Have you ever come across a CD or artist that defies categorization beyond just "damn good"? Yeah, I thought so. I come across them every once in a while myself, and one of them just recently appeared in my possession: a solo disk by an artist named Luke Dick.
Now, with all due respect, everyone gets stuck with some label, and I imagine Dick will get lumped into the Americana category by default. Part country, part rock, with a touch of blues and an indie attitude and approach -- filing under Americana probably makes the most sense, even if it's a bit of a misnomer.
After all, this one is hard to pin down: The songwriting is country in approach, but the songs are approached and performed in a rock vein. Between the storytelling and Dick's smooth southern twang, it's too introspective and not redneck enough to be considered standard Southern rock, yet way more country in approach than much of what qualifies today as contemporary country.
Personally, I'd probably liken this album closest to Tom Petty, adorned with pedal steel and Nashville production. I can also hear plenty of Steve Earle, a distinct Dylan reference (although whether it's via Bob or Jakob, I'm not quite sure) and even a touch of Will Hoge. Granted those are some big names and big shoes to fill, but Luke Dick has stepped up in a big way with his solo debut to figuratively knock the ball out of the park.
As an Oklahoma native (he was born in Cogar, but grew up in Yukon) and former leader of OKC-based Redbud Revival, Dick wasn't too hard to dig up, although he's since relocated to New York after spending four years in Nashville as a songwriter. Once we did get a chance to chat, his laid-back demeanor and transparency made for an interesting conversation about music and the industry in general, but I also got his take on the new disc and what went into it.
When asked where he felt his new CD fell, he laughed and said, "It's definitely somewhere off the clean streets of Music Row, for sure -- I've been told that a few times. It's not something that really fits in anywhere neatly, but I'm very proud of it, nonetheless.
"I think it fits about the same place that the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss record did, as far as the market goes, although they sound nothing alike. I hear plenty of music that's popular in that vein, although it's in kind of a no man's land with Springsteen or Petty or anything with a classic feel."
When discussing influences and his approach to songwriting, Dick admitted to being impacted by artists such as Waylon Jennings, early Dolly Parton and Steve Earle on the more contemporary side of the country movement, acknowledging that it is more apparent in his linear storytelling than the musical aspect of his songs.
When discussing the disc itself, he revealed that he didn't start out with a set agenda of vision, only to record the best songs he could, in whatever manner they came out. And although each track differs and takes on a different timbre, all of them on this disc tie together with a commonality that comes from Dick's natural storytelling ability.
While a song like "Get Lost" slinks along with a vibe that borders on "Bobby McFerrin meets the deep South," as Dick described it, others such as "Porch Lights" have a very straight-forward approach that recalls Petty, Roy Orbison or Will Hoge. Perhaps the most indicative of Dick's commercial potential are tracks like "Don't Matter to Me" and "Life Ain't Hard," both of which strike a balance between driving, straight-forward rock and Dick's relaxed demeanor, and could easily find a place on AOR radio next to a few classic rock icons.
Perhaps the most introspective, however are the title track, "My Blood" and "The Healer." The title track, which explores both physical and emotional separation from a loved one, is admittedly at least partially autobiographical. "The Healer," on the other hand is purely speculative as it tells the story of a man who goes to see a faith healer and returns a year later to find the church and any sign of it gone, leaving him to wonder if the entire experience was just a fantasy.
"It's an interesting concept," Dick said.
"Kind of like when you ask for a sign and the wind blows. Later you're left to wonder was it a sign or just the wind blowing? You have to ask yourself whether you believe in signs or not."
Whether or not I believe in signs, I do believe in great songwriting and storytelling, and Dick has hit a homerun with his debut in both aspects. Taken from roughly 35 songs that were written and demo-ed, Dick trimmed it down to 11 for this disc (12 if you stick around for bonus track "Crazy For You", which ends the disc on an upbeat note), and didn't miss a beat. Whether you file it under country, rock or Americana doesn't matter. If you love great tunes, you need to find a copy of "My Blood", either by special order downloading from iTunes.
Luke Dick will be returning to Oklahoma for some select shows in October and we'll keep you posted as more details emerge. You don't want to wait, however, to catch on to one of the more engaging and intriguing records to emerge from a Northwest Oklahoma artist this year. Go find it.
I've been saying for a long time now that Tulsa's weekends truly kick off on Thursday evening, and this week proves it as we've got two great shows to catch and kick your weekend off in style.
First up is a free show at Cain's Ballroom sponsored by KVOO with Randy Rogers Band headlining. Rogers has come through here many times before as part of the Texas/Red Dirt movement, but the band is really gaining momentum with the release of its latest CD, Burning the Day, which debuted at No. 1 on iTunes country chart and No. 8 on the Billboard album chart.
The band's first single, "Too Late for Goodbye" is also taking off, falling only behind the latest Lady Antebellum single as most-added on country stations as it was released in August, positioning the guys on the verge of a major breakout as the band continues to tour heavily, playing over 200 shows a year.
This Thursday, Sept. 9, will likely be your last chance to catch the band for free (or cheap), however, as KVOO grabs an opportunity to showcase the band right before it explodes. Kevin Fowler and Sunny Sweeney open the show, which begins at 7:30pm.
If you're in more of a mood for classic rock than a country vibe, you need to land at The Colony on Thursday night. Of course, you can always count on The Colony for good tunes, but this month Brian Fontaine and The Colony crew are pulling out all the stops with a few killer touring acts. This Thursday, it's a full night with Austin-based band, Wisebird. If you haven't caught them previously at Soundpony (which wasn't a great fit), you'll definitely want to settle in this week to experience them in full.
I spoke with singer Trevor Nealon last week and the band is at an exciting point right now, preparing to release its new CD at the end of the month and finding its footing in a new region with another string of shows coming up throughout the Southeast, where the latest response has been amazing.
The Colony is the perfect landing spot for these guys in Tulsa as they put a modern spin on classic rock with a great feel for blues, rock and everything in between. It's another free show and the band will be burning through at least two sets of originals and previewing the new material as well as throwing in a few choice classics to keep things interesting.
I've already thrown you word on the best bets for Thursday evening, so we might as well get to the best of the rest, right?
If you're out on Friday night, pop rock fans will find a great show with Eric & the Adams at Bob's with FM Pilots opening. Meanwhile, classic and southern rock fans may want to check out Phil Zoellner Band at Woody's as Zoellner and company tear through four albums worth of original material and enough extras to keep the crowd dancing. If dancing's really your M.O., however, you can't miss Moai Broadcast playing an intimate and expansive set at The Colony on Sept. 10.
The biggest show on Saturday, Sept. 10, is easily Tegan and Sara at Cain's for an 8pm show, but reggae fans may make a concert by The Original Wailers at Flytrap Music Hall a close second. Even so, blues fans should settle in at Arnie's for an evening with Steve Pryor while Admiral Twin provides a pop/rock fix at Hunt Club and Back Porch Mary hits all angles of Americana, country and southern rock at Mercury Lounge on Saturday evening.
Sunday's best bet is Sherwood at the Marquee with Dangerous Summer and Soletta. The week is rounded out by Big Head Todd and the Monsters with Carbon Leaf at Cain's Ballroom on Monday, Sept. 13, and a blues blowout with Watermelon Slim and opener Dustin Pittsley at Flytrap Music Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 15.
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