THE STORY OF THE ALBUM, "YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE: DUETS"
Back in June, after the murder of George Floyd, I watched this country seething with anger and pain. As someone who has built his career performing Black music, and who has received priceless gifts from Black mentors, I asked myself, “What can I do to help?” Due to Covid-19, all my summer gigs had been cancelled, and I had some extra time on my hands. So I thought, “What if I record my new originals with some of my friends, and donate the money from album sales to groups working for racial justice and equity?”
I put the idea out there on social media, and the response was incredible. Within 24 hours I had received hundreds of dollars worth of pre-orders. Dozens of musicians wanted to participate. Clearly other folks felt the way I did, and wanted to give back in some way.
The musicians on this album represent a great diversity of styles, backgrounds, ages, genders, and ethnicities. Some are known around the world. Some are known only locally. But most importantly, their music and their ‘soul’ moves me. I am proud to call each of these wonderful human beings a friend.
MEET THE MUSICIANS BEHIND THE MUSIC OF THE ALBUM
I met Annika in Memphis about 8 years ago, at a jam at the Rumboogie Cafe on Beale Street. We were both just getting our names out there nationally. We immediately connected, and have stayed in touch ever since. As soon as I posted about this album, she volunteered her amazing talents. She is an incredibly talented, strong, outspoken woman, and I couldn’t be happier to have her on this album.
Carly is based in Washington, DC, and is known as “DC’s Queen of the Blues.” She’s a young up-and-comer. We met in Memphis during the BMAs, at an impromptu hotel lobby jam, led by my friend and mentor, Ronnie Earl. As the microphone was passed around, Carly stepped up and I immediately took notice. Great presence and unique style. We’ve had many inspiring conversations since, and I just love her positive energy and attitude.
Annie is one of my very favorite singers in the world. I discovered her on Facebook (LOL). It turned out she was a fan of mine, and we became insta-friends. She is a deeply spiritual singer, and a writer of great depth. Hailing originally from Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, it seemed a perfect fit to ask her to be on the album.
Joe Louis Walker
I’ve only gotten to know Joe recently, but it’s easy to see why he is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame. Listening to his vocals on “Scratchin’ At Your Door,” I was completely blown away by the originality of his approach. His high, keening vocals bring a huge helping of gospel soul to everything he does. And his timing is uniquely his own. I met him briefly in Memphis last year, during the BMAs, and introduced myself. I’d been a fan of his since his early album “The Gift”. Imagine my surprise when he replied, in a real serious voice, “I know who you are.” So when Joe was in Plattsburgh, NY this July, performing at a drive-in concert, I asked him if he’d be interested in being on the album. So grateful that he was able to make time in his busy schedule to make this happen.
I’ve been a big fan of Trudy Lynn since I first witnessed her working her magic on a late night crowd at one of the great Memphis juke joints: Wild Bill’s. It was during my first trip to Memphis, during the BMAs, back in 2010. A bunch of us out-of-towners trekked up to Voluntine Street, to sit in with the great house band. And there were many really good performers that night. But the one that ‘took the cake’ – that is, completely tore the house down – was Trudy. She moved throughout the crowd, singing so dynamically that you couldn’t take your eyes off her. I thought, “Wow. That’s how it’s done.” We’ve run into each other in Memphis many times since, and it’s always a treat connecting with her. She has great style, and I respect the heck out of her. When I posted about this album, she asked if she could be, “the frosting on the cake.” It’s obvious from listening to what she laid down, that she is much more than just the frosting!
Dawn Tyler Watson
Dawn and I met when we were seatmates on a flight back from Memphis. At the time she was performing as part of a duo with Paul DesLauriers (who is now Annika Chambers’ husband). We really connected. Dawn is super high energy and totally hilarious. And a top notch performer in every way, as proven by her Juno award (Canadian Grammy) for Best Blues Album of 2019. We’ve jammed at house parties and at awards shows, and eaten many meals together. She’s a great friend and I’m so glad she’s on this album. “God Is Love / Love Is Everything” seemed like the right song for her, since her own songs often speak of her wide-reaching faith.
Chad is well known in my home state of Vermont. He comes from more of an acoustic rock background, but when we get together we always seem to connect so easily on a musical and personal level. We became friends when I was going through my divorce, back in 2012. It was a time when I often felt quite lonely, and during the July 4th holiday, Chad and his wife Katie were kind enough to invite me to hang with them. It really meant a lot to me, and we’ve been tight ever since. I love his sense of rhythm and harmony. So natural and full of joy. When I wrote “Make It To Tomorrow” it reminded me of the kind of songs Chad writes, so it seemed only natural to have him sing it with me.
Johnny is one of the last of the true Soul men, having learned his art directly from giants including Joe Tex, Z.Z. Hill, and O.V. Wright, Johnny’s close friend and one of the deepest singers of all time. I have been blessed to spend countless hours with Johnny. He has taught me lessons on everything from how to play the music ‘right’, to how to connect with an audience, to how to navigate the difficulties of relationships, business, and life in general. He has been a true friend to me, showing up at my house on the day my ex-wife left, to keep my spirits up and offer his support. We first met in 2010 at a Blues festival at Mt. Snow in southern VT. At the after hours jam, I showed up with my guitar, and Johnny was kind enough to invite me on stage. During my initial guitar solo Johnny castigated me for playing “too many notes Dave. Try three. Or four maybe.” But he ended up keeping me on stage the rest of the night. And as they say, the rest is history.
