Forward Thrust Heads Into 27th Year of Performing

Author: A.M. Wertz | Source: Sun Gazette

Some people can't remember even the slightest details about 1985, let alone have a reason to say it was the year that changed their lives. But for local band Forward Thrust, 1985 was the year things took an extreme turn for them. Kenny Gilchrist and Gail Anderson met that year, when Kenny's band with Ron Clark began searching for a singer. Kenny was playing guitar and Ron was a drummer, but it lacked a vocalist. Gail said she responded as soon as she saw the ad in the newspaper.

"She came over and sang the first song, "Chain Gang," and we both went 'wow,' this gal has a voice on her," Kenny said. The next step for the trio was to search for bass and keyboard players. After several months and no results, Ron returned to a former heavy metal band, leaving Kenny and Gail to join up with already existing bands for about a year.

"Then we got an invitation from an agent to go on the road as a duo because it was hard to get people for a band," Kenny said. "We spent 1987 through 1991 on the road until we came back and lived in Allentown. Prior to that, we lived in Nashville and Louisville, Ky., with Gail on vocals, percussion and keyboard, and me on guitar, harmonica and vocals." The couple married in 1991.

According to the couple, Allentown looked like a good place to move because of its location, surrounded by many cities. Gail and Kenny have been performing full time since 1992 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware and they continue to write and record their own tunes, as well. "Our strengths are the fact that we do a lot of instruments," Kenny said. "I play sax, harmonica, mandolin, guitar, resonator, slide guitar, flute, piano and clarinet, and Gail plays keyboard, harmonica and bass guitar. We both sing." Forward Thrust continues to play three or four gigs a week, including a show from 6 to 9 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month at the Hughesville American Legion.

"We are more of entertainers than most bands," Kenny said. "I take the sax out into the audience and she takes the wireless mic. We get involved with the audience with more of a show than a four-piece band that just stands there and plays. We tell stories about why we wrote different songs that are mixed in with originals and covers. We can play Motown to Santana. We're pretty versatile. I would say we're not super current, we probably span as far as the 2000s, including classic rock, oldies, Sheryl Crowe, Alanis Morissette, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and Clapton." Some of the more popular songs the couple performs are "Mustang Sally," "Mony Mony" and "Old Time Rock and Roll." "We played some of those songs thousands and thousands of times," Kenny said. Gail said the beginning of their relationship, when much of their time was spent on the road, was a good time to learn and hone up on the act they continue to perform.

"We've gotten so much better at writing and recording and the live performance," she said. "You get to work the audiences. Three years straight on the road, when you have to play as a job, you can't say 'I don't wanna play tonight,' when you're booked for five nights a week on the road. It hardens you to the fact that you're a performer, not just a weekend warrior." Forward Thrust released their first CD, "Spinning Tales," in May 2000 and a second, "Underwater," in August 2005.

For the past five years, Kenny has been working on completing another project - a rock opera. The music is complete and Gail is working on the artwork to accompany "Strings Attached," which is 140 minutes of music split into two acts. "I've spent the last five years writing and recording," Kenny said. "There's hours and hours on this. Gail did some voices and different characters. There is some dialog, but it's more like 'Tommy' or 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' " According to Kenny, the 33 illustrations that his wife is working on explain what the viewer will "see." Each of two booklets is designed for the two parts of the show.

"It's been hard to complete the drawings because there's not a lot of room," Gail said. "I pick the character and I draw it in a sketchpad, bigger than what it's going to be, and then we shrink them down. Instead of doing it on a computer, I decided to do it freehand. Once you reduce something, some details are lost. I tried various ways of doing it and realized the simplicity and colors are what mattered the most. It's sort of comic bookish."


Both writing, singing, strong on Gilchrists' new release

Author: Dave Edick | Source: Press & Sun Bulletin

Underwater, Forward Thrust

The area's out-migration over the last couple of decades has taken plenty of musical talent, leaving the Tier the poorer for it. Include in that group the husband-and-wife team of Kenny and Gail Gilchrist -- aka Forward Thrust.

