Gunther Brown
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Gunther Brown

Portland, Maine, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | INDIE

Portland, Maine, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Americana Rock

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Jan
01
Gunther Brown @ Current schedule listed at guntherbrown.com/shows

Maine, United States

Maine, United States

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Gunther Brown is a Portland-based four-piece Americana rock band. The current line-up solidified in 2013, and while there is some older material kicking around on iTunes, Spotify and the other usual spots, the band’s first official release was “Goodnight for Daydreams” in 2014. The new one’s called “North Wind.” Your time will be well spent listening to both records, because this band is really onto something. Better yet, head to the Portland House of Music on Friday night to hear them live.

Gunther Brown is vocalist/guitarist and primary songwriter Pete Dubuc, guitarist/vocalist Chris Plumstead, bassist Mark McDonough and drummer Derek Mills. I asked Dubuc where on earth they got the name and was rewarded with a nifty little story: “When I was first writing songs and thinking of getting a band together, I wanted to use a name other than mine so that we wouldn’t ever dream of becoming the — cringe — Pete Dubuc band. So for a place holder, I used my wife’s middle and last names.” This was supposed to be temporary, Dubuc said, but after the band got together and spend time trying to come up with a different name they all realized they had one they liked. “Other than me being called Gunther on the regular, it has served us well.”

With “North Wind,” Gunther Brown has cemented their footing in the Maine music scene, but I sure hope they get recognition well beyond here.

The album begins with “What’s Left.” Dubuc’s vocals are gritty and raw: “When the walls are falling all around you/and the bottles break and make that sound/do you go on running scared or do you take what’s left and try to make it whole?” If bourbon could sing, it would sound like this song.

If I were in charge of radio programming in the United States, “(don’t forget to) don’t go” would be in heavy rotation. It’s my current favorite. With slide guitar by Plumstead, acoustic guitar by Dubuc and foot-stomping bass and drums by McDonough and Mills, the tempo is perfect and the sentiment shoots straight at one’s heart: “Well it’s not the way you planned it/so you don’t understand it anymore/planted flowers in your garden/now you have forgotten what they are.”

“Norridgewock” is a history lesson about the Battle of Norridgewock. In Gunther Brown’s video to the song, text describes what happened the night of August 23, 1724. Colonial forces traveled up the Kennebec River to the village of Norridgewock, Maine. A battle ensued and many Abenaki men, women and children were killed. A monument marks the site. Dubuc said he didn’t know much about the battle until the song pushed him there. “I had the chorus done for quite a while but nothing really to tie it all in. I honestly don’t know what led me to that specific story. I think I saw something when I was reading about the Kennebec River and it just started to come together.” Dubuc further explained that his mother grew up in Norridgewock, and he spent many days there on his grandfather’s farm without knowing about what took place there. “It blew my mind. I was pretty captivated by it and sort of frantically read all the accounts I could find online.” The end result is a riveting song: “Now the water it surrounds you/and the leaves fall down/come on listen to the north wind/come on listen to the sound.” The band enlisted Joe Bloom to play harmonica, adding a sense of urgency to an already fire-breathing song.

Believe me when I tell you I could lavish praise on every track, but I’ll end with the 8-minute song that closes out the album. “Over You” smolders with Marc Tipton’s trumpet and the spoken words of “it’s good to meet you” repeated by Hallee Pottle. Dubuc said the song is about Alzheimer’s disease. “You always had my heart/now there’s grey inside your eyes/where used to shine so bright, now there’s doubt each time you look at me,” sings Dubuc. Heartbreaking and yet such a tremendous song. “We were going for a deconstruct; start very lucid and then blow it up,” Dubuc said.

