An uncanny one-man-army’s slew of original material offers a glimpse into the mind of a unusual native Tahoe philosopher/artist.
David Beck grew up in Carnelian Bay, the son of an adventure filmmaker and surfboard maker. Now he writes, records and produces songs and music videos above his garage in Cisco Grove.
“Our roots are really deep here,” says Beck. “I write about the mountains, the lake, ski culture. I’m trying to get in touch with the local spirit today and see what’s going on.”
“Whiskey Bottle” starts with a fuzz guitar reminiscent of late 1970s glam-rock garage punk. It’s sounds like Frank Zappa freestyling over a 1990s grunge vibe before the music settles down into a persistent acoustic finger roll just about to feedback.
Beck tells the story of a wild man with a bottle in his hand, the simple chord changes conjuring strong melodies and images in the mind’s eye.
And make no mistake, they are bizarre. Beck is a full baritone who could do a voiceover for “Game of Thrones” or give James Earl Jones a run for his money and his strange words and unexpected turns of tone paint pictures that only he could know.
“Tough Old Guy” comes in with a slow intro of oohs, Beck’s voice full enough to match the acerbic folk rock and offbeat lyrical sensibility of Crash Test Dummies’ memorable “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.” The cyclical melody of the song puts me in a trance, evoking something visceral, emotional and real like I previously thought only Brad Roberts could do.
Beck grew up a shrieking metalhead, until few years back when his sister convinced him to calm down and move into his naturally lower singing register.
“I’ve embraced my voice,” he says. “At first, I didn’t know what to do with it. Now it comes easy.”
As he got older, bought a house, started a business and got married, Beck began to drift toward folk music, something that happens to a lot of old-school punks with age. Now he’s taking time away from a successful construction business to play acoustic guitar and write songs every day.
“It just brings me so much joy,” he says. “There’s not really a day I don’t at some point go to my guitar.”
“You Won’t Take My Gun” offers up a classic country in the spirit of Johnny Cash with a devil’s sense of tongue-in-cheek humor. Complete with Looney Tunes bullet sound effects, it’s as if Beck is becoming the cantankerous country cartoon character by sound and poetry alone.
“My songs are storytelling,” says Beck. “I spend a lot of time on the lyrics. At the same time I’m gathering footage for each song and compiling little music videos that I want to be able to bring with me when I play live. I want to bring to life what I imagine for each of my songs.”
Beck’s father, Craig, is best known for his epic 1975 ski and hang-gliding film “Daydreams.” Shot primarily in Tahoe with the gift of a Pink Floyd soundtrack, this movie broke all the rules and set the new standard for alpine cinematography.
“Back in the day, he was lugging all this heavy equipment around,” says Beck. “He’d take off in his hang glider with a video camera on one wing and weight on the other wing to balance it out. We still have hundreds of feet of film around the garage and the house. We’ve recently been going through some of his old footage. It has a certain quality to it. I want to use some for my storytelling videos.”
The lost, forbidden country mantra, “Outlaw,” arouses something deep and uncomfortable within me.
“01 Good Days” is a simple, upbeat indie-folk song that talks about lying around the house in underwear.
Then there’s “Drama Shit,” a funny song about getting into a fight with a lover’s funky wife and waking up in someone else’s bed. The arrangement of strings and bongo creates a chilled-out Sublime meets Leonard Cohen vibe. I’d love to see the video for this one.
Oct. 18 | Cottonwood Restaurant | Truckee
Nov. 4 | Fat Cat Bar & Grill | Tahoe City
Dec. 6-9 | Donner Ski Ranch | Norden
In the end, it’s Beck’s randomness and cerebral approach to songwriting that help him to stand out as one of our hardworking and creative local artists. His music can be streamed for free on Spotify and ReverbNation. | reverbnation.com/davidbeckproductions