Artist: Doug Hream Blunt
Album: My Name Is Doug Hream Blunt
Genre: Funk / Soul / R'n'B
Label: Luaka Bop
Quality: FLAC (tracks)
- Fly Guy
- Gentle Persuasion
- Whiskey Man
- Break Free
- Ride the Tiger
- Caribbean Queen
- Big Top
- Love Land
- Fly Guy (Instrumental)
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Even with assistance from the Internet, some cult records still have to travel off beaten paths, their pleasures imparted by friends in the know. Just how I came to know about a singer from San Francisco named Doug Hream Blunt four years ago, I am not exactly certain, though I suspect it was on a tip from either a member of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti or else Park Blvd. Records co-owner Jason Darrah. But the moment that pneumatic, rinky-dink keyboard figure that opens "Fly Guy" wheezed and wormed into my ears, I was charmed and confounded. The sleeve art was nothing but a generic white sleeve with a gold sticker advertising the 'hit' "Gentle Persuasion" and it was hard to tell if it was a put-on or else proof that outsider music could remain relevant and vital in an age when any musician could upload his music to MySpace and be discovered, when most clues could be tracked down with a simple Google search. I’m not the only one besotted by Hream Blunt, as Ariel Pink is a champion, while former Hype Williams member Dean Blunt posits himself as the progeny of the man.
Once hovering in obscurity and mystery, My Name Is makes Doug Hream Blunt readily accessible thanks to David Byrne’s Luaka Bop imprint, no stranger to tracking down itchy, quirky folks like William Onyeabor and Tom Zé. Even as the comp clarifies some of the Frisco fog that enshrouded that self-released CD and its bootlegged 12", there remains a slippery, eel-like quality to these 10 songs. We learn in the liner notes that in the mid '80s as a 35-year-old prone to taking odd jobs, Blunt answered a flyer for a workshop called 'How to Form a Band.' Nevermind it was intended for Bay Area teens, Blunt approached the classes with a similar sense of the naïf, imparting that spirit onto the other adult students, four of them women who comprise his band.
There's the spirit of the Troggs, the Shaggs, and Half Japanese to the grooves, something stupid yet undeniable, unlearned yet impossible to replicate. The whinnying, cyclical keyboard figure that Jeannie Killmer repeats ad nauseam on "Fly Guy" brings to mind '90s Ethiopian pop as well as what you might come up with at Guitar Center on a synth using the flute patch and your thumb. Even more charming and baffling are the lyrics, where Blunt makes a streetwise observation about capitalism: "The rich use paper then they charge you more," talks about teaching the youth and then adds: "Girl, I just wanna chill."
A similarly simple yet inveigling melody and needling guitar sidewinds through the wobbly boogie of said hit, "Gentle Persuasion". For all the speculation as to what it means "to do the ninety-nine", the notes just equivocate it to the mystery dance itself. Still, it takes a certain kind of Romeo to make a panty-dropping non sequitur of "like ice, your butt is like dice now, daaaamn."
Charming as those two tracks are, they both run past six minutes and verge on exhausting. But as "Big Top", "Caribbean Queen", and "Break Free" reveal, Blunt sets about recycling both melodies onto other songs to where their appeal becomes threadbare. Perhaps in keeping with the Haight-Ashbury spirit of his home, each song also contains extended, aimless guitar soloing. And while he might have a two-track mind musically, it's solely one track when it comes to his primary theme. Outside of the last song (an instrumental version of "Fly Guy"), the other nine share a similar beat and subject, the word "girl" uttered in every song. So even as My Name Is pulls back the curtain on Doug Hream Blunt’s mystery music, it also makes clear that the opposite sex will always remain one to him.