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Arts & Culture
Thu September 23, 2010
The Bed We Made - James Dunn
By George Olsen
New Bern, NC – INTRO - The music of Raleigh's James Dunn has probably gotten its widest exposure via non-broadcast television songs from his first full length CD back in 2008 "The Long Ride Home" were featured amongst other places in ESPN broadcasts and on the TNT series "Saving Grace." Now he again trots out new music in hopes of getting airplay the old-fashioned way on the radio and that's o-k for the retro-minded Raleigh resident. George Olsen has more.
If you're going to be impressed by anything on the new CD by Raleigh's James Dunn, its probably not going to be his technical know-how and he's o-k with that.
"I would consider myself somebody who has an old soul, if you will. I've always, I'm not that old but quite honestly I'm usually one of the last people to adapt to new technologies with iPods and GPS and cell phones and all this stuff it just took me awhile to get into it."
which is why the lyrical content on his CD "The Bed We Made" is more prone to images of 30 years back than 30 days ago. Of course, the technology has probably already turned over in that 30 day time span. But the image of a plain-and-simple paper map seems forever.
"There's just something beautiful about a map. You pull a map out and look at where you're going and chart your course and draw that line and highlight it from one city to the next."
"Circle on my Map" by James Dunn from his new release "The Bed We Made." It's a decidedly old-school CD with plenty of mentions of old-school technologies like maps and trains. It's even old-school in its length closer to an LP than a CD.
"I think I went into it with the mindset of, you go back and listen to a record from the 1970s and a lot of the records were only 7-8 songs and nowadays you need 13-14 songs and quite honestly it gets long unless you're telling a really cohesive story and every track is a barnburner. I find that albums get kind of long so I pared down and left a bunch of the songs and try to keep the record more thematic."
"The Bed We Made" is more thematic in feel than in concept. It's slightly darker and sparer in its sound than his prior release, 2008's "The Long Ride Home" which had more of a rock-and-roll heart than this new release whose instrumentation more steel guitar, more dobro brings it more into the Americana fold.
"When I listen to The Long Ride Home I definitely heard more of a rock record with heavy guitars. With this record I pulled that back a little back because the subject matter of the songs was a bit more intricate and there's a real need to pay attention to the lyrics so we pulled back some of the loud guitars and just brought the mood down a little bit."
That moodier aspect even comes into play in one of the disc's jauntier tracks. Yes, "Crushed by the End of Summer" is about that most reliable of peppy songwriting fodder the summer crush, but James turns it on its head to downplay the excitement from the first rush of love to the inevitable end of that summertime high.
"Not every one, but 99% of them are crushed by the end of the summer because they normally happen when you're young and then the two people end up going their different ways just because of life, just the day to day what people are doing with their life, so its kind of like everyone's had their summer crush but it was crushed by the end of the summer and I quite honestly thought it was a really cool way to spin that whole topic that has been sung about a million times."
"The Bed We Made" has its dark, moody side, though not to the point where sharp objects should be safely stored away while listening. In fact, sometimes the guy even gets the girl, as in the track "Our Little History."
"I wrote that song about my wife. I just recently got married and I was thinking about her, and how do you ask somebody in what I'd call a songwriter's way about spending the rest of your days with somebody, so I thought the lyrics are really straight forward with it, kind of acknowledging that life is going to have its ups and downs and despite that you want to spend that time with another person and walk through your own little history with that person."
"Our Little History" might be more indicative of James Dunn than some of the other tracks from "The Bed We Made." On the title track and cuts like "Nothing Left to Say" the guy loses the girl, and the instrumentation on the disc has a more atmospheric quality than its bouncier predecessor, but James is still writing of hopeful topics like love and family with an occasional road trip in a classic car thrown in for good measure. In "The Bed We Made" James seems to be saying, yes, life can catch you on the highway and run you down from time to time but the things we love made the journey to that point worthwhile and definitely worth getting back up again for.
"I guess the things I'm a fan of old movies, 70s rock, those are the things I like and I guess that comes through in my songwriting more than maybe other things that are more contemporary. I guess as you get older you tend to reach back and grasp things in the past because bottom line that's your history and everyone's got a warm spot for that."
"The Bed We Made" is the new CD from Raleigh's James Dunn. I'm George Olsen.