“North Wind” is many things at once: tender, fierce, thought-provoking, powerful and even fun. You’ll hear Glen Klein’s mandolin, Marc Tipton’s trumpet and vocals from a whole bunch of voices that comprise the Halo Gospel Choir. The album was produced, recorded and mixed by Jonathan Wyman at The Halo in Westbrook and was mixed by Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering in Portland. - Aimsel Ponti - Portland Press Herald


(translated from Dutch)

"a little extra attention for "Sweet Marie", a beautiful love song with a nice text: "it's the wondering, not the wandering, that brings me to my knees." I like that, and the desperate sound reminiscent to early Daniel Lanois on "Swampland". "Over You" .. If loneliness and despair can be translated to music, that is certainly the case in this impressive, albeit somewhat atypical and fairly bizarre song. All told, this is a very handsome album, which asks a lot of the listener, but after several listens says much." - Dani Heyvaert - Rootstime


The guys in Gunther Brown can lay on the biting spite pretty thick, but they
also embrace pure emotion.

What is it about a sad song? The catharsis of a good lament can be so sweet, built doubly on empathy and a sense that, well, maybe things aren’t as bad as all that.

With Gunther Brown’s debut full-length, frontman Pete Dubuc and crew have created the most sorrowful local record since Ray Lamontagne’s Till the Sun Turned Black. Like that album, Good Nights for Daydreams is full to the brim with regret, promises that are likely never to come to pass, and good, old-fashioned wallowing.

From the opening “No Use Livin’,” the sunshine can be hard to find, other than some splashes of cowbell from drummer Derek Mills. What’s more sad-sack than this? “This is the night I give up my life/ When you dig my grave/ Don’t pray my soul to save/ Just cover me with earth and go.” Sisters Hallee and Kati Pottle supply high-low backing vocals to put an even finer point on it, a sharp complement to Dubuc’s quiet rasp.

The following “Time and Again” takes the pace down and layers on the tears in your beer while recalling Wes Hartley’s excellent “Acreless.” As elsewhere, the heartache comes from separation: “Lay your head on the table/ Cuz this is goodbye.” Chris Plumstead’s electric-guitar break in the bridge is more lighthearted than you’d expect, though, and doesn’t quite match Dubuc’s emotion.

Elsewhere, Plumstead flashes some Allmans/Dickie Betts influence, as on the brief solo with 30 seconds to go in “The Next Time,” an up-tempo alt-country tune. The early-song fills are where Plumstead shines (setting up what ought to be great in live performance); with his playing underneath, the lyrics “you ain’t gonna get away” are more of a promise than a threat, infused with a sense of urgency.

Except that gal seems to keep finding a way to be somewhere else, even if on “Follow You Anywhere” Dubuc makes the same promise: “I will not let you go.” This time, the urgency is communicated via increasing tension. It’s moody, with lots of high hat, and boozy like an after-hours song played to a few stragglers and the bartenders counting out the drawer. Just try to enjoy the moment: “We’ve no past, no future that will last/ There’s just now.”

It’s that resignation that fuels “Forever,” an upbeat strum that’s angry and resentful, calling to mind an ex crashing a wedding he wishes was his. Like the Old 97s or the Weakerthans, Gunther Brown can lay on the biting spite pretty thick. “People keep coming around and telling me,” Dubuc sings, in a way that makes it clear he wishes they wouldn’t, “things they think I oughta hear.” And when he talks about looking back 13 years, it’s clear he’s old enough where 13 years just isn’t that long anymore.

Then the bridge goes into half-time for a bluesy Plumstead solo. It’s a touch of prog you find again in the closing tune, the six-minute “Up To Me,” built on contrasting rhythms from Mills: quick with the sticks, plodding with his feet. Here, we get to the heart of the matter: “You don’t love me anymore.” Again, it feels more like a promise than an accusation.

The overall feeling here isn’t sad, or miserable, but accepting. Resigned. There is an embracing of the pure emotion, odes to that cliche that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. (Again, it calls to mind Hartley, when he sang, “you can’t win ‘em all/ You win ‘em all, you lose your mind.”) There is determination, too, and ambition. Songs like “Christ of the American Road,” “Headlights and Highways,” and “Bobby Orr” (the last reminiscent of early REM in its mix of sing-song and deadpan delivery) speak of a mission. Our protagonist is on the way back to redemption. There is hope and there are big dreams.

