Better for the Deal
15 songs • 2006
“The complete album is an admirable masterpiece.”
“Terrific lyrics. Perfect production. Inspired playing.”
“The Brains Behind Pa made a superb album. Fifteen strong songs in a row.”
Better for the Deal
The Brains Behind Pa
15 songs • 74 minutes • Released 04.06
All songs written by Bill Price ©2006 Mr. Quill Music (BMI)
Look Out Below
The Other Side of the River
Drowning of Thirst
City of Indians
Cold Enough to Snow
Queen of the Martyrs
The Point of Departure
Those Drier Side Blues
Ship of State
About the Album
Better for the Deal is the second The Brains Behind Pa release. It contains all original material that incorporates new ideas with the essence of the older music the band loves. While this album is certainly more contemporary than Old Hat, it would be inaccurate to describe it as “modern.” The songs were written not only to explore those styles and subjects that interest the band, but also to highlight the strengths of the band. A vast majority of it was recorded live over a two-year period beginning in the spring 2004 at The Lodge studios in Indianapolis.
1. Look Out Below
2. The Other Side of the River
4. Drowning of Thirst
5. Business Burlesque
6. Ugly Street
7. City of Indians
8. Running Still
9. Cold Enough to Snow
10. Queen of the Martyrs
11. Lookin’ Crooked
12. The Point of Departure
13. Silver Spade
14. Those Drier Side Blues
15. Ship of State
Produced by The Brains Behind Pa and Michael Graham
Recorded mixed and mastered at The Lodge by Michael Graham
Garry Bole: Accordion, Piano, Mandolin, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond organ
Gordon Bonham: National resophonic guitar, electric and acoustic guitar, harmony and lead vocals
Jeff Chapin: Drums
Bill Price: Acoustic and electric guitar, electric 12-string guitar, harmonica and lead vocals
Jeff Stone: Electric and acoustic bass
By Gabriele Buvoli, www.rootshighway.it 2007
It is not easy to find the right way to present a musical masterpiece like this one, by an unknown band from the Midwest, since really great albums like this one are so few and far between. Indeed, Better for the Deal is truly a splendid album: what makes it stand out even more is that it is the result of efforts put forth by this band for the debut release of their original songs, which perfectly bring together their love for Bob Dylan, traditional folk music and the blues.
The brains behind the project belong to Bill Price, also a solo singer-songwriter and the author of all the album’s tracks, not to mention the band’s lead vocalist, and Gordon Bonham, a guitarist who boasts a respectable blues resume, but is also perfectly at ease with folk rock material, adding a refined touch that never overpowers and provides each track with just the right strokes.
Garry Bole, a multi-faceted musician, also does a very respectable job, dividing his talents among the piano, the Hammond organ, the accordion and the mandolin, with a delicate touch that is much appreciated. The rhythm section, which consists of Jeff Chapin on drums and Jeff Stone on base, boasts significant experience both in rock-blues and jazz, bringing this musical circle to a full close.
Each and every one of the fifteen pieces contained in Better for the Deal is worth listening to, and some are of such high artistic value that they stand out above the others, all of which are very good to begin with. If “Look Out Below” is a perfect opening track to loosen things up with its Hammond and electric guitar phrasings, “The Other Side of the River” gets the band’s collective feet wet in the very pleasant waters of acoustic country rock while “Mudroom” is a faster, gripping electric track. With “Drowning of Thirst,” a languid ballad that features noteworthy acoustic threads and a melodic opening, the band is allowed to return to its territorial roots; “Business Burlesque” is a song that, despite the excellent interplay between Gordon Bonham’s electric guitar and Garry Bole’s electric piano, remains the creation of the songwriter, Bill Price.
“Running Still” shines thanks to Bonham’s blues phrasings on his National Resophonic; “Cold Enough to Snow” oozes Dylan from all of its pores; “Lookin’ Crooked” is another workout on the piano for Bole and a phenomenal song; “Silver Spade” is decidedly the high point of the album: here we are in the presence of one of the most heartfelt folk rock ballads that I have had the pleasure of listening to in recent times, with the piano that crosses it from beginning to end, intertwining with the acoustic guitar in breaks and restarts that really leave their mark.
