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* Sacramento News And Review, - 2006 - In the Mix
* Sacramento News And Review, - August 7th, 2004 - Of urban jazz and stringy lords

* Alive & Kicking, - October, 2003 - The Past

* Sacramento News And Review, - December 28, 2000 - Heart With Tears

* Alive & Kicking, - June, 2000 - Third Degree

* Alive & Kicking, - July, 2000 - Third Degree

* Sacramento News And Review, - July 20, 2000 - Scene & Heard

* Sacramento News And Review, - March 30 - Sammies

* Sacramento News And Review, - October 1999 - Darkness And Light

* Alive and Kicking, - November 1997 - Biography, Songs From Winter Review

* The Grind, -March/April 1998 - Songs From Winter Review

* The California Aggie, - August 10th, 1998- Songs From Winter Review

* Alive and Kicking, - Decmeber, 1998 - The New Old CD Review

* Sacramneto News and Review, - December, 1998 - The New Old CD Review

* The California Aggie, - December, 1998 - The New Old CD Review

* Valley Music News, - January / February, 1999 - Interview, The New Old CD Review







  In the Mix - Music
David Houston
David and the Christynas
Dark Music

By Cary Rodda

David Houston is one of those amazing artists who continue to crank out excellent records year after year. This one, with Houston on guitar, Christina Maradik on viola and Krystyna Ogella on cello (hence the title), has a feel slightly more subdued than Houston’s usual. He tends to revel in the dark side of life, particularly in reports of romantic heartache--and who can’t relate to a good tale of love gone wrong? That’s why Houston’s music speaks to so many Sacramento music aficionados. Here he complements his own compositions with two Leonard Cohen covers and the Bob Dylan classic “My Back Pages,” and, tellingly, he makes those songs his own. Houston fans definitely will want to add this one to their collections--and if you aren’t already a fan, well, what are you waiting for?


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The Past
by Cary Rodda


  The Dark Lord, David Houston has released an album of cover songs here. Although such records can be iffy propositions, David has managed to make this record every bit as good as his other fine original CDs. He got the idea as he was working on the release of his Public Nuisance material, when he was ask by Old Ironsides' Kim Kanelos to play at one of the venue's theme shows... with the theme being "Song's From The Sixties". Thus this CD is all songs from 1960-69. Which songs are they you ask? Ah, that's half the fun here. David didn't put a song list on the CD artwork, preferring to let people try and identify the songs themselves. He will eventually post the list on his Web site, but meanwhile you can have fun testing your '60 musical knowledge. That test isn't something that would challenge you with little-known obscurities though. Let's just say I was able to ID all but a couple songs, and had fun doing it. On a more general note, David was pretty successful in tweeking the songs enough to make them his own. Most adhere somewhat closely to the original versions (except the two I didn't know which I couldn't speak for). But by adding different sound textures or vocal phrasings, David changes them so he doesn't sound like a cheesy cover band. Suffice it to say you should check this CD out for yourself. Besides, it's hard to go wrong with anything David releases. Check it out!  



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Third Degree 6/00

by Cary rodda

Part one

It's cloudy and rainy out, and it's the middle of May for crying outloud.What the heck is this? I already put away my raincoat. I thought summer was right around the corner. But on the other hand, it's perfect weatherfor doing what I will be doing today. That would be interviewing the Dark Lord of Sacpop, David Houston.

David is one of the most interesting and complex people I've met in Sacramento. He is also absolutely one of the nicest people I know. I always feel a little better when David shows up anywhere I happen to be.The dichotomy of David is that as much as people love the guy, some ofthe most dark and brooding music I've ever heard emanates from his soul. Indeed, his honorary title of Dark Lord stems much more from his music than the fact he tends to favor wearing black and dons dark sunglasses when he plays.

David, like so many of us, somehow found his way into a band at an early age."I was taking lessons at a music store, he says. I don't remember what it was that made me think, Hey, I want to start a band, but I remember talking to my neighbor and deciding to start a band. But we needed adrummer so I called the music store and they gave me the name of adrummer. I called him up and said something like Hey, you want to be ina band?‚ He said, Yeah, sure! So I said come over Saturday and we'll practice then I hung up. Somehow he found his way to my house and I never even thought about it till afterward I wondered how he found out where I lived. It turned out he had called the music store and they told him."

David's music is not easy to describe, not easily falling into one particular genre. "My music doesn't seem like it really fits anywhere," he says. "It doesn't really fall into folk because it's a little too poppy. It's not really in the pop vein because it might not be poppy enough. It's not alternative because it's not alternative enough, but it's not normal because it's a little too alternative. So, it's kind of in a limbo,which I wouldn't recommend to anyone. I would suggest finding a niche and really going for that.

"For example, Go National's sound is definitely power pop. The Mummydogs? They are a little more obscure as far as where they go. But I would lean them a little bit more toward alternative. Popgun is pop. Deathray is pop. Baby Grand, what are they? Pop. David Houston, what is he? Well, that depends on what day you see him. One day I'll show upwith a band and the next night I'll show up with Erik Kleven and sound all melancholy and morose."

