Dinner Music … Not!
New Fredericktonians Bring their Wild, Funky, Gypsy-Metal to Town
“I think one of the most valuable realizations we’ve ever had [about our music] is that nobody cares and why should they? That’s why we’re always trying so hard to put on a show that offers something to our audience. There’s no reason why folks should care about our aspirations” – Blythe Crawford
Writing about rock ’n’ roll can be a messy, soupy mix of egos gone wild, sycophancy and hyperbole on fast-forward, with most musicians and the writers that cover them displaying equal parts of each. It’s a devil’s game, and not one to take on without arming oneself against the onslaught of ego-centrism. The ability to listen to musicians talk about how wonderful they are without slinging them around the room by the throat is also worth cultivating. But there’s something wonderful and refreshing about The Galt Line’s lack of selfaggrandizement and their willingness to be honest to, and about, themselves.
The joyous and energetic gypsy-punk-country-metal that is the sound of Blythe Crawford and Willie Gammell’s band, The Galt Line, reflects the kind of curiosity and thoughtfulness that Willie and Blythe carry with them and which runs through their whole process, from writing songs to performing them in front of audiences.
“We see other bands sometimes who seem to exist in this over-arching aura of glory,” Willie says as he rolls his eyes. “Their friends love them, their moms love them and they play the same clubs to the same audiences that love them and never stretch themselves, and we know we want more than that. It’s a big thing to constantly be asking people to love us, but…” Blythe finishes the sentence, “… who has the time to always be in love with us?”
The name of the band comes from the railroad in the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged.
“We always liked the story of the Galt Line Railroad, which the hero of the story is constantly being told can’t be done … but it can be done, and the hero goes ahead and does it, so it’s a good ass-kickin’, go-out-thereand- beat-the-odds kind of attitude which we appreciate.” Blythe’s charm and easy smile belie her vehemence, and she and Willie wear their thoughtful passion for what they do in The Galt Line like a backstage pass with all access.
Willie and Blythe have been together as a couple since 2004, and have been inveterate road dogs, songwriting partners and bandmates since 2008. How does that work? Does either relationship make the other difficult? Willie speaks up first and Blythe illustrates the kind of ESP displayed by couples the world over when she finishes his thoughts.
“We’re pretty good at letting one another off the hook, work-wise, so we battle that a lot. But other than that it makes things really super-fast and lean. It’s easy to book tours and shows …” Cue Blythe: “And we’ve learned to read one another onstage really well also. We really just get along better with one another than either of us does with other people, so [working together] is easier than it might be otherwise.”
The Galt Line is a guitar/ukelele band with a punk rock attitude running on pretty high-octane friendliness. (The two are invariably and relentlessly kind to the waitress bringing them coffee at the diner, while simultaneously decrying the ego-centrism of the music industry and the nauseating stink of poserroots musicians.)
Couple that with Willie’s virtuoso string-wrangling and Blythe’s electric foot-stomping, and song-writing that could easily have come right out of the Great American Songbook. (Willie claims Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong as his biggest songwriting influences, and Blythe readily admits to her love for Eastern-European gypsy swing and its influence on her musicianship.) It’s true that there is a kind of turn-of-the-century, Parisiancafé, wild-in-the-pants gypsy feel to The Galt Line. The fact that they’re trying to bring their music to rock and punk clubs speaks to their real life aspirations.
“We’re just really trying to write music for everyone to enjoy and share, you know?” Blythe says.
They’ve tried the New York scene, toured 20,000 miles a year on average, and write new songs constantly. Last year, following a self-admitted disastrous tour, they decided to take some time off to reassess.
“Up to now, it’s always been about playing every show we could find, playing any club we could get into, and we were finding that we just weren’t getting anything back in the way of a re-charge.” Blythe’s sigh would make the world itself weary. “So, now as we dive back in, we’re targeting just the clubs where people go specifically to hear music. No more dinner crowds angry that we’re playing in the corner.”
Aside from her uke playing, Blythe also wears “bottle-cap shin-shakers and an amplified stomp-board” (which one could easily guess might make diners a little angry) and Willie scorches an acoustic guitar, playing like a teenager afire. This ain’t yer mama’s folk music, y’all, but it is dance-able, punk-able, rootsy metal played with a kind of infectious politeness and bad attitude that keeps heels and toes tapping, and wild-eyed punks slamming.
Blythe’s voice is a vibrato-heavy, little-girl-lost shout that wouldn’t be out of place on a garage-sale, 78-rpm record, and Willie’s instrumental “thang” is a thang of beauty. And though he’d be uneasy with the analogy, he plays as though Eddie Van Halen and Django Reinhardt are perched on his shoulders like opposing musical angels.
Before the interview is over, Willie speaks of their brand-new CD, The Galt Line. “We’re really excited about it.” The CD was recorded and produced by Sam Pinola, a closet genius with great ears in Atlantic City, N.J.
Of the 12 songs on the CD, it is the song, Cabin Fever on which Blythe seems to be singing, not only to her own frustrations, but to the frustrations of all those who sometimes feel trapped.
I’m burning holes in the floor, trying to even the score
With these days that keep dragging me down
My eyes are ready to burst with this unquenched thirst
But my feet are still glued to the ground
The Galt Line is just getting back to the business of music after their winter break, so nothing is on the books just yet, but the brand-new-to-Frederick duo loves their new city and is looking forward to joining the scene here. They’ve put out feelers after playing shows at Guido’s and Café Nola, and they’re excited at the prospect of more, so let Frederick welcome them with open arms. The Galt Line is sure to up the gypsy-punkcountry- metal quotient downtown sooner than you can stomp your bottle-cap shin-shakers.