Monday, October 14, 2013

Benefit Album Puls A Good Will Pick

Brent Puls
Sometimes when artists suffer tragedies, they're not prepared. A few months ago, we wrote about one of them. Bob "Slim" Dunlap suffered a stroke and dozens of musicians rallied to help him raise money in preparation for the round-the-clock care he may need for the rest of his life.

This month, we'd like to introduce another artist who found himself struggling after an emergency surgery left his family saddled with medical bills: Brent Puls. Even if you haven't heard of Puls before, there is a good chance you've heard him.

He is a former member of the funk jazz band Bumpus and glam pop outfit Grammar. He left the latter three years ago to set out on a solo career. He was busy booking gigs and putting out indie pop EPs when when a childhood ailment finally caught up and nearly killed him. He's been recovering ever since.

To help him through it, 19 different artists cobbled together a selection of songs, many of them never previously released, for the sole purpose of helping Puls get out of debt and back to making music. All the artists ask is anyone enjoying the album to kick in $10. The songs are worth that on their own.

Joe Pug kicks off National Endowment For The Brents. 

The compilation leads off with Hymn 101 by Joe Pug. The song originally appeared on Pug's debut Nation Of Heat EP. It's a classic folk rock song that captures the world weariness of a drifter, and the meanings he attaches to a lifetime spent trying to figure out life. If you've never heard it, here's a clip.

The powerful start does a splendid job foreshadowing the rest of the album. Many of the tracks lean toward folk rock. Following up Pug is singer-songwriter Susie Asado, lending the sparsely appointed Autobiography Of A Skyscraper from Traffic Island. The track is a perfect stop before indie rock/pop band Any Kind shares Lost Again, I Am, which was taken down to make room for their new album.

There are more surprises moving down the track list. Pat Sansone (Wilco) donated Birdy On The Moon from an album yet to be released. Rachel Yamagata donated the demo version of Fish, which had never been previously released. Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under) added the must-listen Just Cuz and Puls's old band Bumpus added Hi Tek to the mix.

Aside from better-known names, check crooner pop Clip Art, alt folk outfit Rivals Of The Peacemakers led by Alexandra Watson, and Chicago-based post bluegrass pickers Leadfoot. The latter's Jailhouse is a duet with Steve Haberichter and Nikki Giblin.

The balance is worth a listen too, with all of the contributors sharing Chicago as their common ground. It's a great indication of how tight-knit Chicago singer-songwriters have become, off stage as well as on stage. Their support has already helped Puls get back to writing music.

There could be a good reason Puls made On The Road To The Wilderness lighter than some of his earlier material. It fits the light at the end of the tunnel theme, but it isn't about his surgery. Puls decided to write about the end of a relationship, not as it happened but rather after you forget that there even was a heartbreak. The download is free, an unspoken thank you for everyone supporting the album.

The National Endowment For The Brents Is A Liquid Hip Good Will Pick. 

At least once a month, Liquid Hip highlights good will efforts undertaken by people with big hearts. We don't score them. That belongs to you.

While we can't cover every artist benefit, the immediate and spontaneous support from all these artists seemed so authentic and touching that we thought it deserved some additional attention. In more ways than one, it feels like catching someone in the act of doing good and makes one wonder what they might do to help someone close to them too.

National Endowment For The Brents is on Bandcamp. All proceeds directly benefit Puls and his family. For an introduction to his indie pop solo work, check out Empty Ampersands by Brent Puls on iTunes. Start with the track Faster Than Light.
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