All this ambiguity suits David very well. "I don't like being in one category because I think that's really conventional," he says. "It's easier to say what my music is not. It's not house music, it's not dance music, it's not rap or country music, it's not surf music or power pop."

But one word many people can agree to use in describing David's sound is'dark.' Often minor mode music combines with stark lyrics that many times explore the darker side of life.

"The darkness comes from trying to write about something that touches somebody else," David explains. "I think we all have dark interiors that we're afraid to look at. I don't know if I consciously go there (when writing). I think I've always been partial to favoring minor modes and the darker side of things. I have a melancholy personality even though I might not show it in a one-on-one situation out in public.

"I don't intentionally write dark material. I write about what I see happening to other people a lot. It's my own interpretation of what I'm seeing and I put a lot of myself into that. So it's seeing happiness ortragedy strike someone else and wanting to try and capture that moment and be honest with it. It's an elusive thing."

The darkness can reach out and effectively touch people at his shows."Sometimes I'll get people at a show and they'll be (sobbing) I just broke up with my boyfriend. I'm not coming to any of your concerts anymore, David says. "And that's great. Last night I was playing and some kid came up to me and said he'd just had the greatest slow dance with his girlfriend during one of my songs. He didn't know which one. And that's great too. Even though people think the music is dark, it's not necessarily a negative thing."

And the Dark Lord tag he has been hung with "As far as the Dark Lord thing,that's silly," David smiles. "Ben Morsss actually coined that phrase at one of his Sacpop Sunday shows where he would come up with nicknames foreveryone who played."

Local musicians will also tell you that David manages to get some of the most talented players in Sacramento to play with him. When accompanied, David plays with three of the best bass players in town. "Erik Kleven, Larry Tagg, Harley White are three of the most different and talented musicians I know, Davis says. "Playing with them tends to keep me on my toes and stayin the song because they're creating a new environment around that. I just love it. It makes it not safe. So, somebody coming to see me doesn't necessarily hear the same song every time."

David also plays with some excellent drummers, including Matt McCord, Rat a tat Pat, Larry Schiavone, and Garin Casaleggio. I ask David how he manages to hook up with such great players, and he modestly says it's because he pays them.

"I can't pay the musicians that play with me enough," he says. "I can't pay Erik Kleven or Larry Tagg what they're worth. And yes, they do it for free sometimes, but I don't ever want to take them for granted. It's so great to play with them. When you play with musicians there's acertain bond you form. You might not ever see them outside of a gig, butthere's this thing that happens and you become closer. It's just a greatthing."

But there's more to it than money. These guys wouldn't play with David and keep coming back if they didn't get something musically out of it too."I encourage a freedom with them to just be in the moment, David says."So, it's never the same. If something happens and somebody accidentally does something different, we just go with it. The musicians I work with are intuitive enough players to where they can improvise. Sometimes it'scrash and burn and it doesn't work. But that's just what happens that night. Other times it just all comes together."

One of the things about a David Houston show is you never know who he's going to show up with, if anyone. He says he got that approach from listening to a Bob Dylan record, who also happens to be one of his influences along with Leonard Cohen and The Beatles.

"I was cleaning my house, when I still did that," David smiles. "It might have been the last time I did. I was listening to the Bob Dylan anthology record and he was playing one of his songs with just him andan acoustic guitar. It literally just stopped me in my tracks. It was soamazing to me that he could do that. I'd never heard anything but theelectric version. It totally transformed the song into a new thing. That influenced me and showed me you can show up with a band or you can show up by yourself and just try to make that connection."

