It's mid-afternoon and David Keith is on the phone, preparing for tonight's gig at Headliner's in Louisville. There are many sounds coming from the other end of the phone, like he's feverishly trying to get things together. Yet he talks ever so slowly, taking his time, choosing his words carefully as he describes Gladstone, "Louisville's Original Rock Jam-Band." Though he's officially only been playing in the band for a few months, he's passionate about what they're doing.
Currently, Gladstone is enjoying consistent radio play in Louisville and in Lexington. They're scheduled to appear in several regional music festivals this year, and their self-titled debut is receiving rave reviews from all around, with a new record on the horizon. In addition, they'll soon be featured in a KET special, not to mention a few live radio shows.
Not bad for a bunch of guys who started out playing Grateful Dead covers.
Actually, most of these guys go way back and somehow found their way into the same band. Bassist Sam Shaheen, lead vocalist/guitarist/ Neil Hulswede, and guitarist/vocalist David Keith are all graduates of Louisville's Trinity High School. Drummer Scott Van Houten and keyboard player Dan Monarch actually met at Western Kentucky University several years ago and formed Drugstore Cowboys before returning home to Louisville. Van Houten and Monarch met up with Shaheen and Hulswede and formed Emily's Garden, which developed a strong following as a Grateful Dead cover band.
Keith's former band Buckit opened for Emily's Garden in 1997 and a friendship took root.
After playing around for a while, the band realized that musical success wasn't going to be found playing old Jerry Garcia songs. So they decided to start performing original music under the new name, Gladstone (taken from the name of the street the band used to live on in the "Highlands" section of Louisville).
A band with an affinity for capturing many genres and eras, Gladstone developed quite a reputation as a band that's constantly evolving. At times sounding like they're emerging from a pseudo-psychedelic cocoon, others like they're stepping into a mod-garage stomp, this band has a unified vision and a wide range of interests and moods.
"We play a smooth blend of rootsy rock like Wilco and Gram Parsons, mixed with the jam styles of the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead, and Phish," says Keith. "I haven't heard many other bands like us."
Their sound has recently been compared to a cross between Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead, or a blend of U2 and Widespread Panic. Such favorable descriptions have helped them line up festival gigs, including the Allgood Festival, Athfest, Rockin' at Riverpoints, Hilltop Family Spring Fling, and the Ohio Summer Solstice Love-In.
Gladstone's self-titled debut, released in October of last year, is an interesting fusion of rock, country, and jazz, a virtual breeding ground for musical cross-pollination. Some are intimate and others aggressive, but every song on Gladstone's debut conveys a shared appreciation for melody and a mature sense of songwriting.
As Keith explains, "Hulswede composed most of the chord progressions and melodies on the debut record, which were then arranged by the band during rehearsals. The lyric ideas are also developed by the band, based primarily on the images [Hulswede] brings in. [Monarch] has developed a fairly mature songwriting style, as evidenced by the three songs he sings on the record. His style is a bit darker, somewhat reminiscent of Pink Floyd. And [Shaheen] is particularly influential in determining the final sound of each song, with strong ideas about flow and movement within compositions. I also write original material, some of which we'll be working on soon."
Gladstone's already in the process of recording a second release.
"Our next record is already in the works and should be released this summer," Keith adds. "It's gonna be a bit different. We're looking to add some new instruments and make some production improvements. Our songs are growing from 'noodling jams' to tightly arranged pop tunes with intelligently developed jam sections."
Drawing inspiration from classic groups like Little Feat and the Rolling Stones and from young bands like Radiohead, Granddaddy, and the North Mississippi All-Stars, Gladstone covers a lot of ground. Their live shows are predominantly filled with original material, with an occasional cover thrown in here or there.
With hypnotic pastiche, Gladstone creates music with a complexity that is hard to ignore, displaying an arsenal of musicianship that accurately reflects the strength and reach of the band.
Gladstone will play live on WRVG Thursday, April 5th, and later at Lynagh's with AM Flavor. They'll appear on the KET2 program "Mixed Media" on Tuesday, April 10th. For more information on Gladstone, visit www.gladstoneusa.org.