Dan Dugmore Reviews

Omaha Rainbow Interview

Review by Brad San Martin

Country Standard Time

Dan Dugmore
[Off White Album], 2004
Double D

Pedal steel master Dan Dugmore is a fixture on the Nashville session scene these days, a sublimely understated player who never indulges in flashy showmanship. Dugmore is a song man, brilliantly illuminating tunes and framing them with his luminescent playing. This, shockingly enough, is his first solo record. A modestly-conceived affair, it consists entirely of Beatles covers rendered on steel with delicate acoustic guitar, bass and percussion backdrops. Played almost entirely straight with little filigree or embellishment, the album is as much a showcase for the songs as it is Dugmore's impeccable playing. His selections are mostly familiar nuggets (alas, he doesn't tackle "The Inner Light") and even the original guitar solos are rendered faithfully. Despite the familiarity of it all, Dugmore triumphs through his achingly pure tone, ever-present good taste and the strength of the material at hand.

Fellow steel players will marvel at his flawless intonation and voice-leading, while the average listeners will doubtlessly delight hearing these chestnuts in a noticeable different light. To Dugmore's credit, it sounds as though songs like "Fool on the Hill" and "I Will" were written with the mournful twang of the steel in mind.

- Brad San Martin

Review by Steve Horowitz of Bitchin' Entertainment

Dan Dugmore
[Off White Album], 2004
Double D

There have been cover albums of The Beatles ever since the British Invasion hit our shores in 1964. In the beginning these records, by artists like the cartoon characters The Chipmunks or the slick, lounge productions of the Hollywood Strings, were novelty items. As The Beatles matured, so did the caliber of the cover artists. By the seventies there were switched on electronic classical versions of the band's catalogue as well as rock and jazz releases by notable musicians like Duane Allman and Wes Montgomery. By the end of the 20th century there were dozens of Beatles cover albums as arcane as Cello Submarine, which, you guessed it, featured Beatles songs played on the cello to Nashville country music tributes to the Fab Four. Currently, the biggest underground hit CD is DJ Danger Mouse's mix of The Beatles' White Album with rapper Jay Z's The Black Album. The last thing anybody needs is one more copy of The Beatles' catalogue.

Or so I thought, but guitarist Dan Dugmore proves there's still plenty of enjoyment to be found in them old tunes. The versatile musician plays pedal steel, lap steel, dobro, electric and acoustic guitars, banjo and mandolin-indeed all the instruments, on his debut release, Off White Album, a collection of Beatles' songs. Oh Dugmore has recorded before and odds are that you own an album on which he's performed. He was part of Linda Ronstadt's and James Taylor's back-up bands during their heydays in the seventies and eighties and during that period played on hits by artists as varied Michael Martin Murphy and the Pointer Sisters, Englebert Humperdinck and David Crosby, Stevie Nicks and Bernadette Peters. Dugmore moved to Nashville from L.A. in the nineties and played on best-selling pop (i.e. Neil Diamond, Michael McDonald) and country (i.e. Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Jr.) releases.

This ain't a Saturday night party record, but more of a Sunday morning make the coffee, get the paper, and cook the breakfast one. Dugmore plays the more subdued Beatles' songs such as "In My Life," "Eleanor Rigby," and "Fool On The Hill," and performs them slowly. He concentrates on the beauty of the melodies and the simplicity of the music's construction. Dugmore bends the notes gently on the steel, whose timbre frequently resembles the human voice. When he plays the opening notes to a song like "Julia" or "Blackbird," one can almost hear the sound of the words being formed.

Dugmore confidently exposes the simple splendor of the material. He refuses to pretty-up songs like "Across the Universe" and "Norwegian Wood" with trills and glissandos, but smoothly plays each separate note. Dugmore even makes fresh the somewhat soppy love songs like "Michelle," "Yesterday," and "Something" by performing the tunes straight, with only a minimum of ornamentation. While Dugmore yields to the temptation of recording a bird chirping in the background of "Blackbird," the most up-tempo song on the disc, he has the good sense most of the time to make the silence between the notes an important part of the record.

