As long as there's folks who want to listen to noisy, basic rock 'n roll, or learn how make it themselves, the garage rock scene will live on in basements and small clubs around the globe. While it's occasionally been co-opted over the years by the major labels when someone's underground success becomes too great to ignore -- as in the case of The White Stripes -- garage is a genre where the majority of its bands may remain outside the mainstream of pop culture but can become legends in their circle of influence.
Greg Cartwright has become one of those near-mythical giants. His work as a founding member of the Compulsive Gamblers, Oblivians and Reigning Sound, various production credits and time spent with other bands has produced some of the most consistently reliable rock 'n' soul over the past two decades. The past few months have been good ones for Cartwright devotees, with a tour/website-only LP of an Oblivians live show from 1995 and the first album of all-new Reigning Sound material since 2004, released by In the Red Records. Also sneaking into stores with a bit less fanfare in September was the long-awaited Live at the Circle A solo album, recorded at a 2006 show in Milwaukee during the week Cartwright was helping record the self-titled debut album by The Goodnight Loving.
"The show was set up as something fun for Greg to do while here recording GNL," says Dusty Medical Records head honcho Kevin Mistreater. "He was here for a week and it just kind of came together really easily. He was up for doing whatever --hence the guest DJ shift on WMSE, the Circle A show, DJing with me at Cactus Club, playing on WMSE with GNL.
"As for recording it, of course I wanted to be able to use it for release if it went well; I honestly don't even remember if I asked him or told him that we were getting a professional recording of it. I'm sure I did, but it wasn't a conscious thing like 'this is going to be a live LP' ... more of a 'let's record it and see what we have'," says Mistreater.
The results are a sort of defacto Reigning Sounds greatest hits album, with songs mostly coming from that group's catalog. There's also a Delaney Bramlett cover and a few numbers from the Oblivians and Compulsive Gamblers (including the oft-recorded "Bad Man"). The recording sounds like a laid-back party, Cartwright playing acoustic, apparently without a set list and operating from audience requests. The setting gives his blues/soul-influenced rock songs -- and Cartwright's well-worn but expressive voice -- a chance to shine on their own without the various bands' working up a frenzy around him.
The LP also includes a bonus 7-inch of tracks recorded at the 2006 WMSE radio session by Cartwright and The Goodnight Loving. Mistreater says there won't be a CD version, "but it is now and will be available digitally -- it's on iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, etcetera. Pretty much anyone that sells mp3s legitimately has it."
Or, maybe it will be incentive for any Cartwright fans without a turntable to finally go out and invest in some 20th century technology. (Dusty Medical Records, 2009)