“Those Drier Slide Blues” is one of the last stops, a valid country-blues acoustic piece; instead, the closing track is a wild ride through country rock in “Ship of State,” sealing a truly remarkable album, not only for the quality of its musical offerings, but also for the talent displayed by the artists. Let’s hope it is the first of many more to come.
By Huub Thomassen, www.realrootscafe.com 07.08
The Brains Behind Pa is a remarkable band name that is based on a Bob Dylan track that I am actually unfamiliar with. This Indianapolis band ultimately revolves around singer – songwriter Bill Price, who wrote and co-produced all fifteen songs. After releasing the EP Old Hat in 2002, the 2006 Better for the Deal is the band’s first official album. I don’t have a clue why the album was sent to us for a review two years after it came out. This is not a problem, however, since the saying ‘Better late than never’ applies in this instance. I mean, despite being more than seventy minutes long, the record does not let down for a second.
Tapping into the loosely present basic influences of traditional blues and folk, Bill Price plants a delightful bouquet of eclectic songs. This is because every track has been embellished by some aspect of nineteen sixties pop, bebop, rock(abilly) Cajun, bluegrass, funk, jazz or soul. They’re all pearls with a heartwarming, groovy sound that makes you take in influential names, sometimes while leaning back and sometimes while tapping your foot. What do you think of names like JJ Cale, The Band, The Doors, Jerry Garcia, Spirit, Don McClean and Bob Dylan?
Some songs have a swampy and funky rhythm, while others are characterized by meandering organs, a crystal clear piano sound or the spacious sounding guitar. In his poetic lyrics, Bill Price turns out to be an engaged observer with an opinion. ‘In the city of Indians – city of bone, city of promises gone, city of gloss, city of history lost’, he sings in the phenomenal acoustic ‘City of Indians’.
Bill Price’s somewhat affected voice – a little reminiscent of Steve Wynn – is rooted in the right musical foundation as a result of the more than terrific performance of his band. Guitar player Gordon Bonham is magnificent, but the performances of his friends (especially from his band The Gordon Bonham Bluesband) drummer Jeff Chapin, organ player Gary Bole (also on the mandolin and the accordion) and bass player Jeff Stone create a refreshing and colorful sound. Better for the Deal is an album filled with multi-faceted songs that are still exceptionally cohesive.
By Ronald Bervoets, www.rootstime.be 2007
Bill Price not only is a good songwriter, he also is an absolute wonderful singer. It took him two years to finish this record, and you can hear that in the result. It’s an abolute perfect recording, 15 great songs in a row.
By Freddy Celis, www.rootstime.be 2007
This band, with one of the most original names I’ve ever heard, was started in 2000 by songwriter Bill Price and guitarist Gordon Bonham. Shortly after, they were joined by Garry Bole.
This trio made their debut in 2001 with Old Hat, a collection of seven traditional folk and blues songs, written by Bob Dylan and some of his predecessors, like Woody Guthrie. Of course a sequel with original material just had to be forthcoming. Before it came out, the band linked up with Jeff Chapin and Jeff Stone, respectively a drummer and a bass player, to give the band a fuller sound. Add the fact that Garry Bole can play practically every instrument imaginable and you know that this band will take you anywhere you want to go. And with Better for the Deal this sequel has now finally become a fact. This time, Bill Price wrote all the songs himself. Which really makes you wonder why there were so many cover tunes on their debut album, because song writing is something he really has a knack for.
Their songs combine great lyrics with a variety of styles that is so enormous it just leaves you stunned. The diversity of the tracks knows no limits. From ‘rootsy’ pop ballads (“Silver Spade”) and sturdy rock (“Ship of State” and “Mudroom”) to beautiful Americana (“Look Out Below”), Alternative Country (“The Other Side of the River,” “Drowning of Thirst”), blues (“Lookin’ Crooked,” “Those Drier Side Blues”), and even Cajun (“The Point of Departure”). There’s nothing you could think up that these guys couldn’t play – and how! Bill Price doesn’t only come across as an amazing songwriter, but also a fine singer.