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Third Degree 7/00

by Cary Rodda

Part two

David is so interesting I had to make his article into a two-parter. Last month I
focused on his music and the people who occasionally accompany him. This
month, we examine David's work as a music producer, his instrument
collection, and his take on the local scene.
David got his first taste of this side of the music world when his first
band was signed to a demo deal for ABC Dunhill. Terry Melcher was the
executive producer and Eric Weinberg was the producer/engineer. Although
no record resulted from the experience, David found himself intrigued by
the world of recording.
"Working with Eric and doing that recording started me to thinking that
I'd like to do that too. So, I got my own little studio," David says.
I also asked David about longtime rumors I've heard about him working
with Todd Rundgren in the studio. "Let's get that straight, OK?" David smiles.
"Please, let's set this story right. Brent Bourgeois and Larry Tagg were making
their second recording, which Todd Rundgren produced. Brent and Larry asked
me if I would bring my emulator and drum machine down for them to use. So I
took my emulator synthesizer and drum machine and got to sit in the corner.
"That's all I did. I didn't work with Todd Rundgren. I met him. We
chatted and talked. I guess you could call it working to say when he
wanted to hear a sound and I'd call up the sound. But it was like
'Please do this. Yes sir.' But it was Brent and Larry working with Todd
Rundgren as the guys he was producing. I was  just sort of there on the
periphery. Larry still works with Todd. Last New Year's Eve he did a
gig with him."
But, humility aside, David has worked with some big names in the music
biz. He recorded 'Lean on Me' for Club Nouveau, which was a #1 hit. He
also did some work with Latoya Jackson. "It was kind of an engineering thing,"
David says of that job. "Latoya Jackson came on the heels of 'Lean on Me.'
(Club Nouveau's) Jay King was the executive producer on a song for her. You
know when somebody has a hit, everybody flocks to that person or that group
or that whatever. If a studio produces a number one hit, everybody will want to
go there. The thinking is 'if they had a hit, we can have a hit.' (Latoya Jackson
and Jay King) came in and it was just 'Hi, how are you? Let's get to work.'"
Latoya Jackson's not a big enough name for you? How about R&B giants
David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks? "David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks were
like Latoya Jackson," David says. "We were excited to have them in here.
They walked in the door and literally walked right into the studio. No sitting
around and relaxing. They walked right in the studio and were ready to go.
It was the weirdest thing. You could turn on the record button and they could go
from beginning to end and it would sound absolutely great. That was the
irst time I had experienced that phenomenon. Two different people singing
together at the same time, just going right through a song. How do they do that?
It was totally amazing. And when they were done it was 'Got a plane to catch,'
and they left."
David also worked with guitarist Earl Slick, longtime sideman of David Bowie.
"Earl Slick was a little different (from the others)," David says. "He was
working with Phantom/Slick/Rocker at that time. My friend Ron Mc Master was
working at Capitol Records and they were coming in to do a recording.
Earl's wife, June Millington, and he wanted to come up to do some demos.
Talk about pros! They came up Friday night, set the gear up, kind of
dinked around on it, we turned the record button on a couple times so
they could see how it sounded, then they said 'OK, we'll see you tomorrow.'
"They came in the next day and said 'Let's try one.' They were a very
rehearsed band and knew what they were doing. They went out there and
boom! They'd do a take or two and that was it. Then they'd stop, go out
and have a cup of coffee and a couple cigarettes, take about a half an
hour or so, and then they'd try another song. They wouldn't just run
through all their songs, bam, bam, bam. That was weird because we
weren't used to that. They'd take the time to empty that palette or
vessel or whatever, and then move on to the  next one. A very interesting
way of doing it."
Now before you go running to David with your recording project, be
forewarned that he doesn't jump at every offer or request. "I just take what
comes my way selectively," David says. "I might take a project on just because
I like the band and want to help them regardless of whether they're relatively
inexperienced or fully developed as an artist. I might just like them and want
to help and be a part of their growth."
In keeping with that spirit David doesn't even have a name for his
studio since he's not out actively soliciting business. "I want people to make
up their own name and call it what they want to call it when they come in and
record. Because I don't really think of it as a recording studio. I just tend to
think of what I do as projects I'm working on. I'm not trying to sell a studio
or a name."
Some of the monikers David's studio has been tagged with are The Dark
Room, Dharma studio (David Houston's Audio Recording Mother's Annex), and Rainbows and
Lollipops Studios.
One of the many things that have impressed me about David is his ability
to draw on an awesome collection of guitars  and equipment. David has
some of the best (and best sounding) guitars I've ever seen or heard.
I asked him to tell me about his guitar collection. "I don't have one," David
jokes. Well, how many guitars do you have?
"Too many," he smiles. "I don't have a wife, I don't have kids, so this
is my wife and kids. It started a long time ago. I had three guitars, a
Telecaster, a Gibson 175 and some other guitar I don't remember at the
moment. The person I was involved with needed me to some money. 
I sold the 175 because I never used it. Like a
year or two later I had a use for that guitar and I wanted to play it. I
realized then that things go in cycles even with instruments. They might go
out of style or I might stop playing them for whatever reason, but
they'll come back around again.
"Also, when you have an instrument, you start (or I) to attach emotions and
feelings to that instrument. And I believe the instrument responds to
that. If you neglect a guitar then you try to pick it up and play it,
it'll break a string or stay out of tune. If you don't neglect them,
they'll treat you nice.
"When you're recording, there's a big need for different sounds," David
continues. "You can't play a Strat and expect to get a Les Paul sound
out of it. You can't have a Telecaster and expect to get a Strat sound.
You can't have a Gretsch and expect to get a Fender sound. So I kept
trying to acquire different guitars to get different sounds because I
couldn't work processors enough to get the sounds I needed.
"It's the same thing with amps. You get a different sound with each
guitar you have and you get a different sound with each amp you have.
It's very subtle, but as a player, you know the difference. Guitars or
amps interact with you as a player and make you think of a different
line or a different way to play something.That's important to me."
Like almost everybody I interview, I asked  David what he thinks of the
local music scene.
"I think it's rocking," David enthuses. "I think it's really good. There
seems to be a number of different musical communities, and when I say
communities, I mean a group of friends who are supportive of each other,
and generally other groups and musicians too. One group might be from a
certain area and they all support each other, but they don't normally
dis other groups.
"The scene is pretty inspiring actually. There's a lot of talent.
There's some really good, positive stuff. There's all kinds of music and
it's all pretty good. There's not enough places to play, but there are
places to play. It seems like there's an audience for live music. It's
not just musicians, but regular people seem to be going to see live
music. I don't know if that's true, but it seems that way. And I think
the musicians themselves are not staying at home and are at least going
out and seeing their friends' bands."

