Gravy’s debut lets everyone just get along

By Ryan Heinsius


There’s a great scene in “The Blues Broth- ers” where the band finds itself playing atBob’sCountryBunkerbehindasheetof chicken wire in some god-awful rural Illinois swamp. Anyone can see the fear in the eyes of Matt Murphy and Steve Cropper. Quickly the band changes gears and shifts into an R&B-ed out version of “Raw Hide” and
the crowd of trucker trash and two-steppin’ floozies are won over. Now imagine this on a local scale. Enter Gravy.

Who knew hippies and hillbillies could exist in perfect harmony? The tradition-
ally incompatible cultures have long been fodder for many a country song—usually involving a bar fight or a worse. Gravy, Flag’s own supergroup, has finally put on record their solution to this long-running divide. The five-piece band consists of some of the most accomplished musicians in Flag: vocal- ist, electric guitarist and pedal steel guitarist Rand Anderson; bassist and vocalist Keith Gomora; guitarist and vocalist Brad Bays; drummer Andrew Lauher; and keyboardist Steve Caldwell. The band’s sound spans mu- sic that just about everyone can kick back at the bar and suck down a few cheap beers to.

Gravy’s debut is a collection of 14 songs that were recorded and produced by An- derson at his Kachina Village studio. Five
of the 14 songs on the album are Anderson originals. The remaining nine covers are tastefully obscure tunes written by some of the great country voices of the last few de- cades. The first and last tracks were written by former Flagstaff local Xander Brown, a close friend of the band and former band- mate of Anderson and Gomora. His “Good Country Home” kicks off the album with a libertarian, bluegrassy gusto, and “Honky TonkAngel”istheperfectcloudy-headed closer to an album that makes the listener feel like they’ve been guzzling whiskey all night in some Southern redneck bar and is about to be taken home by the woman of their dreams. Brown himself also makes an appearance on the album picking mandolin on a few tunes. Every member of Gravy puts an impressive stamp on the record. Go- mora’s vocals are solid and his bass playing

is the anchor that keeps the band grounded. The smokin’ guitar playing of Bays and AndersonisreminiscentofDuaneAllman and Dickey Betts during the early days of the Allman Brothers Band. Anderson’s pedal steel picking sounds like a Nashville session ringer despite his relatively short five or so years he’s been playing the instrument (lis- ten to track nine, Ricky Skagg’s “Highway 40 Blues” for more on this). Caldwell’s under- stated but lush keys add to the mix beauti- fully and Lauher’s drumming is as tight and tasteful as it’s ever been.

Throughout the record, there are hints of Gravy’s numerous and varied influences like Lowell George-era Little Feat (Ander- son’s “Heavy Load”), the Band, ’70s Grate- ful Dead (Ramsay Midwood’s “Feed My Monkey”) and all the great country influ- ences that set Gravy apart from typical jam band hell. Anderson’s “Tequila Please” has a south-of-the-border Jerry Jeff Walker sound while his “Keeping it Real” gives a nod to the greats, not necessarily just musical: Way- lon, Willie, Walker, David Allan Coe, Jessie James and Jesus. Among the great covers on Gravy are Gary P. Nunn’s “London Home- sick Blues,” Guy Clark’s “L.A. Freeway,”
John Hartford’s “Can’t Get No Better,” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.”

Also a treat for the local music fan are the guest spots on the album. Throughout several tracks Flag singer/songwriter No- lan McKelvey donates his smooth voice along with local fiddle siren Kristen Straka. Laid-back banjo monster Kirk Burnett also throws down his speedy licks to Gravy’s wall of sound.

Yes, Gravy’s sound is truly a unifier. In a town that has both downtowners and Doney Parkers, Gravy is the answer to that cultural divide in Flagstaff and has something to of- fer just about everyone.

Check out Gravy at their CD release party Fri, Dec. 9 at Mogollon Brewing Co., 15 N. Agassiz. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. There will be a $3 cover, and $10 gets you in with a copy of the disc. For more info, check out www.dreadneck.net or call 773-8950.

  • December 8, 2005 – Flagstaff Live