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Doug Wintch: Reviews

Review: Singin On The Job, Doug Wintch

   (LuDella Records)

By David Eskelsen

For Intermountain Acoustic Musician Magazine

 

There’s only one thing missing from Doug Wintch’s journeyman new album for “handymen; and the not-so-handy” ... Liner notes!

 

I know, I know. In today’s world, you gotta go to the artist website to get the lyrics and notes on the songs, and that’s easy enough. Doug’s got a great website, which offers a full preview of his great new album, Singin’ On The Job. Doug’s bottom-line job as a carpenter has often come into his songwriting, but he wades in deep here, drawing out a surprising range of emotions and experiences that would be easily recognizable to the many men and women who ply this trade.

 

For us not-so-handy, this group of songs runs the full range of human experience, from laugh-out-loud funny, to quirky, a short history lesson, to the intriguing and profound. It’s an album good for a road trip or to play as you're working that latest home improvement project.

 

Doug opens this show with Sheetrock, a cleverly hilarious take on the “relative” hazards of being the handyman in the family. While stretching the truth a bit (perhaps), I suspect Doug is not too far off the mark here. (I confess I once called out to Doug in desperation for help when our new refrigerator turned out to be an inch too wide for the kitchen space. Thanks again, Doug. It was, after all, just a piece o’ sheetrock!)

 

There are real gems here, with the plain-spoken view of the American working man told with the skill of a gifted songwriter. There are few songwriters anywhere that can match Doug with a clever turn of phrase or a biting double entendre. But in his hands, like his trusty framing hammer, it’s a tool to be used with skill; not a gimmick. The song always comes first.

 

You have to love T.H. D’peau, with its nod to a certain retailer. It champions do-it-yourself home improvement coupled with a can-do attitude. Who would have thought a chorus about remodeling a bathroom could be so catchy and infectious? (Maybe it’s time for a re-do of that upstairs bathroom in our house.)

 

There’s also a genuine tall tale in Skip-a-Rope-and-a-Clamp. The images Doug evokes here are as vivid to me as those Disney cartoons from my childhood about Paul Bunyan, Babe, the blue ox and John Henry.

 

In the best folk tradition, Doug honors a fellow craftsman in the historical ode, Chippy McNish. Songs that teach about and honor historic figures are a personal favorite, and this is one of several such songs Doug has made up out of the history that the schoolbooks never picked up. This one is first-rate, with each verse skillfully setting up and further illuminating the engaging chorus. It’s a touching, inspiring tale of the unsung companion without whom our hero would never have made it back.

 

A gifted storyteller, Doug saves the best for last. Frank, the Fighting Seabee joins the best of those songs that immortalize the grit, honor and humility of the Greatest Generation. This generation of men and women—who where children of the Great Depression, did their duty at home and abroad in World War II, then returned home to quietly build lives with independence, hard work and a sense of purpose tempered by a terrible war—cannot be honored too much. The simplicity of Doug’s treatment here gets to the essence of all there is to admire in the ordinary people who stood up to meet a destiny they did not seek, which changed the course of history to the benefit of all the generations that followed.

 

I won’t describe what happens here. I’ll just say my first hearing of this song caused me to weep. They were tears of gratitude for the subject of the song and all his fellows; and tears for the beauty and economy of the telling.

 

Nicely done, Doug; very nicely done.

 

 

 

David Eskelsen - The Intermountain Acoustic Musician (Dec, 2010)

Singin' on the Job.” Doug Wintch -- This is something of a concept album for the beloved Salt Lake City-based singer/songwriter, revealed by its subtitle, "Songs for Carpenters, Handymen, and the Not-So-Handy!" Wintch is a carpenter himself, so he knows the territory well.

These songs range from humorous to tear-jerking -- the first represented cleverly by his homage to a certain national home-remodeling chain, "T.H. D'peau" (sound it out), to the touching salute to the Greatest Generation, "Frank the Fighting Seebee."

Got a loved one who is a home-improvement guru who also appreciates a dose of humor and strong storytelling? This is the one.

