You may never have heard of Arron Dean, but there are some who have, and the legendary Al Perkins, consummate dobro player ne plus ultra, is one of them. He contributes lines on this CD that slay the listener, especially in the opening cut, Buffalo, SD, where just he and Dean appear, his ethereally keening instrument lofted above the singer's pained vocals. I mean, this one performance alone is a cut for the ages, a church for the stringed instrument in denuded revelation, and there's a reason Perkins chose to play on this CD, as Dean is a troubadour of a different coat, a guy who bleeds and sweats what he sings...and the kind of singer-composer who gives critics ulcers because his work is so familiar and yet so impossible of definition. I suspect that's what made the gig irresistible to Al.
Perhaps a clue to Dean's mind lies in his piano playing, strikingly akin to Harold Budd's, and in St. Paul on Mississippi, the music suddenly lifts into the skies in a heavenly apotheosis, as though the composer's fragile angeline vocals transcendentally imbued the entire environment, whence the mural could not help but ennoble itself. The follower, Minneapolis, is equally baffling in its conjoining of spiritual prairie refrains and progressive classicalism, a rending of the sod to get to its underlying evanescent nature, to free the seraph from the beast. Though Dean's work is completely different, I'm reminded of Sipo's shattering prog venture, Year of the White Rose (here), as both are unearthly.
It's a pity that more of this curious but entrancing music isn't making it to the mainstream. Howard Wuelfing has been a champion of the indefinable form, but Jeffrey Smith and Crash Avenue, another publicity venture winnowing the worthy out from obscurity, have increasingly been locating strange refrains and glowing misfits, vouchsafing intrepid musician and listener alike that all is not commercial trash and soulless plagiarism in a culture increasingly hellbound. Arron Dean treads the road not taken, and if one finds in him strains of Tim Hardin and other innovative trans-folkies, that inclination is not mistaken. You may have to struggle with this one before settling in but it's worth the effort and may even twist your perceptions in ways you weren't prepared to expect, couldn't even guess at.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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