The Gentle Guest
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The Gentle Guest

Eau Claire, Wisconsin, United States | INDIE

Eau Claire, Wisconsin, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Americana

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"Fire All The Way Down Into The Quiets"

They have a saying about hotbeds of talent and that saying hinges on the water and something being in it, something formidable and magical. It sometimes has to do with the basketball and football teams in certain cities and how they grow them either tall or thick in those particular places. It sometimes also has to do with a city having cornered a small market of indie rock and roll the way that humble Eau Claire, Wisconsin has in the past year. There's no telling where the city - a former home to Ann Landers - will go from here, but in the last year it brought the world Bon Iver, one of the tender and endearing artists of 2008, and has two bands poised to continue making the place proud in The Daredevil Christopher Wright (packed with creative star power) and The Gentle Guest, the project of Eric Rykal that is for gravediggers, ghost story tellers and bootleggers of yesteryear. Eau Claire, which actually means "Clear Waters" in French, must put both the chillaxing pills in the clean drinking waters as it does the rowdy, tear the wood right off of the bar pills. Up there amongst all of the wooded land and the pretty pasture these chosen musicians find it in them to explore the different sides of the restlessness and the cabin fever during the harsh winter months of hibernation must smoke them out, causing the head to explode and get put back together differently every time. The Gentle Guest is a band that carries on as a sort of rambling and verbose recollection of so many different lives no longer among us, as well as a fusing of the kinds of salty and drunken ragtime that you hear playing in your head during certain scenes while reading F. Scott Fitzgerald novels and short stories from his jazz era. You can hear bottles clink and people swaying woozily to the unraveling of the complex stories that Rykal offers. They're not big gulps, but more prolonged sips of something that burns a strict line of fire all the way down into the pit of your belly. They creep around and strain and blow out with a brassy trill and meander through your ears like bleary-eyed scoundrels. He sings, "All hail whiskey god," at one point and it's really just a recognition to be heard as the dirty dog thinking it and finally just lets blurt with the rest of a rough room chiming in in unison, as if they've nothing better to do than to agree. The line of thinking that continues throughout the Gentle Guest songs is one of turbulence and rationality causing a disruptive event of average proportions. It seems as if the characters in all of Rykal's songs go through the decision-making process that most people do frequently, but the difference is that what they frequently have to decide between isn't flavors of coffee, but ways to best survive, ways to get by and that adds an entirely different set of wrinkles to the fabric. The stories are about men and women struggling with their wrestling, with the ways that they make themselves toss and turn straight into delirium. There are devils roaming these parts and there are enterprising men and women of various degrees of honorability pulling off cameos and supporting performances, rolling around in the mucky muck. There's an antiquated feel of people and their predicaments that courses through it and Rykal puts all of these dimly lit personalities together to make a quilt of old-timey shenanigans that involve more moral struggles and god-fearing than anyone knows what to really do with. - Daytrotter.com


"The Gentle Guest: Better Than Your In-Laws Coming To Visit"

When I learned that Eric Rykal's The Gentle Guest was a group of musicians who claim that the sounds of their music "can be found somewhere between the Great Depression and 2008," I was immediately wary. What does that mean? But after one listen to We Are Bound to Save Some Souls Tonight, it was like a giant epiphany—it made so much sense that it was mind-boggling.

Rykal leads listeners through ten very dark, percussion-strong narratives of sin, love, lies and whiskey that are backed by horns and the collective voice of about six or seven people. For something that Rykal claims to have written in one night, it's beyond impressive—and completely different from other stuff out there, to boot.

"Down at the Still," one of the busier and more compelling tracks on the album, sees Rykal singing to the unnamed "you" of the album, recalling the tale of how "My darling girl she left me/ A year ago today/ She kneeled down on the train tracks/ And then began to pray for us all." A couple of tracks later, just when you begin to think you know enough of The Gentle Guest to have Rykal pegged, he almost tauntingly explains, "I'm not the man I pretend to be."

So where does this leave us? Does it matter? By far one of the best and most original albums of 2008, We Are Bound to Save Some Souls Tonight is demanding and engaging the entire way though—the music itself is so darkly refreshing that any and all questions are rendered irrelevant. - Pop Sense


"All Things Considered III"

The Gentle Guest - We Are Bound To Save Some Souls Tonight
The promo materials that accompany We Are Bound To Save Some Souls Tonight claim that the gentlest Guest, Eric Rykal, was moved to undertake this project after seeing a far-from-home band perform in an empty St. Paul bar. Just between you and me, I don't think there's an empty St. Paul bar I haven't performed at (or been kicked out of), but I'm hoping this event took place at the Hat Trick Lounge. Recorded on a shoestring with the assistance of the Amble Down army, We Are Bound To Save Some Souls Tonight is a record full of dirges, shanties and shithouse anthems, transmitted from a land where your dancing is proportional to your depression. Eric Rykal is someone to keep an eye on. Highly recommended for any the 8 billion Bon Iver fans who have materialized in the previous twelve months. Oh, and if any of you Phillies fans have sobered up yet, you should be able to catch The Gentle Guest wrapping up a jaunt with A.A. Bondy, tonight at Tin Angel. Why not hide overnight in the bathroom so you have good seats to see Triumph's Rik Emmett on Saturday? - My Old Kentucky Blog


