Cole Withers and Steve Desterhaft’s debut performance of “The Last Bookstore” at The House of Blues in Anaheim on March 6. Photo courtesy Shauna Lynn ProductionsArtist 2

An Idyllwild original album


“The Last Bookstore,” a standout collection of original tunes written and sung by Cole Withers, delivers the authentic experience. Produced by Steve Desterhaft and Mike Gustin under Red Manzanita Records label, recorded at MTG Studios in Idyllwild and debuted March 6 at House of Blues in Anaheim, it already is creating buzz. The soft release is Friday, April 20, at Idyology; the hard release is June 7 at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.

Haunting and moving are undisputed descriptors of Withers’ lyrics. His songs, such as “Wash Away,” “Eastern Standard Time” and “Rescue Me” evoke nostalgia for the grit where remorse and regret combine with all that is fine; reminding the listener that renewal, ever in the offing, might be just a heartbeat away.

Three core band members form a trio with palpable synergy. Withers leads vocals and plays rhythm guitar, Desterhaft is masterful on lead guitar and vocals, and Gustin, dynamic on drums, also sings back-up harmony. The album features two guest performers, namely Idyllwild Arts’ Paul Carman on sax and Mark Cummings on bass, both world-class talents. Carman predicts, “This band is the next biggest thing to come out of Idyllwild.”

Withers, born in New York City, emerged as a writer early in life. Educated in the arts, his poetry and songs are inspired by a life deeply lived. Development of his voice came later and almost by accident, if any such thing exists. Withers’ voice majestically resounds with pain and poignant phrasing creating a visceral response reminiscent of Michael McDonald or the soft edge captured on Elton John’s early recordings.

Red Manzanita was chosen for the record label as a metaphor. Not unlike humans whose best creations often arise from a result of deconstruction or devastation, the red manzanita literally generates seeds while burning … a species born of fire, not unlike Withers’ lyrics.

Desterhaft, lead guitar and vocalist for 35 years in both rock and country genres, brings cinematic elements to unique chord phrasings and background vocals throughout the album.

Gustin is a career drummer and vocalist whose natural sense of rhythm and power sets the album ablaze. Gustin is credited by Desterhaft with “being one of the most grounded producers I’d ever worked with. In the studio, Gustin immediately took me out of my comfort zone. Reluctantly, I followed his direction and the results are astounding, even to me.” Desterhaft recalls.

A series of unscripted meetings in Idyllwild in early 2017 led to a collision of talent, potential and creative energy as the three began to lay down the bones of an album comprising Wither’s songs.

When asked why Idyllwild, the answer was unequivocal. “There seems to be a creative energy sitting right here that can’t be ignored,” observed Desterhaft. Withers added, “It’s a profoundly creative place to live. I feel blessed to live here. Since the beginning, the community welcomed our music and has been so supportive; an experience we will never forget. And, we’re always happy when local musicians such as Paul Carman on sax and Mark Cummings on bass sit in.”

The decision to name the album “The Last Bookstore” is the band’s homage to a dying institution. “Iconic bookstores, large and small from coast to coast throughout my life, are where I connected with both living and published artists, and it’s where I fell in love with literature. Independent bookstores are a dying institution that feeds imagination and creativity, their slow demise is irreplaceable for artists. Touring the album this summer, venues will include independent bookstores wherever possible to punctuate this message,” said Withers.

When the producers were asked why they wanted to produce this album, the question was perhaps answered best by Gustin, who said, “Cole’s lyrics, as powerful as they are, have a spiritual undertone having a lot to do with finding your way to personal fulfillment. When I meet exceptional talent with provocative lyrics, that’s a project I want to record and produce.”

Pre-orders for “The Last Bookstore” can be booked by emailing [email protected].

“The Last Bookstore” album cover.
Design by Marcos Alvarado