If you set your sights on “skating circles around Bobby Orr,” even a lesser outcome — simply finding a person to live with — is achievable. Despite all those “broken things on the side of the road” you leave behind along the way. - Sam Pfeifle - Portland Phoenix


Expertly straddling the line between classic Americana and modern alt-country, Gunther Brown’s “Good Nights for Daydreams” is a refreshing blend of rootsy styles.

Starting with a solid foundation of traditional country and adding in a little blues and a pop sensibility, the band serves up 10 songs with hooks and heart. There’s also a certain sense of melancholy pervading the whole album that will appeal to traditionalists, and a wicked sense of humor that indie rockers will surely appreciate.

The melancholy comes right away in the opening track, “No Use Livin’.” In classic country fashion, the protagonist’s girl has boarded a train, never to be seen again. But this is no old-timey cliche, as the song takes a dark turn when the narrator decides “this is the night/ that I give up my life.” A jaunty tempo helps to soften the lyrical blows a bit, with vocal sweetening in harmonies by Hallee and Kati Pottle of Mister Moon fame.

The themes of heartbreak and goodbyes continue in “Time and Again.” Played as a laid-back but mournful country shuffle, the track features a terrific vocal performance by Pete Dubuc, who sounds a little like a world-weary Steve Earle on this one.

The band released “Forever” as a single in December, and with good reason; it’s one of the standout tracks on the album. A manic, uptempo number, “Forever” is the lyrical cousin to “Friends in Low Places.” However, unlike Garth Brooks’ narrator, who crashes a wedding to tell his ex-lover he doesn’t need her anymore, Gunther Brown’s narrator arrives to assure the new bride that “This won’t last forever.” It’s a humorous song, but there’s a sadness behind the laughs, underscored by the bluesy breakdown at the halfway point.

Lead guitar courtesy of Chris Plumstead makes “Lights Out, Downtown” shine. The bluesy style is a little different from the classic ’80s alternative rock sound Plumstead employs with his other band, Serious Rooms, but his playing here sounds natural, effortless and fluid. Bassist Mark McDonough, who also played on Serious Rooms’ “Random Universe” album, again displays the melodic, McCartney-esque playing that helped make that album so special. Here, he locks into a tight groove with drummer Derek Mills, providing the rock solid foundation for Plumstead to do his thing.

It’s back to up-tempo country for the infectious and catchy “The Next Time,” and the blues return on “Follow You Anywhere.”

“Christ of the American Road” contains echoes of the ’70s southern California country rock sound, but with a solid indie rock vibe that will please fans of the Eagles and Wilco alike.

The wistful “Bobby Orr” is a nostalgic trip through boyhood dreams, which included “putting out fires with Engine #4/ and skating circles ’round Bobby Orr.” The ladies of Mister Moon provide backing vocals once again, both sounding a little like a young Emmylou Harris.

The road, whether providing a means of escape or a path to reconciliation, is a recurring lyrical theme on the album, perhaps best exemplified by “Headlights and Highways.” It’s an excellent example of the classic country road song. This one was tailor-made for listening while cruising down hot blacktop in the summer.

The album climaxes with the elegant but understated “Up to Me,” a song that features Plumstead’s best guitar playing on the album. His guitar work, combined with a gritty yet forlorn vocal from Dubuc, makes this song a wise choice for the closing track. The record is expertly sequenced, with emotional and musical peaks and valleys throughout, and “Up to Me” provides the perfect ending. Certainly every song here could be appreciated as a single, but this is an album that deserves to be listened to in its entirety and in this order, if one is to experience its full emotional impact.

Though Gunther Brown has two previous EPs to their credit, “Good Nights for Daydreams” is their first full-length release. As a sort of coming out party/calling card, it works sensationally, with expertly crafted songs, top-notch playing and clean and bright production. Though we’re barely a month into 2014, this may turn out to be one of the best albums of the year. - Rick Johnson - Portland Press Herald


Seven years on from first coming together and following on from two EPs, the Maine quartet finally get round to their debut album. I’ve not come across them before, however this is a flawed but generally impressive first encounter.

Fronted by the dust and gravel voiced Pete Duboc, whose been called a world-weary Steve Earle, they trade in a bluesy roots Americana which they apply to sorrowful songs of missed chances, lost loves, regrets and the miles between, variously served up with a jaunty shuffle (No Use Livin’, where our abandoned narrator sinks into suicidal depression), blues rock groove (guitarist Chris Plumstead showcased on Lights Out, Downtown) and either breezily uptempo (The Next Time) or slow waltz (Time And Again) alt country.

At near seven minutes the moodily closing slow blues Up To Me rather overstays its welcome, even if Plumstead’s solo does fire things up somewhat towards the end, and some of the songs, like the reflective road-themed Headlights And Highways, don’t quite come up to scratch. However, three numbers here more than make up for any misgivings.

Taken at a brisk, strummed pace with a bluesy guitar solo, Forever is a wonderfully spiteful bitter-humoured number as the bride’s ex goes to the wedding and assures her ‘this won’t last forever’ while (sporting a hint of REM) the equally uptempo Bobby Orr offers a wistful boyhood recollections lyric about broken things at the side of the road "like dreams and hearts and classic cars". Best of them all, and from whence the album title comes, is the musically simple but marvelously titled Christ Of The American Road, the story of a restless loser riding the highways with only the occasional hitchhiker, his cigarettes and photos of a "long lost world" to ease the loneliness of his mission to, presumably, find the "little boy who must be ten by now." It’s the most emotional song on the album and Dubuc’s voice squeezes out every ounce of hurt and emptiness. If they can come up with a few more like that next time round, they may well indeed find a place alongside such other Americana alumni of the state as Slaid Cleaves and Ray Lamontagne. - NetRhythms


Gunther Brown are a great band from Maine. Their new record is Good Nights for Daydreams and their lead singer, Pete Dubuc, has a voice with enough gravel and gravitas to metaphorically grab the listener by the lapels and make them sit up and listen - and then the songs they'll hear are brilliantly constructed, fantastically catchy, and truly memorable (Christ of the American Road is a genuine classic). - http://www.tiams.org/


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

 - North Wind Debuts at #8 on EuroAmericana Chart -
 - North Wind European Release Date February 19th - 

Gunther Brown is a four piece Americana rock band from Portland, Maine.

"If bourbon could sing, it would sound like this.." says the Portland Press Herald. Rootstime adds, "If loneliness and despair can be translated to music, that is certainly the case here."

When the current lineup solidified in 2013, work began immediately on Good Nights for Daydreams. Released in January, 2014, Good Nights for Daydreams was Gunther Brown’s full length debut and received only great reviews, both in the band’s hometown and internationally.

Two years later, Gunther Brown releases, North Wind, a new 10 song album, on vinyl, CD and digital formats. Buoyed by the same production team as Good Nights for Daydreams – Jonathan Wyman producing and Adam Ayan mastering – North Wind’s tracks show a band growing and exploring. As feedback introduces the album’s opening track, it’s clear North Wind is not setting out to be Good Nights for Daydreams Part II. By the album’s closer, Over You, a seven and a half minute journey hinting at jazz, pulling in trumpet, noise and hauntingly looped and decaying spoken word, Gunther Brown has shown they’re able and willing to explore new sonic territory.

Self released in the United States on 1/22/16, North Wind is released in Europe by Continental on 2/19/16. European tour is being booked now for April, 2017. European contact: Bert Pijpers bertp@continental.nl

Band Members