Now David has another record out to go along with his excellent earlier
releases 'The Wendy Tapes,' 'Songs of Winter,'  and 'The New Old CD.'
"This CD is different from 'The New Old CD', which was softer and more
reflective," David says. "It's fuller and not as sparse. It's more
band-oriented. There are a lot of singers and guitars. Some people have
said these songs are poppier.
Whether he's poppy or dark, or dark and poppy at the same time, you can
bet that David will certainly have something very worthwhile to offer on
his new CD. Check him out when he's playing around town, and be sure to
give his CD a spin.

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Sacramento News And Review, December 28, 2000

David Houston / Heart With Tears

by Leslie de Vries


Houston, working with some local pros, maintains his dark nature even on upbeat numbers such as "Everything I Need"- it sounds happy, but Houston uses the familiar rhetoric device of "not!' to return us to his slough of despair. The disc features many melodic guitar hooks and Matt McCords driving drums on most songs, which provide a solid foundation for Houston's lilting voice. The songs are hopefully sad. "I'm Into You" is a standout - nice melody, swooping lazy chorus, subtle organ, and the odd Beatles reference supported by solid rhythm by drummer Mike Urbano and bassist Larry Tagg, both from "80s Sacpop band Bourgeois-Tagg. Houston shines in darkness again, bringing to voice the plaintive and discontented soul of humanity. The line "It's loneliness that's driving me on" on "A Minor Medley" captures Houston's core musical philosophy. This Is a great CD for pining,hook-addicted lovers.

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Sacramento News And Review, July 20, c2000

Sacto Songwriters at The Distillery

by Dale Stromberg


Approximately once a month, local songwriters converge on The Distillery for

Songwriters' Night; it's a great opportuity to sample Sacramento's best

practitioners of the songwriting craft - and the cover charge is nice and low,

too, for scenesters on a shoestring. Last Thursday, four performers assembled

there to play intimate selections from their work.


Though he played second on the bill, David Houston's set was the highlight of

the show for me. Houston's vocals get a lot of comparisons to Leonard

Cohen's and Roger Waters', but that's all secondary to the force and delicacy

of his music. On Thursday, he appeared with an upright bassist (Harley White)

and a percussionist (Rat-A-Tat Pat Balcom); Houston surrounds himself with

excellent musicians, the sort who add tasteful and powerful accompaniment but

know better than to showboat. Houston sing gentle, moving melodies, his

lyrics touching on all themes having to do with pain, sadness,heartache - but

he's never depressing; he writes of pain overcome, heartache survived. The

simplicity of his music is deceptive; he's a songwriter's songwriter, a master

of wringing a moving climax from a stark arrangement. He's an emotionally

bare vocalist; syllables slide from his throat and across the microphone,

haunting and raw. His set alone made the entire evening worthwhile and then


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Sacramento News And Review, March 30 2000

David Houston-for better or worse-is like everyone's favorite secret.

Which is to say he's one of those artists' artists. A cult favorite, a

musical ero-in other words, somebody you may not have heard of but who

would have you doing back flips of joy if you had. Long recognized and

respected by his peers as one of the scene's most talented songwriters,

David Houston started penning tunes in his teens. Influenced by the

likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Lennon and McCartney, Houston's

own songs are delicate and dark, moody and literate. "It's the human

condition, to live a life of regret," broods Houston on "The Human

Condition." "Misunderstanding emotions we'd rather forget." Lest you

think Houston is all darkness and plight, however, a quick rundown of

his favorite pop songs-The Byrd's "Turn Turn Turn" and Crowded House's

"Don't Dream It's Over" among others-confesses an optimistic, almost

cheerful character." -Rachel Leibrock

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Sacramento News And Review, October 1999

Darkness and Light

David Houston

By Rachel Leibrock


You might call him the quintessential "songwriter's songwriter." With scores of local musicians heralding his talent, David Houston is probably best known within the inner circles of the Sacramento music scene, his influence, however, is far-reaching. With a gold record, studio stints with the likes of Todd Rundgren and members of the Temptations and production credits that read like a local Who's Who, David Houston has worked steadily to establish himself as one of the area's foremost producers. Moreover, his songwriting talents-evidenced on a handful of CDs including 1998's The New Old CD-have earned him an enduring respect among his peers.

Houston's musical history dates back to the '70s when he played guitar in a local band that recorded in Los Angeles. Houston describes the band-Public Nuisance-as one of the "first punk bands ever."

"We didn't play punk but we certainly were a bunch of little punks," he says.

