Best Musician You've Never Heard Of (2000)

Chris Doyle, Big Blue Couch

Grunge, neo-punk reggae and rock-rap have done nothing to propagate the species once known as "guitar hero." In an age where you can flip an audience the bird to tumultuous applause, it's no wonder new musicians don't get better acquainted with their instruments.

That's why Big Blue Couch's science-fiction band bio, which claims the group was cryogenically frozen in 1969 and exhumed last year, seems to ring true. Axman Chris Doyle harks back to the days when rock stars didn't play their guitars so much as wrestle them to wring every last screech or sigh. In a local music scene when the best guitarists seem to be roots-based traditionalists, Doyle's white-rock influences range from the fabled (Live at Leeds-era Townshend, Mick Ronson) to the forgotten (spacey Robin Trower, Fred "Sonic" Smith) to the far-fetched (Bruce Cockburn on acoustic numbers).

Propelled by an ace rhythm section and an energetic front man, Doyle takes extended instrumental flights of fancy that continue to make other local guitarists put down their beers and sweat bullets. Despite frequent gigs, the bulk of the band's dates have been thankless opening-slot gigs or last-minute replacement shows. Those who've ventured out early have witnessed a combo capable of being as arty as King Crimson and as belligerent as the Stooges, largely because of Doyle's extended vocabulary of sounds and showmanship. With Big Blue Couch's much-delayed debut CD finally mixed and ready for public consumption, this talent won't remain in the shadows of the local music scene for much longer.

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