Linda East Brady - Ogden Standard Examiner (Dec 17, 2010)

Doug Wintch    Wooden Nickels

"I never dreamed you'd take the roses

One might say you spoiled the plot

I never dreamed you'd take the roses

You've such a way with forget me nots."

 That's the lead-off track to this superb CD. As clever and catchy as it is, its only one of the many gems Wintch offers.

Plain spoken and genuinely affable, Wintch might remind some of John Prine or Guy Clark.  Vocally he's reminiscent of James McMurtry, but with more range.

Some might call this country, with the string bass, banjo, fiddle and acoustic slide intertwining, but then there's the surprises like soparano sax easing through "Dizzy Darlene." Darlene is "a walkin', talkin', dirty joke that the hometown cowboys tell." Wintch describes, dissects and defends her with a surgeon's skill.

Whether he's confessing his shortcomings in "You Never Had To Guess", or harping on his merits ("I paddled your canoe, I taught you mouth to mouth") in "Boy Scout Blues" Wintch makes his point with equal parts wit and wisdom.  Despite what you've been told, this is one case where (here it comes) its good to take Wooden Nickels.                         November / December  1995


Neil Fagan - The Performing Songwriter

Doug Wintch   Checkin' In

(LuDella)

This has no bearing on the quality of the album, but Doug Wintch looks exactly like some ungodly spawn of Christian Slater and Bruce Willis.  Really, its an uncanny resemblance. That aside, this album is very nice. Totally smooth, bluesy country music; never too honky, never too tonky. "Jackhammer Love" sounds like something Mark Knopfler might have penned back in his prime--these are pro guitar licks.  The songs are intelligently written, too--you'll find yourself listening to the stories as well as the music.  Doug Wintch is another one of those locals with a legitimate shot at the big time.   

Bill Frost, Ben Fulton & Eric Jacobsen - Salt Lake City Weekly (Aug 27, 1998)

DOUG WINTCH   "Checkin' In"   

LuDella Records

Right from the start, Doug Wintch lays it on the line:

I bought another round, like the first

She sobered up on me, quicker than a Mormon girl

She jumped back from the brink

I toppled over like a frou frou drink--"On the Street Again"

Wintch travelled to Kingsland, Texas, to record "Checkin' In." Whatever influenced him there, the result is astounding--or maybe it is just the rare moment of the artist moving to the next level. In the past, though Wintch was always entertaining and witty, he seemed to be holding something back.  "Checkin' In" sparkles. It reveals a stylstic Western singer and songwriter with maturity and something important to say.  Grade:B+

Martin Renzhofer - The Salt Lake Tribune (Sep 6, 1998)

Checkin' In:  Check It Out

Don't be fooled by the intent fix on the unshaven face looking out the front window of Doug Wintch's new release, Checkin' In.  Granted, the work rings with sensitive treatments including tributes to his mother, Alf Engen and a mysterious Lone Ranger--even The King. But along-side his tender and insightful moments there's a rollicking ride. Flip the disc over and you see Wintch (with a grin breaking through) and his Martin Dreadnaught. 

The sound on Checkin' In, engineered in Kingsland, Texas, carries the influence of its locale--slide guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and accordion are added to the mix. Friendships begun around a campfire at Kerrville transformed into a sharing of musical talents on CDs. Doug played harmonica and guitar on Mary and Bill Muse's record and they contributed heartily to Checkin' In. A little extra twang and cowboy sway on this one, Wintch rides bareback on Golden Palominos to the hoofbeats of Paul Pearcy's drums.

As convincing as this "gallopin' free" Southern boy persona is, the careful listener will be struck by the performing artist's literary sophistication. Perhaps his skilled use of metaphor and vivid language is Wintch's most unique talent. We see ski legend Alf Engen as "a symphony on a pair of skis...hurtling through the blue...a million cameos through the alpenglow." His entreaty to his departed mother to "send some balsam on the wind...and a sunset to soften" the heart of his lost "good woman." Frequent references to the coffee counter such as the stare from the "French Roast eyes" that are a "bottomless cup." I don't want to put to fine a point on it, but his phallic images are rather driving in "Jackhammer Love" and "Old Lightnin'." And inside the "Love Me Tender Beauty Shop," everybody gets "a little lathered up."

