Our Co-Founder/West Village Editor/Music Majordomo Brian Cullman has managed to release a new solo record (Winter Clothes, Sunnyside Records, September 2020) against the swelling tide of global pandemic, carceral restriction and cognitive panic. In addition to a long and fruitful career as a music journalist – for Creem (under the tutelage of Lester Bangs), Crawdaddy, Musician, Rolling Stone, Spin and Details – and having won the ASCAP /Deems Taylor Award three times, he has always enjoyed a shadow career as a working musician, producer and songwriter (or maybe it’s the other way around), in both guises nudging the tributaries of culture in the right direction.
This is from his official bio, but it gives a good sense of the milieu he stumbled into early and never entirely left:
“When I was 15, I met Lillian Roxon, author The Rock Encyclopedia, and decided to ask if my songs were any good. She said I should play them for her friend Danny Fields, so she dragged me and my crummy guitar down to his house in Chelsea. Danny was the house hippie at Elektra Records, he’d signed the Stooges and the MC5, and he knew everyone. We walked in, it was dark, there were candles everywhere. Edie Sedgwick was in the corner, in bra and panties, cutting out pictures from Vogue Magazine. Jim Morrison was passed out drunk on the couch. Nico, I was told, was in the bedroom, hiding from Morrison. The phone kept ringing. Once it was Leonard Cohen, looking for Nico. Danny told him to go away.”
It would be decades before everyone in that paragraph was a household name, and now they’re all many of us know of that dim, transmuted time. Lighting out for London while still in his teens, he sought out the one person he knew from obscure album credits, producer Joe Boyd, and wound up hanging out with Richard and Linda Thompson, fielding guitar tips from John Martyn, singing backup for Sandy Denny, and opening for and befriending Nick Drake.
As far as I can tell, his whole life has been like this – much of it recounted in his pieces for the Paris Review and in these pages. His late ’80s band band OK Savant variously featured Gang of Four bassist Sara Lee and later Vernon Reid of Living Colour, but like so much around it, never made it across the Hudson River. Along the way, he’s produced tracks or albums for Lucinda Williams (with Taj Mahal), gospel upstarts Ollabelle, Youssou N’Dour’s guitarist Jimi Mbaye, and a host of world music acts whose significance we will only realize decades from now. Also, he’s psychic.
Winter Clothes is Brian’s third solo album. Co-produced with former Ollabelle guitarist Jimi Zhivago (who sadly succumbed to cancer before it was released), it’s a barnburner – in the autumnal, mortality-infused manner of someone on the leeward side of a life well lived. Here’s a sample:
Our West Village Editor with his post-Covid non-haircut.
Serious young fella.
-Paul Cullum, Friend of JOTPY
Winter Clothes is available on iTunes, Spotify, and the usual suspects.