There are moments when his voice reminds me of Dan Stuart of Green On Red. It’s only fitting that our front man brought out his own solo debut in the summer of 2003, even before they started recording this one in 2004. Two years were spent working on this album, which is something you can really hear. They were clearly not skating over thin ice. A fantastic album by Bill Price and his band. Fifteen strong tracks in a row. I would say: Buy it; you can’t get anything Better For The Deal!
www.hificity.hu, Hungary 04.10.08
5 out of 5
The Brains Behind Pa, the American guitar band lead by Bill Price, was apparently out to achieve high quality while working on the album. They spent two years in The Lodge studios in Indianapolis perfecting their material. The complete album is an admirable masterpiece.
The album contains 15 compositions, so you can enjoy over 70 minutes of music. Bill Price is credited with writing all the songs. The style of the album can’t be labeled using a single category. Price and his fellow musicians play all styles that go well with a guitar – folk, blues, bluegrass, rock and rockabilly. However, their mixing of styles doesn’t end up in a chaos. The tracks on the playlist fall into place like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Omitting a single piece would make the system fall apart. This music has soul. The listener wouldn’t question the place of harmony on the scale of perception for a second. Some of the songs (e.g. “Ugly Street” and “Running Still”) make you feel like you are speeding along a desert highway in Nevada, riding a racing motorcycle or sitting at the wheel of a multi-thousand-cubic-centimeter-engine Chevrolet.
To cut a long story short, Better for the Deal is a proper well-rounded album with full sound, stretching the possibilities of guitar music to the limit. It represents a refreshing trip away from the hollow environment of contemporary pop music.
17 out of 20
The bassist Jeff Stone joins as a new member on the second production called Better for the Deal (already released in 2006) by The Brains Behind Pa. In contrast to the first album there are only new songs by singer/songwriter Bill Price released. Influences from folk, blues, bluegrass, folk rock and rockabilly are noticeable.
However the musical content is similar even with the new material. The style is immediately recognizable as The Brains Behind Pa. Greatly performed songs, to some extent relaxing, but also with an impelling groove. The cooperation with Jeff Stone is very positive.
Almost all of the songs have been recorded in a studio as a live-session. That gives it a fresh character. The sound is convincing and you hear and feel they must have had a great time and fun recording.
Better for the Deal is a little different from their debut album, but as great. Highly recommended.
Highlights: “The Other Side of the River,” Mudroom,” “City of Indians”
By Adolf ‘Gorhand’ Goriup, www.folkworld.eu 2007
The band Brains behind Pa was founded in Indiana and released the second album called Better for the Deal. Unlike their first album, Old Hat which contained more traditional songs, the new one has 15 compositions of Bill Price. The members around Price (vocal and guitar), are: Gordon Bonham (vocal, guitar), drummer Jeff Chapin, bassist Jeff Stone and multi instrumentalist Garry Bole (several keyboards, mandolin and accordion).
The CD starts off with “Look Out Below.” The groove of electric guitar, Hammond organ and electric piano accompany Bill Price’s vocals and drums & bass set electrifying rhythm, followed by country-rock and rock ‘n’ roll pieces but also quiet ballads and blues songs like “Lookin’ Crooked.” Bole is on the piano where Bonham plucks the guitar, together with vocals and rhythm; you have a very soulful and sentimental blues. “The Point of Departure” is country/Cajun rock at its finest. Bole is brilliant with the accordion.
Last but not least I wanted to mention the wonderful ballad “Silver Spade.” With a simple arrangement and great voice sings Price to the piano while guitar, bass and drums stay in the background.
This band created a fantastic album. This is first-class pleasure to listen to.
8.5 out of 10
The debut album Old Hat produced by this band from Indianapolis was released in 2001. At that time it mainly leaned toward folk and blues, the style changed a little in the meantime. Although you can still hear the roots of the protagonist considerably, the sound as well as the song writing of Better for the Deal is much more approachable. Not to be confused with flat, polished or over the top. All of the songs make this a real insider tip.
