sound of Music was, for lack of a better word, "it".
Chock-full of topical arena-ready rockers like "Think Too Hard" (which went on to be the biggest song of Syd Straw's career), "Workin' For Somebody Else", "Bonneville", "Never Say When", "Change With The Changing Times", Holsapple's opus was enough ammo for any traditional rock label to have a field day promoting one smash hit after another, but, incredulously, no such day ever came at I.R.S. Records.
|Ladies and gentlemen, |
the dB's, (Holsapple center)!
Even so, we fans did get a great dB's record out of the deal, but sometimes its just not enough that a great record gets made, but that it finds the audience it deserves.
Such things happen so rarely in life that the few times they do (sorry, I can't think of any examples right now), you can't help believe, even for a split second, that there is some sense of order in the universe.
And then reality sets in, which brings us to Peter Holsapple's latest musical tour de force, "Don't Mention The War", a sprawling six-minute-plus indictment of, well, it's right there in the title. Thing is, such songs are easy to fuck up.
It's the sort of song you can only truly write well once you've seen enough injustice first-hand and come to some untidy conclusions. In that respect, Holsapple doesn't just hit the mark, he pummels it with an unrelenting and brutal sincerity that recalls Neil Young at his most incendiary.
May there be much, much more where this came from.