Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Homestead Grays Big Hits Fresh Sounds Inc 1988
I live in the suburb of Overland Park in a pretty normal neighborhood, filled with pretty normal people, except maybe closer to the Glenwood Theater, there seems to be a neighborhood of hipsters with children in homes near there. Anyway, I consider my nextdoor neighbor to be a pretty normal dude. In his 40's, he works a lot, he drives an economical Nissan, he likes to mow his lawn, and he is always willing to have a friendly conversation. I don't know him to be hip on musical trends, one time he told me he was going to a Metallica show and I've pretty much stopped talking to him about music since then. On one rare occasion I did discuss music with him I was feeling him out to see if he remembered any local bands from the years he attended KU. His answer was the Homestead Grays. He fondly recalled this band as a "big deal" in and around Lawrence back in the 80's.
This EP was put out the same year KU won a NCAA Basketball Championship with Danny & the Miracles. Not that the basketball has anything to do with the music, but as a KU alumnus, I felt the need to point that out. If you listen to the EP, you get why they were a popular band around town. They were being touted as a "next big thing" right next to artists like the Rainmakers. Both bands were steeped in roots rock, but due to the lack of production budget the Grays have aged much better. This band wasn't drenched in bad studio effects so the recordings don't sound as dated. Further, all four songs featured here are all solid. You can tell for they held back in the studio, but the potential for rowdy live performances is evident.
The first two tracks border on honky-tonk and are bar room stompers. High energy, each track would have gotten the crowd worked up. The two tracks on the flip side are really clever pop tunes. There's a little twang on "I'd Like to Get to Know" and even a country breakdown, but overall, it's got as much to do with the Beatles as it does Hank Williams. The final track entitled "285 DeSoto" is diverse, it's got a conga line drum beat, a ska derived guitar line, and chanted lyrics. Despite that, it still finds a way not to sell it's soul and keep some twang. It's a hit song that never happened.
The group was centered around the talents of Lawrence native, Chuck Mead. After the Grays disbanded, Mead went to Nashville were he still sustains a career in music. Currently he is a solo artist, but was previously helped form the alt. country pioneers and heavily acclaimed band, BR 549. He also had success in Nashville songwriter. Other members, Guy Stephens drummed for local bands Tendoerloin, Arthur Dodge & the Horsefeathers and did work for another local legend, Todd Newman. Gray Ginter also played in Tenderloin and a number of other local bands, as did Brock Ginther, although I don't believe Brock was ever featured in Tenderloin.