The absolute king of the hill is Bill Price, who wrote, co-produced and except for one, sung all of the 15 tracks of this long player. I found it very interesting that although this album is inspired by the influences by other acts, the band and Bill Price nevertheless created their very own piece with clever and accomplished songwriting.
This long player starts off with “Look Out Below” and “The Other Side of the River” with a touch of J.J. Cale. Price doesn’t sound quite as scratchy as Cale, but they are not a long way away from each other. The atmosphere is swampy and muggy, dull like a hot summer day. “Mudroom” is brisk, and the feeling reminds a little of Guy Clark.
The Brains Behind Pa bring out the big guns at all of the 15 songs. The tracks are vibrant and lead from an initial, Oh Well to a fascinated listening.
The song “Ugly Street” for example has an intoxicating groove and with the songwriting very well done, it takes you by storm. Spartan and simplified, still refreshing and impressive, pulsative. Besides J.J.Cale, there is a hint of Tom Petty in, Better for the Deal and here and there I can’t help it but think of Mark Knopfler.
And here another song “Cold Enough To Snow” which very well could be penned by the godly Townes Van Zandt (R.I.P.). The only song not vocalized by Bill Price (rather lead guitarist Gordon Bonham) is a singer/songwriter-highlight and very enjoyable. This album can compete for bragging rights with “City of Indians,” “Queen of the Martyrs,” “The Point of Departure” or “Those Drier Side Blues,” amongst others, if you’re open to it.
Better for the Deal is like the chosen one, the beloved you don’t want to live without, but whose heart wants to be captured. If taken the time and love to do it, you’ll be rewarded! This long player gets better and better the more you listen to it.
Ultimately Better for the Deal can be voted with 8.5 out of 10 and is responsible for the new “The Brains Behind Pa-Addiction” of the reviewer. An album for gourmets!
By Benny Metten, Central Alternative Country 2007
It is and will always be a great name for a band! My lady always puts on a big smile when she hears their name. The Brains Behind Pa, just try coming up with something like that! The band started in 2000 when singer-songwriter Bill Price and guitarist Gordon Bonham put their heads together and hauled multi-instrumentalist Garry Bole on board a little later to start an acoustic trio. In 2001 the three of them ‘canned’ their debut CD Old Hat. This CD was a collection of seven traditional folk and blues songs, and you could consider it as the running jump to what just had to follow. We are, of course, talking about an album with (more) original material. Before they started recording, Jeff Chapin and Jeff Stone, respectively a drummer and a bass player were brought in.
And now, with Better for the Deal there’s finally a new album. For this album, Bill Price wrote all the songs himself. And it must be said, the man has some great tunes up his sleeve and apparently knows his way around just about any kind of music. His song material is a real melting pot of influences. It can go practically everywhere. From roots to pop (the piano ballad “Silver Spade”) and rock (“Ship of State,” “Mudroom”) to Americana (“Look Out Below”), Alternative. Country (“The Other Side of the River,” “Drowning of Thirst”), blues (“Lookin’ Crooked,” “Those Drier Side Blues”), Cajun (“The Point of Departure”) – hey, anything goes! It looks like this quintet could turn their hand at just about any kind of music. And with Price on board, they don’t just have an amazing songwriter, but also a fine singer. That reedy quality his voice has sometimes makes me think a little of Dan Stuart of Green On Red. Really interesting stuff!
By Patrick Donders, www.hanx.net 2007
The Brains Behind Pa is Bill Price and Gordon Bonham’s homage to Bob Dylan. You couldn’t really call it a tribute band, but together with Jeff Stone, Garry Bole and Jeff Chapin their goal was to make music in the spirit of Bob Dylan and his predecessors. Roots music with a message is what you could call it.
“Look Out Below” is a bluesy and smooth start that sounds like they could have been sitting right next to Robert Cray in a hot car, gliding through the suburbs of a big city. Which isn’t so strange, considering Gordon Bonham’s blues background. The Brains Behind Pa is a full-time job for these gentlemen and they all play somewhere else as well or solo, with Bonham always sticking to the blues.