Abundant beguiling enigmas are tucked into each song. Queried about these, Doug's only reply is "Well, good! There's supposed to be." I coached one reference from him, learning that the inspiration for "Golden Palomino" came from the famous painting of a sleeping cowboy, a woman above him in the clouds on her horse with lariat and branding iron. Still one wonders just who was being put to rest by his pals, or just what was he looking for in "Something To Match Your Eyes," and just who was that masked person?

Musically the work ranges from a ballad style with nice guitar riffs in "The Lone Ranger," with its lyrical attributes and Texan/country flair, to the folk rock of "Jackhammer Love." Wintch's keen insights, vulnerability and sensitive lyrics intermingled with bawdy, stinging innuendo combine to give this release an unusual richness and diversity to a man far advanced from the original "three-chord renegade."

Luckily, the public will have a first-hand crack at this seasoned local artist. On Saturday September 26, join Doug and his band at the Ladies Literary Club, 850 East South Temple for a CD release concert at 7:30 p.m. Debuting at the time will be the the Doug Wintch Band with John Ause on drums and Charlie Culley on bass.  Hear this new folk rock group (none of the acoustics here) and pick up your own copy of Checkin' In.  

  

Lin Ostler - Intermountain Acoustic Musician (Sep, 1998)

Doug Wintch

a rose is a rose is a rose

Doug Wintch refers to himself as just "a guy who makes up songs." He finds the label, "songwriter" to be pretentious. Yeah, well Keith Richards just strummed a few riffs, Picasso just threw a few colors around and Ollie North told a few white lies. The truth: Wintch is a SONGWRITER. A crafty and clever one, too.

Wintch makes his home in Salt Lake City. By day he's a carpenter and a part-time ski instructor. At night he lays down his hammer and picks up his ax. You'll find him in various venues singing his tunes for anyone who'll listen. A lot of people seem to have heard him. He was recently voted "best songwriter" by the readers of Salt Lake's Private Eye Weekly. He's opened for Karla Bonoff, John McCutcheon, Bill Staines and The Story.

Now his old Utah friends and new fans around the country can take a little bit of Doug home with them in the form of his debut CD. Wooden Nickels. It's a 12 song, independent release and it stands as a fine showcase for Wintch's lean sound and keen word play. Comparisons have ranged from John Prine and James McMurtry to Bob Dylan and Joe Ely. Not bad company, but in the end Doug's voice is really well...Doug's voice.

"The Roses" is the lead-off track on Wooden Nickels. It recounts the true story of an ex-girlfriend returning to dig up the rose bushes they had planted together while their romance was, shall we say, still in bloom. "I never dreamed you'd take the roses / One might say you spoiled the plot." Pow! That's how it's done. Step in. A one-two punch and get back out! Face it Doug, you're a songwriter.

And just how did this old flame take to being immortalized in song? "Oh, we had a good laugh about it." Doug says. "We're still friends." Hmm. We all should have such devious ex's for songwriting inspiration.   

True stories are usually behind all of Wintch's tunes: small towns, big dreams, and characters so real you can almost see their faces coming out of the speakers. His close friends know they should watch what they do or say around him. They could be his next victim.

So call him a tunesmith, a storyteller, a songwriter...whatever. He likes Dylan. He works with his hands. He thanks everyone at least twice on his CD. In our book, he's a keeper.                                                   Fall Issue 1994


Neil Fagan - The Leak

 

Smart, Funny, and Replete with Twang
author: Ken Shaw
Smart, funny, and replete with twang, this album ages well, greater than great, transcendent. It is a masterpiece of a forgotten songwriting style of folk and country, a smarter bastard son that Jerry Jeff Walker would be proud to call his own.