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Monday, April 11, 2016

Stray Dogs by the Highway

Lewis, Dyson, Avinger

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Lewis, Dyson, Avinger

If you are going to have “-esque” tacked on to your project, there could probably be none better than to be referenced as “Dylan-esque.” I certainly feel this one is deserving of that designation.

As evidence of this, the first song on the CD, “It Reads Better Than It Lives” opens with the line, “Restless as Dylan going ’lectric” (got my attention) and references Highway 61 at least twice in the song.

The singer reveals:

“I used to read the big shots Straight through in one night What took 20 years to write. Well, it reads better than it lives.”

Those lines alone denote Lewis as an accomplished poet with striking insight and perception.

At times, the rawness of some of the autobiographical revelations are painful to confront. Lewis is often brutally honest in talking of his past trials and tribulations. In “Every Broken Form,” he writes:

“Hoping for oblivion Hoping the derelict accosting me at 2 a.m.

Is really a gunman Who will end it all for me right now.”

Fortunately, that degree of darkness is not all-pervasive, and there is a jagged hopefulness that rescues the characters herein from complete self-destruction.

This is the first release of the creative collaboration between David Love Lewis, Alan Dyson and Erich Avinger. Each makes his own impressive contributions to the project. Poetic, mostly autobiographical lyrics are by Lewis (with the exception of Donna Waylene Moore providing lyrics for “See No Evil”), and all music composition, lead vocals and piano are by Dyson. Production, engineering, drums, dobro, guitars and keyboards are credited to Avinger. Avinger’s production and engineering are done at Invisible Studios and Wire Road Studios in Houston, Texas. The project was mastered by the legendary Bernie Grundman of Bernie Grundman Mastering in Los Angeles.

Avinger’s production deserves particular notice for being world-class throughout, and his guitar parts are some of the project’s stand-out musical moments. The production and arrangements wander comfortably into Steely Dan-land at a couple of moments. Also worthy of mention is the howling saxophone by Kelly Dean, whose guttural runs on the title cut are particularly evocative.

The acoustic bass parts by Chris Maresh effortlessly lead some of the tunes into jazzy territory without threatening the project’s overall stylistic continuity. But close your eyes at certain points and you just might find yourself dreamily transported onto Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village.

The almost “Moonlight Sonata” intro to Track 4, “Moonlight Revisited,” is particularly majestic along with Dyson’s other fluid riffs throughout this song and elsewhere. His subtle, very tasteful piano work gives the project a real touch of “classical.” Dyson’s voice most effectively grabs you when he steers it into a “stray dog” roughness that is never overdone. In multiple instances, the almost spiritual interplay between piano and organ are reflective of some of Dylan’s greatest era recordings circa “Blonde on Blonde.”

Of particular interest to music-lovers familiar with this area’s local music history should be the blues shuffle homage to Enoch’s, the late lamented Shreveport landmark club, which now thrives in Monroe, La. Given that this in an independent, selfreleased project, the package design and layout by Lindsay Brown is “nationwide” impressive. Paintings by Donna Waylene Moore appear courtesy of Day Noon Studios in Shreveport.

There are enough flashes of brilliance on this release for one to hope this trio of artists – and they are all indeed artists – bring forth many more projects.

This project was funded in part by a grant from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and is copyrighted 2015 by Lewis and Dyson (BMI) with all rights reserved.

–Karl Hasten

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Information about the band, touring, and how to order the album is available on the Stray Dogs By the Highway Web site www.straydogsbythehighway.com.

ON STANDS NOW!

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