The band's hope for a label deal eventually faded and Houston returned to Sacramento where he continued to play, occasionally visiting LA to record. Such ventures, however, were costly and Houston hit upon the idea to record at home. Using an eight-track machine, Houston built a makeshift recording studio in his mother's back yard where he recorded not just his music, but-to help finance the cost of the equipment-the works of other bands. In due time, the enterprise moved out of the yard, evolving into Moon Studios where Houston went on to work with such names as Club Noveau and Tony, Toni, Tone. Earning a platinum record for his engineering work on Club Noveau's smash hit "Lean on Me," Houston has also amassed a wealth of stories. Some of the experiences detail the evolution of modern rock music-through Houston's discovery of music computer programs or the first time he heard Grace Jones' "Slave to the Rhythm" slamming through his speakers-others chronicle his personal development. One such occasion brought Houston face-to-face with musical hero Todd Rundgren. The esteemed producer was working with Bourgeois Tagg-the venerable local band that enjoyed chart success in the mid-to-late '80s-on one of its albums when the band invited Houston down to Rundgren's Sausalito studio.

"I took my computer and my emulator and my drum machine down to Sausalito where they were recording and just sat down in the corner and watched them work," remembers Houston. "[Drummer] Mike Urbano needed to kind of experiment with the sounds he wanted. What really amazed me was that Todd was very relaxed about it. Todd's so good at that stuff he could have said 'I'll do that for you,' [but] he gave him a lot of room."

After Moon Studios ran its course, Houston worked at another local studio before he decided to set up shop again-once again in his mother's back yard.

"I actually had a vision-or a visionquest," he says now. "I saw my old recording studio in my mother's back yard and me working there and I just sort of woke up one morning and said 'I'm doing the wrong thing. I need to be doing this. I need to stop working at this other studio and rebuild the old location and work with artists that I want to work with'."

Over the years those artists have come to shape the local pop music community as we know it today. From Kevin Seconds, Anton Barbeau and Caron Vikre to Natalie Cortez & Ultraviolets, Grub Dog & the Amazing Sweethearts, Her Six Daughters and the Pilgrims, Houston's work is virtually synonymous with the quirky "Sacpop" sound. His credits aren't just limited to the pop scene, however. Currently he's producing a new record for jazz vocalist Shelly Burns and working with artist Gilda Taffet to record music she wrote for the Ruth Rosenberg dance troupe.

Houston's own work skirts the outer limits of pop. With moody, literate prose sparsely fleshed out with acoustic guitar and Houston's own grievous, acrid growls and whispers, he's been compared to the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Currently at work on both a new album and a MP3-only CD EP, Houston characterizes his latest songs as "dark [but] with maybe a little more energy to it ? it's a little more pop."

A pop song can be dark, I think Deathray proved that among other people. I write dark pop songs," he says, then adds with a rueful laugh, "that doesn't sound right does it?"


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Alive and Kicking', November 1997

David Houston - Best Kept Secrets


by Heather Robinson

A gold record, several bands and some odd years later, after producing, engineering, co-creating or consulting on recording projects with Club Noveau; Tony, Toni, Tone; Latoya Jackson; Todd Rundgren; former members of the Stray Cats and innumerable others, David Houston will release his second solo album this month.

Entitled "Songs From Winter", the cd is a hypnotic combinatin of sweet and dark poetic justices. With lyrics like "I dream about you to extremes...but that doesn't mean I love you" and a vocal style that sort of like Leonard Cohen meets Roger Waters, Houston's music ventures into pop-like spoken word territory.

"My first album was the Wendy Tapes. And yes, there is a girl named Wendy. The songs are about a relationship we sort of didn't have. I worked with Rick Louder, Erik Kleven, and Steve Pakenham on those recordings. Great guys, Steve was the drummer in True West and a wonderful singer/songwriter, very Donovanesque. He inspired me to put out Songs From Winter," David said.

And aside from releasing his own album and performing in local cafes, David, a Sacramento native, owns Moon Studio, where he is currently working on projects with the Counterfeits and the Flesh Petals.

"I really like the people in Sacramento's music scene. People like Grub Dog, Kevin Seconds, Early Times, 1000 Acre Wood; it's really an inspiring form of competition because they are all talented songwriters. Some of their songs kick me in the butt and just blow me away," David said.

After working with many musical heavyweights, David suggested he rather preferred keeping his projects within the local minstrel community.

"I am in the studio practically everyday. I have coffee at Weatherstone most mornings, which might give the impression I don't do anything, but I usually work from about noon until about 8 in the evenings. And I really like working with young bands. They are so fresh. I am willing to talk with anybody who's interested in recording. I'll let pople know what I know. I tell bands right off the bat if their dream might be better formed at a studio other than mine, but the advice is always available," David said.

Having worked in a recording studio practically every day since 1979, David said he has had some pretty wild experiences. He recalled, with a smile, one of the milder incidents from his early days in the industry.

"I became friends with Brent and Larry of Bourgeois Tagg through different business stuff. We started working together on a couple of albums, and Todd Rundgren produced one of them. We recorded in the Bay Area, and I brought some sampling stuff down with me. Now keep in mind, this is in the very early days of sampling, and the first thing Todd asked to hear was the kitchen stuff. Out of about 500 various instrument sounds, the kitchen stuff," he said.

David will be performing at Duke's Coffe Gallery on Halloween, Luna's Cafe on Nov. 14, the Capitol Garage on Nov. 22, and Cafe Paris on Nov. 28. His latest cd, Songs From Winter, will be available at The Beat and Borders Books and Music this month.


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The Grind, March / April 1998

David Houston / Songs From Winter (5 Stars)

by Brad De Luchi


You may have seen him around downtown; dressed in black; wearing sunglasses (regardless of lighting conditions); trying to look inconspicuous. However inconspicuous David may try to be, there is no hiding from the fact that he is entrenched in the Sacramento music scene as both a singer/songwriter and producer.

"Songs From Winter" is David's latest release and is a beautifully haunting record. For those needing a point of reference it's like Lou Reed meets Bob Dylan meets Laurie Anderson meets Graham Parker. Sound like an interesting combination. Well to quote the liner notes form Boston's first album, "Listen to the Record!"

The album opens with "Scream in Vain." The song starts off with just David and his guitar. HIs impassioned vocals cry out haunting lyrics like "I feel so lame / Like a wounded dog that's gone insane." The song is slowly filled out by bass and drums and what started out so softly ends rather noisily.

The dreamy and catchy "Incense to Excess" follows. The song smoothly passes by and the listener is captured by David's silky guitar work.

Every song has a unique feel to it. "The Way of Love" is simple but effective; "Merry Christmas Chloe" is a light pop song with a grabbing melody; and "Without You" is a hoppin' light rock song.

David Houston shows that he is a masterful songwriter, capable of capturing a variety of emotions. This is one of the most graceful and elegant albums I've ever heard from any singer/songwriter, locally or nationally.

For more information, call: (916) 492-8623

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The California Aggie, August 10, 1998

David Houston / Songs From Winter (Rating A) :

by Cary Rodda


The Dark Lord of SacPop has bestowed upon us a darn good record here.

Houston has garnered his nickname because of the sound of his music. Dark is the first word that leaps to mind when hearing his songs, both live and on this CD. Houston plumbs the depths of depression and drags you along, forcing your face into his music with his stark lyrics.

This true even on the occasional upbeat, poppier tune. But you'll feel better for the experience. There's a sense of strength gained from facing the dark side of life, which exists whether or not we want to acknowledge it. But none of that matters. All that matters is you'll feel better for the experience of having listened to this.

Houston plays almost everything on the record. He even manages to pull sounds like whale lamenting from a cello on one song. Everything is extremely well-recorded. Big surprise, considering Houston's success as a local record producer.

"Songs From Winter" forces you to see the bleak side of the human soul, but hey, life ain't all sweetness and light, honey. We can all stand a little more examination of the darker side of life every now and then, and I can think of no better way to do so than with Houston's "Songs From Winter."

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Alive and Kicking, December 1998

David Houston / The New Old CD

by Britton Holland


We couldn't have put this CD on at a better time. The rain was blasting the windows, it was nightfall...David's time. We heard the likes of Steve Kilbey (The Church), The Velvet Underground, and quite a bit of Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) going on here. Dark yet luminescent, David's tone is well delivered. A bevy of great Sacto musicians provide the stage for David to perform on; Sacto bass legend Erik Kleven, Melissa Olsen (The Ultraviolets) on keyboards and backing vocals, and Pat "Rat-a-tat-Pat" Balcom (Counterfeits) providing percussion. Hannah Lingrell (formerly of The Flesh Petals) adds a sweet accent to David's vocals and Karen Stephens (In Vertigo) purrs out French sweet nothings on French Incense. The Dark Lord reigns on this CD.

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Sacramento News & Review, December, 1998

David Houston / The New Old CD

by Barry M. Prickett

Leonard Cohen toiling in Sacto; dark music that is not somber and very listenable

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The California Aggie, January 12, 1999

David Houston / The New Old CD

by Cary Rodda

David Houston, a.k.a. The Dark Lord of Sacpop, is back with another terrific CD.

The title is apt, because the CD features songs that are part of Houston's live repertoire he hasn't released previously. So, while the songs are new to be recorded, fans of Houston will instantly recognize the tunes from his excellent live shows.

The record label is Houston's own, and it, too, is apt. Houston dwells on the dark side of life with both his sound and his words. Houston loves to explore the darker side of the human psyche, and does it oh so well.

For example, even his songs about love deal with the pain of the emotion. In "Dying For Your Love," Houston sings of a girl who confesses her love for someone else-- which she is afraid to reveal to the object of her affection-- all the while not realizing that she's breaking the heart of the singer who loves her. Delightfully twisted and dark.

Houston also documents his affection for the songs of Leonard Cohen by including three of them here. One song, "Avalanche," is so much a part of Houdton's live sets that he truly makes the tune his own with his moving rendition.

This CD is such a highly listenable collection of something old, something new, that it makes one eagerly anticipate the borrowed and blue sequel.

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Valley Music News, January / February 1999

The David Houston Interview

by Bob Mariano

To say that David Houston has touched the lives of almost every professional musician in Sacramento would be no exaggeration. Whether in the role of producer, engineer or musician, his genuine, soft-spoken approach and incredible talents have enhanced the music of many. In the role of singer/songwriter, David hopes to touch the lives of the public with a steady performance schedule and a new CD, The New Old CD (old tunes/never before released).

This admittedly "gloomy" collection of dramatic ballads and dark pop offers a depth of emotion that can be found only in a simple, sparse mix of instruments and voice. Throughout the album David's vocals literally ache with passionate despair. Songs like "Dying For Your Love" and "Silly Moon" play like anthems of love unfulfilled. However, each song is not without some inkling of hope - or at least a hook - that will have the listener hanging on every on every word.

David's sound is complemented by the very impressive line-up of Erik Kleven on Bass, Melissa Olsen on background vocals and keys, and Pat Balcom on drums. Armed with these friends and a collection of very personal originals, David bares his soul in front of intimate gatherings around town on a regular basis. He sat with me recently to share the following..

VMN: Let's talk about this new CD.

DH: This is sort of a representation of how I play live. These songs originate from before The Wendy Tapes [Dave's CD from a few years ago], and I'd perform them in my show and people would come up and ask,"Where can I get that song?"

Is it difficult to perform such personal material in front of a crowd, or do you just have to detach yourself when you're doing it?

Actually, being personal is what I do. I try to be honest with the listener and with myself and convey that emotion to them. If I detach, I'm not involved in the song one-hunderd percent. so when I play, I try to get a little gloomy beforehand because the songs are very personal, and not always happy.

A lot of people come up and say, "Do The Wendy Tapes," with a big smile on their face;it's kind of "happier." It's presented in a "poppier" way, but the subject matter is still really personal. This new CD is stripped down even more. The subject matter is pretty much the same. I think it's very intimate.

Do the technical aspects of writing a song come naturally for you? Do you spend a lot of time focused on creating a new sound that wouldn't necessarily be heard on the radio?

Well, don't tell anybody this but... [we both look at the tape recorder and laugh ]...I don't listen to the radio. I listen to a lot of local music; I try and support the local music scene, you know. If someone is having a CD release party, I go and buy one and listen to it. And I try to catch the occasional MTV.

I don't think that what I do is necessarily radio-oriented. I don't want to say that I'm not radio friendly or that I don't want it to be played on the radio. It's just that that's not my priority right now. My priority is to write a good song and put it in an environment that touches somebody else.

And, by not listening to the radio, your influences remain pure?

Well, that doesn't mean that I don't listen to current music. You still find stuff that you like...through friends' recommendations.

Have you received any indication that these songs will get on the radio?

To tell the truth, I'm really bad at self promotion. It's the first thing I would tell somebody who came to me and asked for advice, that it's easy to make the CD and get it packaged. The hard part is to try and sell it, which is the promotion: have it at gigs, try and get it on the air, get all the advertisement you can...I'm awful at that. But it doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

I understand you have a pretty good-sized following.

I'm trying [laughs]. When you play at Capitol Garage, Luna's, Cafe Paris and Borders - I play there a lot; I play there too much. I need to try other places. I tried to play at The Blackwater in Stockton, but nobody knows who I am there - not more than ten people. That can be extremely fun, too.

I think there are seventy names on my mailing list [laughs].

What is your opinion of the local scene and the 'playability' of local clubs/

Old Ironsides is doin' great, Fox 'n Goose...those seem to be really good places to play. They try to do a lot of local AND larger acts on there way up.

Do you think downtown is too cliquey? It seems like some bands would never get a gig at Fox 'n Goose or Harlow's...

Well, wherever you are there is always a "scene." And some scenes are more open. I think the one that I happen to be plugged into downtown seems very open. Like Kevin Seconds doing the open mikes. He really tries to encourage everybody to play and is very non-judgemental.

Getting straight to your question...If there's a scene going on' it's easy to say "I couldn't play there," or "how do I..." What I've told over a dozen people is to just start going there and playing. Go to that open night mike for example. Just go in, and hang out with everybody, and it's pretty friendly. There's an open mike night out in Folsom, and that would be the same situation for me. If I went out there, I wouldn't know anybody. I'd be on the outside of the clique. It would be just a matter of going there every week and getting to know the people.

Do you ever have trouble articulating the sound that you want to the rest of the band?

That's what was so great about this new record. I try to create a very spontaneous environment where Erik, for example, is free to play whatever he wants within the frame of the song. So one night it might be one thing; another night it might be totally different. And Missy and Pat are the same way. They're very intuitive musicians as far as grasping the initial intent of the song, but having the freedom to not play the same vibe everytime. One night a melancholy, durge song just drags on. Another night, the same song all of the sudden has a heavier beat to it. It just changed because we felt different.

So The New Old CD was done while trying to keep that spontaneity alive. Just come in, don't think about your part... these are songs we play live, so play it that way. We did everything within two or Three takes, and that's what we used.

Though you're a seasoned veteran of the studio, I'm curious if you spend any time practicing the guitar. do you ever work on your chops?

I practice, but I don't just sit around and figure out licks. I'll play a song. It still feels new, like I'm learning something everytime I play a song on the record and try not to fall back on the same thing. I think a lot of my practicing is in writing the song... if I want a different feel, or if I try to come up with a diferent rhythm or a different hook.

