In the early 90s, I had the good fortune of living in Denver to do science. Not only that, but I met a couple of academic physicians who liked to play great acoustic-based, rock & pop music. We became a band known as Dogs in the Yard and played from 1990 until 2001, releasing two original discs, Sunday Afternoon (1997) and ‘Til the Summer Fades Away (2000). The core of the band, cardiologist Jay Reusch and endocrinology physician-scientist Dan Bessesen, continue to play today in the Denver/Boulder area more than 20 years after they first met.
These were the acoustic-inspired days of Denver where I first learned of singer-songwriters like John Gorka, Shawn Colvin, Darden Smith, The Story, and David Wilcox, and bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket, Blue Rodeo, and the subdudes.
Much of this musical education came via the revered progressive music station, KBCO, in Boulder, and a short-lived but critically-acclaimed experiment in acoustic radio, KDHT. Lead morning guy and KDHT program director, Ira Gordon, still shares his wisdom down the road at Radio Free Santa Fe, KBAC.
There is nothing like waking up on a crisp Sunday morning and listening to acoustic music, drinking coffee, and watching the rising sun reflect off the reds, purples, and greens of the Rockies.
Perhaps it was the Western influence that led me to miss a superb acoustic-pop band that also began in the early 90s, Guster. About to release their sixth studio album this week, Easy Wonderful, Guster began as a couple of guys playing guitars in their dorm room at Tufts University in 1991. Originally named “Gus,” Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner, and Brian Rosenworcel added multi-instrumentalist, Joe Pisapia. Joe will be touring with k.d. lang so the band has added Luke Reynolds to replace him on the upcoming tour.
I really didn’t get turned on to Guster until a few years ago, interestingly by my singer-songwriter bud, Jay, who played a couple of duets for me with his now college-aged daughter during a visit west.
Guster plays those kinds of pop songs that seem to get me fired up – the kinds of songs that can lift you from your doldrums with the catchiest of hooks. My favorite is one of what I believe was their first Top 40 song, “Careful,” from their 1997 album, Keep It Together. The entire chorus is a hook but the chords underlying the words, “they adore you,” cause some sort of oxytocin and dopamine release in my brain (for players, it’s the fingering of a Bm and D chord capoed at the 4th fret to E♭m and G♭).
Anyone can do anything in the studio – hell, today you can play a paper guitar that bangs out chords without knowing anything – but the true test of a band is to play stripped down in an intimate setting like your living room or a music store.
So, today Sunday Solitude is Guster playing “Careful” in 2006 at Boston’s First Act Musical Instruments: