Luthermoon - 1976 to 1980
Waxing and Waning With Luthermoon
How fittingly Luthermoon members have designed their logo - the name etched into a stained glass window, beneath six stars, presumably one for each member. Shades of jazz, folk, country, pop, blues, rock and classical music are all cemented together in their unique musical mosaic.
With good reason, everyone I asked about the band's music before their performance at the Art School on June 7 could only vaguely muster, "They're different. You just have to see them." My first attempt to tag this musical animal was to pin the name "symphony-rock" on them, because of their multiplicity of instruments and sounds and their intense performance.
With David Austell on rhythm guitar, Robert Hudson on drums, Paul Price on electric bass, Richard Scoville on flute, soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet, recorder and even pennywhistle, Sabine Rhyne on cello and Emy Reeves on congas and percussion, the group has the ammunition to create the fullness and intricacy of a symphony, and they have the flexibility to do it in a variety of styles.
The theatre setting at the Art School provided the ideal setting for Luthermoon's performance since the audience's natural reaction to this type of music is to sit back and let waves of their six-part harmonies and polyrhythmic compositions swell into their ears and also to concentrate on digging out the interesting messages sandwiched between the layers of musical styles. For instance, during one song, while the band rocks the audience into a catatonic beat, Price sings lyrics that paint a poetic image of depression and withdrawal:
Take off the hook, the phone
I want to be alone
Don't want to catch no news
Just want to watch my shoes...
Standin' in the shade
Watchin' all the blades
I'm all right, OK
I'm really doin' great
Four of the band members are songwriters, each grounding his songs in separate camps, Paul Price, one of the original members of Luthermoon (born in 1975) was also rhythm guitarist for Toulouse T 'Trek, and his songs are distinctively more boogie-jazz and rock. Drummer Robert Hudson, whose musical resume includes membership in Warm, a regionally popular folk-rock act of the seventies, and later Heartwood, is influenced by his country-folk background. Emy Reeves' compositions have driving mountain bluegrass overtones, and David Austell, the only continuous member of the band since its birth, has a habit of adding classical touches.
"You can connect the music we play to a number of forms," says Price. "but we do not play exactly these forms. We improvise on them and expand on them and give them the Luthermoon stamp."
In addition to this variety of original material, the band puts together medleys of folk music from the past, such as music from the Shakers, a religious sect. The result is a broad repertoire of songs which range form an Irish tune containing the lyrics of William Butler Yeats to a ballad inspired by Concord's town eccentric - a shell-shocked victim of World War II who wanders about dressed in his ancient uniform - to an inspirational pop song written by Austell which is in direct contrast the the stark lyrics by Price:
"Take every chance to ride along
Maybe you'll find where you belong
Decide for yourself the price to pay
stick with it till you find a way."
If you have been wondering about the meaning of the band's name, it too is multifaceted. Originally, the band took the name from a service station owner in Athens, GA., named Luther Moon, who rented U-Haul trailers to Heartwood, the drummer's previous band, but later, the name took on historical connotations. "At another level, Luther suggests Martin Luther and his era, which was neither medieval nor modern - and yet both - and his rebellion against the established way of doing things," explains Price. "The moon is an image that resonates differently in all of us, but for a laugh, one might remember Luther's anal obsessive traits, and the sometime peculiar traits they gave rise to," snickered Price, alluding to Eric Erickson's account of Luther shocking the devil in a defiant act witnessed occasionally these days at stoplights around college campuses.
Luthermooners feel comfortable with even this connotation to their name because they consider themselves part of that defiant breed. Despite the richness of their music, and the healthy sized crowds they attract, area club owners are not offering them engagements on popular nights because their audience listens too much. That's right. They generally prefer to sit and soak up more of the band's virtuosity than the management's beer stock.
Refusing to become a boogie band, Luthermoon has begun to move in another direction, defining their music as non-commercial and thinking about declaring themselves a non-profit organization. They are now in the process of applying for a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, to be used to support the group during a period of composing and arranging a contemporary retrospective of music in America's history. They hope to present the product on tours overseas, Price says.
Luthermoon is different. They will perform again at an open concert a the Pit on UNC's campus on July 1st, and at the Sallam Cultural Center on July 25th. See for yourself.
from the Spectator Magazine June 19-25, 1980
David Austell - Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Recorder, Vocals
Paul Price - Bass Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Emy Reeves - Percussion, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Sabine Rhyne - Cello, Recorder, Vocals
Richard Scoville - Woodwinds, Percussion, Vocals
Robert Hudson - Drums, Percussion, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Gary Dorsey - Woodwinds
Chuck Holton - Keyboards
If you'd like to see a video of my song "Castles", recorded in concert in 1980, stop the audio player by pressing the pause button on the Flash player above, then click here to see a YouTube video. I wrote this song for my friend Pam Lowe from Salisbury, NC who worked for the Duke and Duchess of Roxbury in Kelso. Scotland.
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Where Are They Now?
Dr. David Austell and his family live in Summit, NJ. He is the director of International Student and Scholar Services at the New York University.
David released a terrific CD of original Contemporary Christian music in 1996. Right click on the following link to download a shortened version of the title track "So Many Ways" in .mp3 format. If you would like to purchase this CD, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David and Amanda have two beautiful and talented daughters, Evy and Sarah Jeslyn.
Paul Price was Editor of the Social Science Research Council in New York City. His most recent musical project was the soundtrack for the documentary "The Trials of Eddie Hatcher" which showed at the 2001 New York Independent Film and Video Festival. He's associate editor of the Oxford Dictionary of the Social Sciences and co-editor of Understanding September 11, released by The New Press in August 2002. Paul passed away on Sunday, July 15th, 2012.
Dr. Richard Scoville and Emy Reeves got married and have two wonderful sons. Richard has a software consulting company and writes articles for many of the major computer magazines.
Sabine Rhyne lives in Putney, Vermont. She tells me "I like to say that I am resolutely downwardly mobile these days." She has several cello students, has lots of gigs on cello and bass guitar and is also finishing up as a student at Smith College. She plans on going to grad school.
Gary Dorsey, who played saxophone in the band's first incarnation, writes for the Baltimore Sun. He has written several books including Silicon Sky: How 1 Small Start-Up Went over the Top to Beat the Big Boys into Satellite Heaven, Congregation: The Journey Back to Church, and The Fullness of Wings: The Making of a New Daedalus. Gary lives in Baltimore.
Chuck Holton played piano in the second incarnation of Luthermoon and is now a mental health therapist in Chapel Hill and Raleigh.
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