I need a play list that captures my mood. It’s mostly dark, perplexed and chaotic but sometimes there are much needed glimmers of inspiration. I have so many questions. Is this really our plight? Will it ever end? How will humanity change? With this rapidly, unfolding uncertainty, I can’t do light and surface. Good old rock or pop, my normal go-tos, definitely will not work. I’m craving gritty and real. I need Grant Dermody and his new album, “My Dony.” It primarily blues but there are touches of gospel with the dominant vocals and simple, yet never boring arrangements. This is the soundtrack to get me through this extraordinarily tough time.
Blues has a deep and difficult history originating in the south. African American slaves developed the music pulling from chants, hymns and spirituals which illustrates its strong connect to gospel. Blues started in the fields and on porches, was taken into prisons and eventually found its way into bars as well as sophisticated clubs. Blues fits in anywhere because it is relatable. It is the music of injustice, despair, mourning, longing, desire, even pleasure.
I provided a snap shot of the genre but I will not pretend to be an expert. I am not even an avid listener. So why am I writing this review? I have a few things going for me in regards to the style. First, and this may be surprising considering my Jewish last name; I have southern roots. My grandmother and great Cookie Grandmom, (that’s what we called her) grew up in Pace, Mississippi. I feel like I’m drawn to this music and get it because its’ part of my DNA. Second, I am under COVID-19, house arrest. (I don’t mean this to be disparaging or insensitive. Humor is how I cope.) Therefore, I am truly living the blues in my current, imprisonment. I feel injustice, despair, mourning, lounging, desire and even moments of pleasure. Finally, I am writing this as I have excellent taste. I know what sounds good and that’s Dermody and his album, “My Dony.”
Dermody’s thirteen song record took me on a journey. Restricted to home, desperately craving my old life, I, for one, need a trip. “Morning Train” is one of my favorites. I love the New Orleans influence, hearing traditional zydeco which blends Creole, Afro-Caribbean, gospel and of course the blues. Dermody instantly transported me to the French Quarter, walking around on a muggy, summer day, stopping to listen to the countless street musicians. “Great Change,” probably the strongest gospel tune on the LP is interesting for today. I applied the lyrics to how this experience will be a ‘great change’ for all of us. Things will of course be different, but maybe, we will evaluate the ways we behave, hopefully moving in a more positive light. Perhaps even rise up and do better. Stuck at home, barely time to walk ‘the yard,’ aka my neighborhood, “Come on Sunshine” pulled me in with its enticing title. The tune’s meditative lines spoke to me with their soothing repetition. “Come on sunshine. Come on sunshine. Wake up my mind. Oh, wake up my mind. Melt the fog off. Melt the fog off. And the clouds away. Give me sweet peace of mind. I can’t waste no more time. I just follow, that line, where you lead me.”
You feel Dermody and his assembles commitment, joy and passion in each track. The vocals are smoky, sometime brusque yet strangely comforting and reassuring. The harmonica warms your soul with the right amount of intensity. It is an instrument where the sounds are influenced by the performers own vocal chords contributing to making the music relevant. The drum is of course the heartbeat. I also think I hear a tambourine which just adds to the overall magic. Dermody’s talents are undeniable.
Dermody’s album perfectly compliments my mood. It speaks to my strife. It acknowledges my confusion and it even celebrates moments of hope. There is an interesting tenet of blues. It is the idea that by exposing human experiences through the creation, performance as well as even the act of listening to the music the intense feelings will be better managed. Dermody does this well. It’s my playlist when I’m escaping my confines to enjoy a few hours of light. It is the soothing background to keep me from climbing my walls. It allows me to remise of and voyage to better times. For me his album was relatable providing necessary understanding and inner strength. I hope you find the same.