Historian of religions Mircea Eliade described shamans as
specialists in ecstasy, able to "penetrate the underworld and rise to
the sky" in a transcendent state.1
Not surprisingly, fans and critics alike have used the word "shamanistic" to
describe Nashville's Dave Cloud. By day a volunteer book reader for the blind,
Cloud underwent a transformation at night, and for over three decades entertained
patrons of local dive bar Springwater, often with his band The Gospel of
Power. Cloud's unpredictable performances could be uproarious, jaw-droppingly bizarre
events, delighting some while frightening others.
His music—an amalgam of experimental garage rock and lounge crooning—defies
easy categorization, but his delivery makes the experience hard to forget.
As The Sunday Times observed, "Cloud's bellowed vocals, Beefheart-style
beat poetry, hefty riffs and freestyle wig-outs achieve a transcendental psychedelic
It was 20 years after his first show at Springwater that Cloud
finally decided to record an album. Bassist Matt Swanson produced Songs
I Will Always Sing (1999) and All
My Best (2004),
and released both CDs on his own Thee Swan Recording Company label.
Listeners from Paris to Auckland embraced Cloud, the lo-fi tantric yogi
provide a sort
of musical psychiatry through their darkly humorous
exploration of carnal hedonism.
UK label Fire Records took notice and in 2006 re-released Cloud's
entire catalog as the double-CD Napoleon of Temperance. European
critics greeted the album enthusiastically; one even suggested that Cloud
might be "the last genuine lost genius."2 To support
the new album Cloud and his band performed a dozen
shows in London and at Bergenfest, where Cloud enjoyed a four-day
residency. Producer Swanson colorfully described Cloud's appeal: "he
holds a dusty mirror to pop music's tawdry conventions, deftly dismembering
the Frankenstein's monster of modern musical excess."
Cloud also worked as an occasional actor, appearing in several films, videos, and
including Harmony Korine's films Gummo and Trash Humpers, an episode of the TV comedy
show Travel Sick, and the music video for Bobby Bare's "Are
You Sincere." In spring 2008 Cloud was featured in a TV ad campaign
for Budweiser beer in the UK.
Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power created several more recordings for Fire Records, including Pleasure Before Business (which the band supported with another tour of Norway and the UK), "Fever," Practice in the Milky Way, Live at Gonerfest, and their final album Today is the Day That They Take Me Away.
On February 18, 2015 Dave Cloud died in Nashville of complications related to melanoma. He was 58.