Jack-of-all-music-trades, David Gans, perpetually keeps the spirit of 1969 alive with jamming folk, skewed vocal tones, while glorifying the west-coast hippie vibe.
Gans is probably known best as radio host for Dead to the World on KPFA- Berkeley, it has been on the air for over 20 years. He has produced handfuls of Grateful Dead albums and compilations, published books, has an innovative eye for photography, and plays music traveling around in his electric blue Honda Fit- packed with guitar and sax cases that are stickered with dancing bears.
His most recent release, The Ones That Look The Weirdest Taste The Best (2008; produced by Tim Carbone), is not for everyone. If you can appreciate the melancholy of folk, a trip in reverse down Route 66, and the everything is going to be okay mentality from the era of free love, Gans will take you where you need be. The musicianship of the album is extraordinarily tight. Gans incorporates the concept of layering, implementing texture in music, and is well done thanks to the instrumentation; mandolin, violin, baritone violin, piano, guitar, steel guitar, baritone sax, string bass, and bowed cymbal. But it’s Gans’ signature looping that is truly somber and beautiful.
The song I like best is “Echolalia.” It makes you feel light and sunned, as if you are driving in the glow of autumn foliage. It is crisp, pure, and has no words- pleasant, thought provoking music. The thing is, the melodies and synchronicity of the strings on this album are so well done it out shines the lyrics. Gans’ songwriting is an obvious life reflection and dose of nostalgia. The lyrics are generally optimistic, somewhat somber, and all about the good advice, a bowl of chicken soup. For example, the track titles “Shove in the Right Direction” and “It’s Gonna Get Better” speak for themselves. Though the album is predominately a positive message, some songs present a sense of cynicism. “Save Us From The Saved” and “Like A Dog” deal with getting pushed around and parties who force their ideals on others. I think these days people have a hard time listening to music that attempts to instill confidence or joy. Lets face it, the world has become a jaded mess from depleting economies and faltering governments. Gans is onto something, boosting morale. It does seem to be the year for change.
The Ones that Look The Weirdest Taste The Best is also a concept that directly correlates to his photography. If you go onto Flickr.com/photos/dgans you will find his photo albums that alternate music and nature. Gans photographed some mandarins, not perfect and bright and orange, but wrinkled with brown spots. They don’t look so tasty, but there is truth in that the ugliest fruit is the sweetest.
Though you can’t help but wonder if this album was actually recorded in present day, it’s nice to know some spirits never die. For more information go to Trufun.com, and check out Dead to the World on Wednesdays 8-10 p.m., Pacific Time.
by Genette Nowak