The hook is The Beatles' songs. Millions more have heard and love the British moppets than are familiar with Dugmore. But this record is really more for appreciators of instrumental stringed music than Fab Four fans. Dugmore's able techniques and splendid talents make these songs his.


A trio of Nashville sidemen release strong albums under their own names
By Michael McCall

Ray Flacke
Sings Without Words (RJF Records)
Available at www.rayflacke.com

Dan Dugmore
Off White Album (Double D Records)
Available at www.dandugmore.com

Viktor Krauss
Far From Enough (Nonesuch)

Ask an out-of-towner what makes Nashville a thriving music capital, and they'll name singers and performers. Ask songwriters, and they'll say, "It all begins with a song." But ask the artists, the record producers or the studio engineers, and they'll say that the backbone of the city's music industry is the enormous number of outstanding musicians who live and work here.

Of course, Nashville also thrives on conformity. For better or worse, artists and songwriters must learn to work within an established system, and instrumentalists are no different. No matter how good a guitarist or keyboardist may be, his or her playing will be restricted to fitting within specific, often formulaic arrangements. Fresh ideas are fine, on occasion, as long as they stay within boundaries that don't leave room for much individuality.

But, for decades now, the more ambitious members of the city's instrumental crew have taken time to create their own music--side projects, so to speak. Only that description shortchanges both the talent and the work. Truth is, Nashville studio musicians have been creating outstanding recordings since Chet Atkins first cut tracks under his own name for Bullet Records in 1946.

Country instrumentals are as old as the genre itself, with historians citing fiddle tunes as the birth of country music recording. But Nashville studio musicians and the records they make are often something else entirely: It's not about formula, but instead, a chance for that player to show off personal style and taste.

Three recent albums illustrate how individual a well-regarded musician will sound if given the chance to lead instead of support. Ray Flacke's Songs Without Words offers the biggest surprise; an Englishman known for his fleet "chicken-picking" on an electric Fender, he sticks entirely to melodic acoustic guitar originals. Flacke's résumé underscores the esteem in which other pickers hold him: Bandleaders who are considered excellent guitarists themselves often hire him. Flacke has played with Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart and Jamie Hartford, all of them stellar guitarists, as well as on albums by Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Travis Tritt and others.

On his new album, Flacke proves as inventive and capable on acoustic as he is on electric; for such an aggressive Fender player, his touch on his Guild D60 is disarmingly beautiful. Working solo, Flacke's melodicism and ideas reward attentive listening, but the lyrical quality of the playing also will work for those who enjoy music with meditative or calming qualities.

Steel guitarist Dan Dugmore also focuses on gently beautiful songs on his first instrumental collection. Dugmore pioneered the use of steel guitar on rock songs, having toured with Linda Ronstadt for 14 years and James Taylor for 11. One of Nashville's most prolific session players since moving here 15 years ago, he stays in demand because of his clear tones and the emotional depth he can add to a song.

Featuring 12 gentle covers of Beatles ballads, Dugmore's Off White Album highlights his love of melody. He plays all of the instruments himself, backing the dreamy, voice-like quality of his sliding notes with acoustic guitar, mandolin and bass. The haunting beauty of his playing keeps it from fading into background Muzak; instead, it has a winsome, narcotic-like effect that's relaxed but vibrantly alive.

Bassist Viktor Krauss' Far From Enough is the most ambitious of the three albums. Released by Nonesuch, a major label, Krauss recruited all-star support for the project, which blends progressive acoustic and jazz ideas into something funky and fresh. The high regard with which the bassist is held shows in the level of collaborators he recruits: jazz guitar stalwart Bill Frisell, Dobro master Jerry Douglas, drummer Steve Jordan (who's backed everyone from Sonny Rollins to The Rolling Stones) as well as his sister Alison Krauss on vocals and viola. The results resemble Frisell's Americana explorations and Douglas' fusion of roots instruments and modern-improvisational ideas, yet Krauss asserts his own ideas through a rhythmic underpinning that alternates between jauntiness and architectural complexity.

The albums reiterate that Nashville remains a home to some of the most accomplished musicians in the world, only they rarely get to show it. The city and the music world would benefit if more of them took the time to share their own ideas instead of just adding color to the songs of others.

