Romain Gutsy is not a really a newcomer. In fact, I know him for a long time. Let me tell you a true story.
In 1994, in Paris, France, I went to a place called the Chesterfield Café, in a street ending on the famous Champs Elysée. The Chesterfield Café, which does not exist anymore, was a good café-concert and in fact I was there to attend a concert of the famous rock band Soul Asylum. In that period, Soul Asylum was at the top of many international charts with their song “Runaway Train” (a song which would deserve a whole article by itself) which was selling by millions. The big café-concert was crowded.
For the opening act, Soul Asylum had invited a band named Daffy Plays Mandola, which in fact was Romain’s band. Their specialty was Irish music, and more specifically covers from The Pogues, with traditional Irish instrumentation featuring banjo, mandolin and tin whistle. It was a weird opening act as first, they played for more than an hour (and I learned later from Dave Pirner, Soul Asylum singer, that he loved Romain and his band, musically and humanely, and insisted to have them playing an hour), and then because they have set the room on fire like if they were the main band of the night.
After Daffy Plays Mandola’s show, Soul Asylum went on stage, and they started by dedicating “Runaway Train” to Romain’s band. But the most important part of the night, as far as I’m concerned, came later. At one point, both bands merged on stage, and altogether they played the craziest version of The Pogues’ “Dirty Old Town” (which in fact has not been written by The Pogues but whatever). Electric Saturated guitars mingling with mandolin and tin whistle, strong drums, a general punk flavor and a blend of grunge with traditional folk, that was the best ever version of the song I ever heard. And the public was in trance. Unfortunately or fortunately, in these times, we had no smartphone and when something like that happened, the only way to have memories of it was to have memories of it. A few lucky hundreds attended, and if any of them has a video of it (who knows, on a VHS?), I’d love to see it.
So now you know I’ve met Romain a long time ago. That was one of his projects, and in fact he had many others of different genres, and I followed his career from far away for some time. Any musician who knew him has considered him as a pretty good eclectic musician and a great composer. Then at some point in the 2000’s he disappeared. I have no idea why and never heard about him again, until recently, when he came back in 2021 with his first (to my knowledge) solo project and an album called “When Leonard Met Dolly”, which is full of great original songs, even if I think that the production could have been better (always easy to be a critic, you should say). But today is the release day of his new single “If You Don’t Mind”, and it absolutely rocks.
The song contains a bit of the philosophy of this man which has always been with a special mind in the music milieu. No drugs, no politics, no easy sex, and an urge for freedom, that’s indeed the man I knew. Nevertheless, Romain has a lot of humor and a sense of self-derision which makes his creations never too serious. That’s how I received “if You Don’t Mind”. A solid and crisp production that he has done with Marc Bentel, a South African musician who now has a production studio in Florida, an arrangement which makes it difficult to categorize it in a one single genre, and an incredible distinctive voice that talks directly to your soul.
I’m honestly super happy to have Romain Gutsy back in business, and I hope to speak to him soon and maybe share an interview here. Meanwhile, enjoy the song, I’m pretty sure that it’s the first of a long series of incredible tracks:
And of course, You’ll find the track on my Indie Folk playlist:
Here are some links: