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"The singers [from overseas] are just as good," notes Parker, "but they generally lack technical know-how, good material, and there's that language barrier."
Fara nods in agreement.
"They're about 15, 20 years behind us in country-western production," he states. "Scandinavia is the leader in doing it right--they're building a solid foundation in good session players and their songwriting is getting stronger all the time." The country on the lowest country-western evolutionary rung is a continuing surprise to Fara and Parker.
"England's the last in songwriting," Fara says. "You'd think they'd be closer, but 75 percent of their songs are bad covers of what's already been done here."
Both Fara and Parker have solid personal credentials in the music business. For five years before founding Comstock, they toured the Western U.S. and all of Canada with a country band that used their own name. (Patty Parker, the lead singer, was also the group's drummer.)
Frank Fara is a Valley native who might be better known to many as Frank Fafara. In the early Sixties, he opened and ran Phoenix's Stage 7, one of the first rock nightclubs, on Seventh Street. It now is the home of the Phoenix Jaycees. As the lead singer for the house band--the Stage 7 Combo--Fara opened up for the likes of Conway Twitty, Del Shannon and the Everly Brothers. As a solo singer, he also scored a pair of Top 10 hits: "Only in My Dreams" reached No. 5 in Cashbox and earned him a write-up in Billboard, while "The Golden One" cracked the Top 10 (ending up a notch under Dion's "The Wanderer") in December 1961.
Parker is a licensed producer in Nashville. As such, she produces those Comstock signees who have taken the final plunge and headed stateside. Parker books studio time in Nashville and employs session players. As she is licensed, she has access to and utilizes the top studio musicians in town. Regulars in the session include Garth guitarist Chris Leuzinger, top-drawer fiddler Rob Hajacos, keyboardist (and Chet Atkins' musical director) Tony Migliore and Curtis Young, Nashville's preeminent back-up vocalist.
Once the CD is cut, Comstock sends it out to stations across Europe and Scandinavia as well as to about 300 of what Fara calls "breaker stations" throughout the States--stations still willing to try the untried. Comstock also books tours for the acts and works to get their names in the media as much as possible.
By any standards, Comstock has been very successful. Inger and her Rhinestone Band, for example, have not only become the hottest thing going in their home country of Sweden, but they also recently earned the Critic's Choice Pick of the Week from Billboard.
Local artist Steve Cooley (late of the famed Bunkhouse Boys) currently has his hit "Bright Lights of Vegas" high on the charts in Holland, Denmark and England.
Rick Dean--he of "riddim" fame--just completed Livin' in Love, his first full-length CD for Comstock. It features boogie-woogie piano king Pig Robbins. He also recently opened for Emmylou Harris in Holland. Several Comstock-produced videos featuring American and Canadian artists have found frequent rotation on Country Music Television and The Nashville Network.
Comstock's most recent success story is Denmark's Cari Schauer. The songwriter and guitarist's single "Soul Shaking Man" earned this write-up in the "Disc Claimer" record-review section of Nashville's esteemed Music Row magazine: "Interesting slide guitar riffs slip beneath a blues-mama vocal. . . . A real distinctive effort that builds nicely as it goes along. Who produced this thing?" Patty Parker, that's who.
As Comstock's word-of-mouth reputation continues to transcend borders, the label receives inquiries from heretofore unheard-from locales like Czechoslovakia and, recently, Russia.
"One day I was sitting here," Fara recalls, "and I got this call. It was someone who was talking like [Russia-born comic] Yakov Smirnoff. I thought it was my brother-in-law just fooling around, and I kept waiting for the punch line. Even as I hung up, I thought it was a joke. Then I got a fax--from Russia--wanting us to help produce a country-music festival there." Fara isn't sure how the Comstock name got to them. But he has long since ceased to be surprised about it.
"The American dream is alive and well," Fara says with a laugh. "But you've got to go overseas to find it.