The two, who now make their home in Allentown, Pa., have teamed with flexible drummer Ron Clark and released their second CD -- Underwater -- a two-disc excursion into pop/rock, blues, punk and country. Kenny Gilchrist, a very gifted musician and songwriter, and Clark are from Binghamton, while wide-ranging singer Gail Gilchrist grew up in Apalachin. Over the span of almost 90 minutes (40 minutes on disc 1 and 47 minutes on disc 2), Kenny plays guitars (including lap steel and 12-string), bass, keyboards, harmonica, mandolin, flute, melodica and some percussion. There's actually more gear that he wields, but you get the idea.

The former Gail Anderson acclimates her voice well through the band's multistyled forays, alternately summoning echoes of such talent as Deborah Harry, the two Joans -- Osborne and Armatrading -- Jewel, Sam Phillips and Bonnie Raitt. Lyrically, this is hardly a one- or two-theme band, ranging from social observations (9/11, the D.C. sniper and The Depression) to the more esoteric (time, the change of seasons and aging) with wit and feeling. Underwater is presented as a "Thoughtful" disc and a "Party" disc. But there's not a big difference in the two. Each has both toe-tapping foot-movers and reflective sojourns.

The group's vocal strength takes center stage immediately with the opening track of the "Thoughtful" disc, Feel Love Badly (a la Osborne) and leaves the listener wanting more with the second disc's closer, the '50s-inflected Blue Baby (Roy Orbison meets the Carpenters). Gail adds Harry's panache on Nothin' on Me, the second disc's spy-spoof opener that has her proclaiming superiority over 007, Maxwell Smart and Austin Powers. The song blends Blondie's Contact in Red Square playfulness with some J. Geils-brand harmonica. Then Gail gets serious about a dysfunctional family with the '50s-styled Never Coming Back.
Other standout cuts:

  • You Got No Reason: A solid, honky-tonk mover with Kenny taking over the vocals, while adding some tasty steel and harmonica.
  • So Tired of Your Lies: Gail turns out a heartfelt Armatrading tone on vocals, with Kenny again offering some solid steel.
  • Mad, Mad Dog: A devilish revenge tale about a gal done wrong served up in a dish of hard-rocking blues.
  • Stockpicker: Kenny gets semi-autobiographical with this tongue-in-cheek ode to the stock biz, with instrumentation in the tradition of B.B. King and Bo Diddley.
  • The Hands of Time: Rolling in the Heart/Jewel vein, this poignant grandfather/ granddaughter tableau has brought the group laurels in music competitions. Grandpa makes a triumphant final stand built on his observation that "life's too short to do everything."
  • Gonna Have to Change: Kenny rocks the blues again, this time more in the mood of Tom Petty/Canned Heat. His social observations about what we need to protect our children from are set against a backdrop of swirling guitar.

Strong, too, are Voyeur Man (upbeat song about a photo shop pervert), Soul-less Clones (big band-sounding satire on plastic people) and Oklahoma (with Gail adding a growling conscience to The Depression). Throughout the two discs, the threesome lays down well-crafted pieces that provoke repeated listenings. And in gigs over the years, the band offers such encore-enticing performances that they have repeatedly become house favorites as they've moved about the country, including where they are now. Allentown's the richer.


The Best 10 CD's of the Past Year

Author: L.A. Tarone | Source: Standard Speaker

Another year is over-which means another year-end column. Goody! After 8 of them, you know my disdain for these. As always, it's accompained by the caveat that these are the best I heard in 2005. There may have been better, but I didn't hear them. These are in no particular order.

  1. Don't Believe the Truth - Oasis
  2. As Is Now - Paul Weller
  3. Glisten - Songs From A Random House
  4. Silent Alarm - Bloc Party
  5. Prairie Wind - Neil Young
  6. A Time 2 Love - Stevie Wonder
  7. Let Them Drink - The Capitol Years
  8. Home to You - Martha Reeves
  9. Underwater - Forward Thrust
  10. Youth - Collective Soul

Comments: The regional husband-and-wife duo turned in an outstanding, albeit eclectic, double disc. While they live in Allentown, they've adopted Hazleton as their home base (although they've moved from the Ramada Inn to the Comfort Inn Tuesday nights). Subjects are as varied as fantasy, the change of seasons, the death of a friend, a porn star's bio, and a teenager forced to have an abortion by her parents. "Underwater's" two discs are subtitled the "red disc" and the "blue disc". Each offers a slightly different perspective. On both, you'll find well-crafted songs about subjects that are anything but run-of-the-mill. And they kick!