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the days of suede / blog
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  • Jeffrey Alan Bright

rust belt gothic

With the rust belt states playing such a conspicuous role in the U.S. presidential election, I've been thinking about my own roots — and exodus from said parts. I was born and raised in rural southwest Ohio, went to college in Michigan and lived in Dayton for roughly seven years. On 8/8/88 Chris Green, Shannon Clair Young and myself loaded our vehicles and drove west until we could drive no further. On 8/13/88 we landed in San Francisco. Two months later we were joined by Eric Schulz, his girlfriend Karen and his Gretch Country Gentleman guitar, all also emigrating from the Dayton area.

Eric and I started collaborating on songwriting before leaving Ohio. We continued in SF and committed a batch of episodic songs to 4-track cassette in 1989. This would be our first demo recording. Without a drummer, Eric worked out arrangements borrowing Chris's Fender Precision bass and programming a Roland drum synthesizer.

With the songs recorded, Eric, Chris and I were now a band. We called ourselves Darke County — an actual county in Ohio (where I was born) and one that, at one time in the mid 20th Century, owned the dubious distinction of leading the nation in number of auto-train fatalities.

I didn't think too much about it at the time, but I see now all these songs were, in one way or another, about leaving the rust belt. Some are loosely autobiographical, some are fictitious, all are fairly melodramatic. The songs contain several film influences, including The Fugitive Kind, The Misfits, East of Eden, Bus Stop and In Cold Blood. Recently, I digitized the songs from cassette, including one of Eric's instrumental gems, and posted them on this site with the title Tales of Darke County.

Eric's work was exquisite; take careful note of arrangements on tracks such as "Bone Orchard" and "Lassoed by the Lariat of Love." Note: Included with album purchase and download is a cool PDF lyric booklet, complete with a totally gothic — in the American sense — set of photos from Abbottsville Cemetery in (where else?) Darke County.

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