Are you just as comfortable on the stage as in the studio?

I think once it starts - once you actually get into the song - most of the time, yeah. Other people say, "Why do you like to go out and play? It seems so egotistical," and I say, What do you mean?" [laughs] It's really something that I've enjoyed doing for a long time.

It's fun to communicate with people. I'm not a really good communicater just talking. I wouldn't be quite as honest. I would avoid the emotional part of it. People say I'm pretty aloof that way. But when I'm singing, I don't do that. I think that's one reason I enjoy it.

When you're performing, do you set your own mix or do you have someone else monitor it?

I used to have someone help me. the places we've been playing... usually it's never a night by yourself because we're playing with another band. So the other band kinda tweaks your sound and you tweak their sound.

It's cool that bands can work together like that.

It would be nice to have a sound person.

I guess most of the places downtown are so small that you can kinda tell when your up there...

You can't. Because it changes so much from one song to song. I do some songs that are really soft, with vocals that are almost spoken. So a sound man might turn that up. So it's a luxury that is very important.

On your CD, did you agonize for a long time over the mixes?

A lot of times , yes, I agonize over mixes. This time I didn't. The whole intent was not to agonize over the mix. I think I mixed the whole thing in a weekend.

Is your studio open to the public or do you just take in projects that you want to?

Yes [laughs]. It's not really open to the public, but I'm open to projects that I want to take on. Mostly it's word-of-mouth and recommendations.

What is your main guitar?

When I was younger, I sold a guitar once and totally regretted it. I went into withdrawals and said that I'd never do that again. So now, when I feel like I have to change my sound and get a different guitar, I won't sell it. I'll keep it and four or five years later I'm glad I did because I'll pick it up and start using it again.

At the moment, I have a Martin D18-S that is my main acoustic and I have a Gretsch 6120. I owe an awful lot to Skip and Creed [Maggiora, manager at Skip's}.

Readers can check the weekly listings but what dates do you have coming up?

I'm definitely doing the last Saturday of January and February at Luna's. Generally we do every last Saturday there. We really like to play there because it's so intimate. It's sort of our little gig together that we always look forward to.

Well, I'll look forward to it too.

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Of urban jazz and stringy lords
By Christian Kiefer

It's Friday night, and there are some fine sounds emanating from J. Lee's Euro-Asia Bistro at 2516 J Street. Not just the slurpy sounds of ultra-hip sushi aficionados munching nigiri and norimaki, but something just as hip and laid-back. A deejay is spinning records and digital rhythm tracks in the corner while a saxophonist and bassist join in.
This is part of Urban Jazz Session, usually a five-piece group, truncated down to three for an evening of dinner music. The performance, particularly the work of DJ Anand, is perfect for the restaurant: a smooth, unobtrusive sound that, while certainly laid-back, veers sharply away from smooth jazz. The patrons of J. Lee’s might want it a bit slow and quiet (after all, they are here to eat, talk and drink), but they are also a crowd priding themselves on their hip, urban sensibilities. Urban Jazz Session is hip, urban music: California-style trip-hop jazz with a nice edgy quality that keeps it from being too sedated. It would be well worth checking out the whole band during its longstanding Wednesday-night shows at the Fox & Goose pub.
Meanwhile, just a scant block away, David Houston played his last regularly scheduled date at True Love Coffeehouse (the venue is closing, due to loss of lease, with a 24-hour live-music marathon August 13-14). For his final True Love show, a core rhythm section of fantastic session bassist Erik Kleven and the Miles’ drummer Garin Casaleggio was augmented by Popgun’s Mark Harrod on harmony vocals. Casaleggio seemed in particularly fine form during the evening, playing with a half-smile on his face through most of the set and clearly reveling in playing again with Houston, whom he backed up for a number of years before forming the Miles with bassist Shawn Hale and former Jackpot member David Brockman. (After the set, Casaleggio said with glee, “I think that was the best I’ve ever played”; indeed it was quite a performance.)
The real icing--both in terms of sound and because it was unusual in a coffeehouse setting--was provided by cellist Krystyna Ogella and violist Christina Maradik. Both Ogella and Maradik are classically trained instrumentalists, and they sight-read their parts from sheet music provided by Houston. (Maradik also can be heard playing on Anton Barbeau’s recent album, Guladong.) Ogella and Maradik mostly formed lush chords and backing ambience to the songs.
The effect of the extra strings and the relatively subdued, professional band was that Houston’s dark songs were provided with a focused sense of late-1960s/early-1970s songwriter production value that was heavily reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s 1969 release Songs From a Room. It should be noted, though, that while the comparisons to Cohen are almost becoming a cliché, Houston’s voice is (at least to this listener) significantly more compelling than Cohen’s. Although Cohen’s shorter vocal range and near-monotone delivery sometimes confine the emotional quality of his songwriting, Houston’s voice sounds as if he has poured his heart into a delicate china teacup, a teacup with a barely perceptible crack from lip to base. The effect, particularly on such numbers as “She Counts The Stars,” is heartbreakingly beautiful.


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