They didn’t come to Hood River very often. And, honestly, I can’t remember how I actually got a hold of the band’s first CD, “Legionaire’s Disease.”
But, after hearing this debut album, I was really happy I did get a hold of it. I was floored. It’s the perfect combination of alt-country, rock and singer-songwriter material that I had heard in a long time. The songs actually said something, the whole album has a great feel, it wasn’t commercial – the album was truly a great effort by an unsigned band.
And what a great band name.
I only got to see “Scotland Barr and the Slow Drags” twice. They played at River City, maybe last year, or perhaps even two years ago. I was very interested to see if the band could put the same kind of magic they had on their record into a live show.
That night turned out to be just an OK show. Not super-well attended, either. I remember that the sound was not all that good, you really couldn’t hear the vocals. During the set break, I remember the lead singer saying that he couldn’t hear the vocals, either. You would think that in a small room with a lot of mics and amplifiers and speakers everywhere, that you’d be able to hear the vocals.
But, despite the sound problems, I did get a glimpse of what this band did, and what they were trying to present, musically.
But there was one thing that I didn’t get.
Their names. No, I’m not talking about the band name, but the individual names. I don’t know why it’s such a complicated thing in our society, but for some reason we can’t remember names. I talk, I listen, they say their name, and 10 seconds later, it’s gone. I cannot remember the name. Why is that?
The band was a somewhat motley collection of musicians. There was kind of a clean-cut keyboard guy, an absolutely crazy lead guitar player (I know, most lead guitar players are crazy…) a pedal steel player with dreadlocked hair, a bass player and drummer. All fronted by a lead singer with an acoustic guitar. And, not that I was paying attention to names, at that time, this lead singer was kind of a big guy, longish hair, his guitar looked small when he played it – he towered over the instrument. He had a very distinctive voice, rough, emotional. What he sang about mattered to him, for sure.
I tried to keep some tabs on the band, as they were promising to work on a new record. And when I finally found out that it was available, I went right to CD Baby and ordered it. “All the Great Aviators Agree” was just as solid as the first one, with a bit of branching out, to boot.
The next time I saw the band was at The Bite of Portland, at the Waterfront Park. If you’ve been, you know that the park has several stages, and we had to wind through the crowd to find them. I remember finally getting to the stage, and looking up, and suddenly, for a split second, I didn’t recognize them as the band I saw before. I mean, I heard the music, which sounded like them, but what was different? The lighting? The fact that the stage was outside? I had a strange feeling - of being out of place. It was kind of like the feeling that you have just walked into a classroom for the first time, and you suddenly get the feeling that you may not be in the right classroom. Has that ever happened to you? For some odd reason, that’s what I felt like. Can’t really explain it. I had to look at the schedule in my hand, and ask myself, am I at the right stage?
I took a seat and took it all in. Slowly, my brain seemed to associate people in the band right now with people in the band back at the first show. But, I’ll tell you, it took a few minutes. The band was dressed up some. They joked about having to tuck their shirts in at a more “family style event,” and may not have been accustomed to playing in front of that many people.
But this time, you sure could hear the vocals. And the lead singer had the ability to make you believe in what he’s singing. After the set, we had to hit the road, I think we had to head down to Eugene. I forget what for.
Last week, I got an email from one of the lead singers friends, who happens to be a Portland music promoter - I happen to be on his mailing list. I didn’t know Alex Steininger did promo work for this band, and Alex didn’t know I was a fan.
So tonight, I’m going home, and I’ll listen to four songs the band has graciously placed on their website to be downloaded. You see, unfortunately, that’s all I can do. They’re the last songs that got completed with a very talented songwriter. Scott Barr Mortiz.
I always wondered where that band name came from. And I’ll always wonder if that strange out-of-place feeling I had would have been different if I had known their names.
Scott Barr Mortiz died Sept. 1, 2009, from pancreatic cancer.
Dear press folks:
Some of you may have already heard of this, and some of you have already reported this. But, it is with a heavy heart and a lot of sadness that I have to announce that two weeks ago, Scott Barr Mortiz, known to the music circle as Scotland Barr, has passed away.
While I should have announced this two weeks ago, with the shock of the news and Labor Day, and waiting on the band¹s four final songs, I couldn¹t bring myself to do it. As he was both a client and a friend. Even two weeks later it¹s still hard to announce, or even think about.
Here are four songs from what would have been their third full-length, "We Will Be Forgotten":
There is still a discussion going on if the new record, which has already been tracked, will be finished with guest vocalists, etc. No further information is available at this time.
However, here is the band¹s official announcement:
"Scott Barr Moritz - 10/28/65-9/1/09
Scotland Barr & the Slow Drags¹ front man Scott Barr Moritz has passed away stemming from complications due to pancreatic cancer. He will forever be remembered for his two loves: music and food. As an acclaimed singer/songwriter, he worked tirelessly at his craft developing melodies and writing lyrics, never resting until he felt they were complete. As an exceptional foodie, he co-founded Salvador Molly's Restaurant, and created the renowned Secret Aardvark habanero hot sauce; Secret Aardvark's fans are legion and the sauce can be found on the majority of Portland's restaurant tables.
Friends and family of the band greatly appreciate all your support over the past year and consider it a gift that we all could share this time with Scott.
No funeral arrangements have been made at this time. Please refer to http://www.scotlandbarr.com for future details."
Again, I am sorry for the delay in sending this announcement out. It was hard for me personally to get to this point to send it out and really think about it, and realize I would have a flood of emails to deal with after sending it out.
But, thank you for your support of Scotland Barr & The Slow Drags¹ music and I hope you dig their final four songs with Scotland Barr on vocals, and hope that maybe you¹ll write about them if you¹ve written about him in the past.
In Music We Trust
15213 SE Bevington Avenue / Portland, Oregon 97267-3355
V: 503-557-9661 / email@example.com
Thanks. I appreciate your kind words - and that you're a fan. Thank you so much. That makes me happy, as does it make the band and Scott's wife.
Have a great weekend!
In Music We Trust
On Fri, September 18, 2009 8:58 am, Drake Jim wrote:
> This is very sad news, indeed. I'm actually a huge fan of their music,
] and I will always admire Scott's songwriting and creative talent.
> Thanks for keeping me informed and I will work to post an entry on my
] blog so readers here can have access to the band's website, and
] hopefully go discover this great musician.
] Jim Drake
] Hood River News