The strangest things can happen just when life turns really ugly, just when you find yourself face-down in a pan full of kitty litter or half-drowned in a bottle of Jim Beam.
Things can … well, they can change.
Gerald Collier has been there, his face burrowed deep in the stink, his veins home to more valium and alcohol than blood. He’s done his time in that nightmare. He’s looked around. And he’s decided to come back.
The former front-man for Seattle’s Best Kissers in the World has returned packing a new outlook on life and on music. He’s also come back with a new album full of songs so honest you have to wonder how the wounds he’s exposed will ever heal.
“When the album was done, there was a big whew. I made it. It’s out. I don’t have to hide this stuff any more,” Collier says of his self-titled debut for Revolution. “I’m finally talking about things I know something about. Before I really ignored a lot of that because I just didn’t think anyone would be interested.”
Let’s take a quick trip back to the before.
It was the early ‘90s in Seattle and Collier had grown up feeling as though music had chosen him, rather than the other way around. His group, the Best Kissers in the World, was a good rock band but a record deal with MCA left them under pressure to be “the next big thing” from Seattle.
Certainly they tried and they even came close, but it was as if things refused to fall into place. Not to mention Collier’s lifestyle was less than … “I’m a pretty unsightly drunk, let’s put it that way. And if it came in a pill form, I’d take it. That wasn’t doing me any favors,” he says.
In the end, MCA never released the Kissers’ last album and finally dropped them. Collier had to take a hard look around and decide, “Do I want to keep doing this?” The answer was “no, not like this.”
So, he stepped back, cut back and delved back into the basics - and into himself.
Last year Collier released his first stripped-down solo effort, “I Had To Laugh Like Hell.” His followup this year reprises four of those songs and rounds out the album with a superb band - Jeff Wood on bass, Bill Bernhard on guitar and lap steel and John Fleischman on drums.
These days Collier doesn’t worry about whether his music is successful. And he doesn’t get loaded to write. “I can proudly say this is the first record I’ve made where half of me wasn’t in a Jim Beam bottle.” And more importantly, “The fact of the matter is that I’m now worth something to somebody on a level that’s way more important than music.”
And let’s be clear, “Gerald Collier” is not Kissers’ material. Instead, Collier sees this album as a return to the music he grew up with. “I look at it as a very comfortable regression.”
Here a country twang slow dances with John Lennon’s solo sound. Collier’s imperfect voice is somehow perfect in its aching flight through songs about the long, hard look both inside and out.
Simply put, this is good stuff. It’s an album that offers the truths only a wizened survivor grasps. It’s an album that revels in the restraint only one who’s been over the edge appreciates. And it offers the intensity possessed by only those who’ve nearly given up.
But for all its grim realities, the element of redemption is unmistakable in both Collier’s singing voice and his speaking voice.
“I don’t want to give anybody the impression this album is about what a miserable individual I am. The fact of the matter is I’m a pretty right on individual. But you can’t get to be a right on individual without learning some pretty hard mistakes.”
Collier, who is touring in support of his new album, will pass through the Inland Northwest three times in the next month. His first stop is Tuesday at Outback Jack’s where he’ll perform with the Champion Birdwatchers. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $3. Look for him April 3 at Outback Jack’s and April 23 at Aces Wild in Coeur d’Alene.
Elsewhere out there
Texas bluesman Long John Hunter is an “unbridled wildman performer.” Or so the reports say.
That he’s 66 years old apparently doesn’t matter. And why should it? It’s B.B. King who inspired Hunter, and at 72, King still performs about 275 shows a year.
Last year, the W.C. Handy Awards committee nominated Hunter’s album “Swinging From the Rafters” for the Contemporary Blues Album of the Year. In case you don’t know, the Handy awards are the blues version of the Grammys.
Hunter’s well-crafted blues deftly maneuver through funk, shuffles and slow burners. It’s fun stuff that seeps in real smooth.
Find out whether Hunter deserves his reputation for fervid showmanship when he performs Thursday at The Fort Spokane Brewery. Show time is 9 p.m. and tickets are $11.
Portland band Red Footed Genius makes stops at both Outback Jack’s and Ichabod’s North this weekend.
Masterminded by Oklahoma native Sean Haffner, the band has been around since ‘92 in a variety of forms. This foursome’s newest effort - a seven-song EP called “Suckerpunch” - offers thoughtful rock reminiscent of Toad the Wet Sprocket.
RFG plays the middle slot at Outback Jack’s tonight. New York singer/songwriter Cristopher Lucas returns to his Spokane hometown to headline the show with his acoustic rock. Charlie Starkweather opens. Music starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $4.
On Saturday at Ichabod’s, RFG again takes the middle spot with funk-ska-rock guys - Civilized Animal - headlining. Music starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $5.
All that jazz
I wandered down to the Birkebeiner Brewery a week ago Thursday. Turns out that was a good night to stop by.
The Spokane group Soup was weaving a web of jazz and funk that was a cool change of pace. Dave Fish, the band organizer and a member of both Petting Zulu and Planetary Refugees, calls their sound “a funk fortified fusion of ambient-trip-hop-provisational-acid jazz.”
And that just about covers it.
With Fish on drums, the band is rounded out by Jeff Schmidt on keyboards, Ethan Hageman on bass, Zack Stewart on guitar and Zack Inks on percussion. The core members are joined when possible by Ben Cater on percussion, Mike Lukitch on sax and Eddie Taylor on flute.
For a group whose music is about 90 percent improvisational, Soup’s sound is pleasantly coherent and downright enjoyable to kick back and listen to.
Soup plays at the Birkebeiner every Thursday for the next few months. They’ll be joined a different poet each week for a short reading. The music starts at 8:30 p.m. Cover charge is $2.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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