Bill Price, the band’s figurehead and songwriter, isn’t the greatest singer and sings, just like the old maestro, with a wobble. He uses a lot more melody but the vocals are not the strongest part of The Brains Behind Pa, which I would call combination of Price’s epistles and his companion’s bluesy guitar sound. The songs on Better for the Deal can be roughly divided into two categories. “Look Out Below” is a prime example of one of these, but there are enough numbers where the smooth blues sound doesn’t predominate, if you mean the other category. There are moments that the maestro is honored in the most exemplary way. Where Better for the Deal makes it greatest contribution is in the balance between these two and the expert musicianship of the players in general.
Gary Bole can play the mandolin beautifully and when Bonham gets a chance to do his own stuff, it’s a hit every time. These gentlemen aren’t doing themselves a favor by presenting this as an homage to Dylan. It would also do just fine standing proudly on its own two legs.
Bill Price and his colleagues The Brains Behind Pa explores the American music tradition with both wit and finesse. Guitar player Gordon Bonham give the songs a kind of bluesy streak, which benefits the material fine. A very enjoyable album, that sometimes run into real 70’s Little Feat-territory!
Scattered, but still charming and peculiar…..
By Jörgen Boman, Musiklandet 6.11.07
This record opens with a track that could have been an outake from Dylan’s Slow Train Coming. It’s no coincidence either, as it turns out. Bill Price, the man behind the spaced-out bandname The Brains Behind Pa, has long since come out of the closet as a fanatic Dylan disciple. The record suffers from some lines here and there, that for dylofiles, appear ridiculously parodic when spoken the personal tongue of Dylan’s. After the first couple of songs, one starts to think: Are there really artists who still believe that the best way to show their admiration for somebody is to copy him?
It all improves on the simpler, more country-tinged tracks. Then, Bill Price lets go of his dylanisms and dares to be personal. A #3+ rating is saved by tracks such as “The Other Side of the River,” a tasteful country tune, built up by a punkish accordian. Suddenly, the man who adored Dylan and The Beatles rips apart, becoming something of a savage Perssons Pack. It’s that punkish accordian that’s the key to this record.
And since I love everything sounding as if it was recorded in San Fransisco in 1969, I capitulise when I hear “City of Indians,” a gorgious country ballad that sounds like something Jerry Garcia could have written after a couple of heavy puffs on the porch during a break in the touring schedule.
The Cry of the Coyote, France 2007
Bill Price is very much the leader of the group: he writes all the songs, he sings and the web site address bears his name. Is it because of his nasal and nonchalant voice that resembles that of Dylan or of Phil Leish or because of the notes of the organ and the accordion that make one think of the Band that accompanied Bob in the great era? Songs where the songwriters are obviously fucked in placing them on the backs of persnickety radio DJs. Between Dire Stait guitar solos and Chris Rearien swing. The 15 tracks of this third CD deal with the environment, crime, loss, drugs, love and America in a diverse instrumentation [that is] clean-cut and decidedly laid back.
MazzMuzikaS, Free-zine, Belgium 2007
This is the second record of this five-member band, that made its debut in 2002 with Old Hat; a record with mostly traditional tunes. The new record consists of fifteen self-written and therefore more modern tracks.
The songwriter here is Bill Price, who also plays guitar and harmonica. He put the band together in 2001 with bluesman Gordon Bonham, who is very well-known in the region and a much requested session musician. When they first met in 2001, Price and Bonham discovered that they have a love for Bob Dylan’s music in common, and for Dylan’s inspiration: The traditional folk and blues.
Currently the Brains are a five-member ensemble: Jeff Chapin (drums) on percussion and Jeff Stone on bass are responsible for the rhythmic groove that form the basis for Garry Bole’s freewheeling style. Together they create a wonderful group sound that more than once echoes the music of J.J. Cale, Dire Straits or Daniel Lanois.
The songs might be filed under roots, with a slight preference for the rock part of the store. The record is easy to listen to, is very radio-friendly and is not, at any time, annoying. A few little surprises might have been a good idea, because let’s be honest: We were not captivated for all of the more than 75 minutes. The record is a little bit too monotonous for that. But if consumed in the right amount, this is very pleasant music to listen to, that would work well in most households. (DH)