From Pop Matters

Dan Dugmore, The Off-White Album
(Double D)

Pedal steel guitarist Dan Dugmore has been contributing his sound to albums ranging from Linda Ronstadt to James Taylor to the Pointer Sisters and just about every top-shelf Nashville act since, well, since the Beatles stopped making music together. So it's somehow fitting that on his first album, The Off-White Album, Dugmore aims to take the Beatles' catalogue to new territory. Don't expect a radical reinterpretation of the Beatles, a la Danger Mouse's The Grey Album. Dugmore hews very closely to the originals, mimicking the vocals with his guitar and faithfully reproducing the original guitar solos. But even with this tack he's playing to his strengths. Dugmore has an astounding ability to bring out the elegance and transcendence of the Beatles' music with his only his guitar. While The Off-White Album may not add a new chapter to the Beatles' legend, Dugmore has made an engaging and ambitious album. As rich as the Beatles's music is, it is an immensely difficult task to say something that's not already been said in the 30-plus years of Beatles legend. Dugmore has managed this admirably by creating a new and fitting tribute with The Off-White Album.

From EarCandy magazine

Dan Dugmore,"Off White Album"
(Double D)

Country rock musician Dan Dugmore has an impressive musical resume including Linda Ronstadt (remember "Blue Bayou"?), James Taylor and Trisha Yearwood. His first solo album is a collection of country rock versions of his favorite Beatles tunes, with the prominent instrument being a dreamy steel guitar. The selections consist of two songs from the White Album, three from Rubber Soul, two from Abbey Road and one each from Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour (while he covers "Fool on the Hill"-I would love to hear what he could do with the Beatles instrumental "Flying"!), Revolver and Help!

You might ask - will a totally instrumental Beatles tribute album work? And, one that uses steel guitar as the lead instrument? The answer is 'yes' to both. To start with, you have those exquisite melodies of the Beatles - but to only say that is the success of this album would be to sell Mr. Dugmore short. Although it is an instrumental-only album, this sure ain't muzak! This album does what every "tribute" album SHOULD do: deliver a quality interpretation of classic songs that don't stick too close to the originals, but instead give valid and interesting versions . The steel guitar work on this album is the key - it displays a dreamy, floating quality of stunning beauty. Definitely worth repeated plays, unlike the majority of tribute albums!

Not only will Beatles fans dig this album, but also country rock followers of (later period) Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons. In fact, the only thing that would make this album better would be if you could bring Gram Parsons back to do vocals over these tracks! I hope Mr. Dugmore issues a lot more CD's in the future because this is pure enjoyment.

Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Rick de Yampert
Entertainment Writer

Dan Dugmore
"Off White Album"
Double D Records
*** 1/2

What would the Beatles have done with a steel guitar - that drowsy, twangy instrument that's a staple of country music?

The answer can be found on the enchanting "Off White Album" by Dan Dugmore, a steel guitar player who logged stints with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor before relocating to Nashville in 1990.

That answer isn't what one might expect. The instrumentals of "Off White Album" sound less like a country work and more like a magical mystery tour across an alternate Beatles universe. That's because Dugmore conjures the dreamy, ethereal side of his steel guitar, and he has a keen sense of where that sound can submerge effortlessly into the Beatles' oeuvre.

Thus, hearing steel guitar perform the "Jai guru deva om" chant on "Across the Universe" sounds as mystical and beautiful as any sitar that guest-starred on a Fab Four album. John Lennon always claimed that "Because" was actually Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" played backwards, so perhaps it's no coincidence that Dugmore's celestial steel guitar is so heavenly on that track from "Abbey Road." Dugmore also covers "Blackbird," "In My Life," "Fool on the Hill," "Eleanor Rigby," "Norwegian Wood" and more of what he calls the "pretty songs" of the Beatles. He quietly backs himself with acoustic guitars, mandolin and bass, but the surreal purr of his steel guitar is the star.

Too bad John, Paul, George and Ringo never got around to fiddling with one of these steel thingies.

Ratings: ***** classic, **** excellent, *** good, ** mediocre, * poor.

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