A major figure on Nashville's underground rock scene, Dave Cloud was a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, actor, poet, and storyteller who earned a cult following for his over-the-top performances that suggested a fever-dream fusion of Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits, filtered through the body and voice of a seedy yet confident lounge singer. Dave Cloud was born in Nashville, Tennessee on August 3, 1956, and began playing guitar as a teenager. Growing up on a steady diet of '60s and '70s rock, Cloud developed his own distinct ideas about music, though he was in his early twenties before he began performing in public on a regular basis due to stage fright. In the late '70s, Cloud teamed with a punk rock band known as the Psychotic Night Auditors, and began staging chaotic, noisy shows at Springwater Supper Club & Lounge, a Nashville bar that had seen better days, as well as local music emporium Lucy's Record Shop. When Cloud's music got to be a bit much for even these open-minded venues, he spent several years working on private-tape collage pieces as well as working for the Nashville library system as a narrator who recorded readings of books and comics for the visually impaired. By 1994, Cloud had returned to performing in public, staging regular shows at the Springwater and working with James Clauer in the band Cruel Oval Brown Stomachs, who combined avant-garde performance with experimental music, a combination that certainly suited Cloud's talents.
After a year, Cruel Oval Brown Stomachs split up, and in 1996, Cloud debuted a new band, Dave Cloud & the Gospel of Power, borrowing the group's name from a second-hand cassette of Christian sermons Cloud used to record noise experiments. Playing dirty, fractured, lo-fi garage rock as Cloud declaimed beat-style lyrics in a sonorous voice that enveloped everything from '50s style ballads to steam of consciousness jams, Dave Cloud & the Gospel of Power developed an underground following in Nashville, and the band's flexible lineup often included members of other noted acts, including Lambchop, the Silver Jews, Trauma Team, Clem Snide, and My Dad Is Dead. Filmmaker Harmony Korine became aware of Cloud's frantic performances, and cast him in a small role in his 1997 directorial debut Gummo. In 1999, Matt Swanson, a musician who had worked with Cloud, decided it was high time Cloud's musical vision was documented for the ages, and Swanson produced Cloud's debut album, Songs I'll Always Sing, and released it on his own label, Thee Swan Recording Company. A second album, All My Best, appeared in 2004, and as word spread about Cloud's unique rock & roll vision, the British independent label Fire Records signed him to a record deal, and reissued his first two albums as a two-fer titled Napoleon of Temperance. The deal with Fire led to Cloud & the Gospel of Power touring outside the United States for the first time, playing a string of dates in England and Denmark, where Cloud's music had earned him an enthusiastic audience. Between 2008 and 2012, Cloud and his compatriots released three more albums -- Pleasure Before Business, Practice in the Milky Way, and Live at Gonerfest -- and Cloud would appear in another film for Korine, 2007's Trash Humpers. While Cloud maintained a busy performing schedule in the 2010s, his health began to fail him, and on February 18, 2015, he died in a Nashville hospital due to complications related to melanoma. Five months after his passing, Fire released Cloud's final album, Today Is the Day That They Take Me Away. ~ Mark Deming