"Backstage Pass: Gentle Guest gets rowdy on new CD"

Eric Rykal, founder of The Gentle Guest, knew he wanted his next release to be, well, not quite as "gentle" as the band's 2007 EP, "Our Little Ruckus."

And as The Gentle Guest's newest creation, "We Are Bound to Save Some Souls Tonight," proves, when you write, produce and record your own album, you can do whatever you want.

"It's a lot rowdier," Rykal said. "There's no electric instruments, but it's a lot more fast paced. It's like drunken, stomping, shouting, clapping, yelling. Like bluegrass, but rowdier."

But it wasn't always that way.

The Gentle Guest started as a way for Rykal to get back in touch with his solo side.

"I had been writing with other people for so long that it was really hard to suddenly be by myself with a guitar or banjo and make the songs work," he said. "So The Gentle Guest, for me, kind of started out as an experiment to learn songwriting again."

Unintentionally, the product became folk music, tailor-made for local coffee shops. But The Gentle guest rarely performed after releasing the EP.

"It was fine, and it was a fun experience, but it wasn't something I wanted to do permanently," Rykal said. "I didn't want to play music that is soft and quiet and ... gentle."

Though The Gentle Guest's music has been reformed, Rykal is calling on a familiar cast to promote the album. For live performances Zach Hanson will drum, Aaron Winter will provide the bass, Paul Brandt will be plucking the banjo and Trevor Ives will hold down the auxiliary percussion.

With such a wealth of musical friends, Rykal said the lineup often changes.

In November, Rykal, a graduate of the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, will take a break from the full-time recording career he runs from his home to tour nationwide in support of "We Are Bound to Save Some Souls Tonight."

"I had always been telling myself that I wanted to do something that was kind of loud, fast ... maybe something someone could dance to," he said. "I've never been in a band like that ever." - Leader-Telegram


"The Daily Choice: The Gentle Guest - Down At The Still"

If you haven’t heard of Amble Down Records, you’re just not doing your research. Early on in my, hopefully still early, music writing career I spent a good deal of my days harassing record companies so they’d send me music I could, theoretically, review. One of the very first who actually responded to my pleading request were the good folk at Amble Down. I, like you, had never heard of this Eau de Claire, Wisconsin based label, but was quickly to learn that these folk from the snowy white North, certainly know how to churn out some keepers. Bon Iver, you’ve heard of him, right? Justin Vernon, meliflous voice that could emote the pants of your grandmother? Yeah, that one. He first recorded, and continues to produce with the folk at Amble Down. So, they’ve got a bit of credibility.

Meandering introduction aside, I wanted to present to you fine folk, the newest release from these fine Midwesterners, The Gentle Guests - We Are Bound To Save Some Souls Tonight. Strangely enough, these same Midwesterners have come together to create what, at times, sounds like the underground gypsy orchestras of various no-longer-in-existence Eastern Bloc hellholes. There’s brassy horns, a get-up-and-clap rhythm, and the general feeling that this music is made for you to, well, moooooooooove to. And not that Seattle-white-person, knee drop, head shake shuffle, oh no, this music makes you want to reach out grab a large-bosomed lady (or barrel-chested lad) and swing ‘em around in the steamy, confines of an illegal dancehall. Cigarettes will be smoked, shots of cheap liquor will be consumed, and in the morning all you’ll remember is a the burning glare of neon, and distant thoughts of a warbling trombone. - Soundonthesound.com


Discography

We Are Bound to Save Some Souls Tonight (2008)
Our Little Rukas (2007)

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Bio

After the release of The Gentle Guest's first EP no less than a year ago, and six-months of stagnant creativity, Rykal, the individual, instigator, and inspiration behind the project, spent a night in an empty bar in St. Paul, MN, witnessed a performance by a wayward Portland band, became inspired, and suddenly felt the need to write this album.

We Are Bound To Save Some Souls Tonight is the band's debut full-length and was written by Rykal on a rainy weekend, this past April; it was recorded during the first few weeks of summer with the help of a slew of Amble Down regulars, and has been performed all over town and throughout the region since its conception. The album's ten tracks give off an Americana feel with a bit of rustic blues mixed in, all containing the folklore of overridden hobo tales in their story-telling and theatrical lyrics.