Brother Bob White
Brother Bob is like a father to me. I love this man. One of the very last of the great Kansas City gospel organists, Bob is 89-years young. We met in the summer of 2001, when I was traveling across the country with my ex-wife. We stopped in KC, and fortuitously met Bob while standing in line at a natural foods store. He invited us back to his home, where we met his lovely wife Dorothy. The four of us became family that day. (Sadly Dorothy passed away about 8 years ago.) I’ve sung in Bob’s church. Bob has toured New England with me, making many friends and fans. Last winter he had double pneumonia and the flu, and almost died. Thankfully he is still with us to share his incredible talent and bouyant spirit. By the way, the song “God Is Love / Love Is Everything” was inspired by the way Bob offers ‘grace’ at mealtimes: a simple “God Is Love”. That says it all, doesn’t it?
Another young up-and-comer, Katie and I had the pleasure of playing together in VT just before Covid hit. She’s got a really positive energy to her music, and is just a delightful person. Based just outside NYC, she’s been making a lot of waves lately. We met at the Blues Blast Music Awards in Rockford, IL the previous September, and hit it off. I’m excited to have her on the album, and I know she’s got a bright future.
Toussaint St. Negritude
Toussaint is a spoken word artist in the vein of Gil Scott Heron. Currently living in the VT hills, he grew up in San Francisco, and his family is from Alabama. His poems speak of his love of nature, as well as our common humanity, and he often incorporates his bass clarinet playing into his live performances. When I first conceived of this album, I was hoping he would be part of it. He brings a truth-telling to everything he does, in a way that is unique and refreshing. On a personal level, I just love hanging out with him, as the conversations flow like winding rivers. A good friend and a wonderful artist.
Mark Earley and horns
When I first posted about this project, Mark volunteered to add horns. I’ve long been an admirer of his work with Roomful of Blues, Duke Robillard, and Victor Wainwright, among others. We played together in Boston a couple years ago, and he really impressed me with his ability to add just the right spice to my original songs. He put together a killer horn section for this album, including my friend Mario Perrett, who is one of the best sax players I’ve ever heard. Tom Palance’s trumpet was the perfect fit for “The Evil That Men Do,” and Garth Retallack’s trombone juiced up “That Thing We Do” so nicely.
Vince is the grandson of the late Darryl Carter, who was my songwriting mentor. Together Darryl and I wrote “17 Years” and “Deeper Than The Eye Can See.” Darryl was best known for writing “A Woman’s Gotta Have It” with Bobby Womack, and “Blind, Crippled, and Crazy” with O.V. Wright. So when Vince’s dad Chris Burns approached me about having Vince play some guitar on the album, it gave me chills. Brother Bob White uses the phrase “reaching back” to refer to someone reaching back to help out someone who could use the opportunity. I am blessed to be able to “reach back” and shine a little light on this talented and soulful 18-year-old. In doing so, it completes the circle that Darryl started when he first sat down with this very “green” young songwriter back in 2012. Thank you Darryl. And thank you Vince.
Chris was the first guy friend I made when I moved to VT back in 1993. We met at a Blues festival in Burlington, VT, the day after my girlfriend and I had broken up, and we played some serious Blues. Even then he had a great touch with the slide guitar. But as the years have passed, he has become one of the very finest slide players out there. A devoted family man, he hasn’t been able to tour beyond VT. But his talent is huge, as is his heart. It seemed perfect to have him play on “Scratchin’ At Your Door”, since I came up with the idea for that song while we were jamming at my house, and my dog Zanny was scratching at the door to come in! Chris recently relocated to the NYC area, where I’m sure he’ll be turning plenty of heads!
Ira holds the record for having played in my band longer than any other musician. Fourteen years and counting. We have driven countless miles together, and played countless gigs. He’s been a great friend to me over the years, and his musical wisdom has really anchored the band. He is the deepest keyboardist I know, as is obvious, I think, on the songs “The Evil That Men Do” and “The Spark”. He grew up in both VT and Maui, and currently lives in Berlin, VT.
Alex joined the band this past year, and has proven to be indispensable, always giving us a rich and funky groove. He is a wonderfully positive and hard-working guy, and a real pleasure to play with. He lives in Moretown, VT.
Originally from Gloversville, NY, Jay spent time in Idaho where he was John Nemeth’s drummer in the band Fat John and the Three Slims. I met Jay in 1996, when I was putting together the very first incarnation of my band., and we played together until 1998, when he left for greener pastures. We reconnected a few years ago, and Jay rejoined the band. There is something uniquely funky about what he does, and it’s hard to put a finger on it. But whenever I play with Jay, he brings out the best in me. He currently lives in Colchester, VT.
April has sung in my Soul Revue for the past bunch of years. She has great positive energy, and is a wonderful Soul and Funk singer based in Derby, VT, on the Canadian border.
Katie is my partner, and I thought it would be fun to have her on the album. She loves to sing, and added just the right touch to “You Get What You Give”. In fact, that song was inspired by something she said!
Havvah and Idalee Keller
Havvah and Idalee are my daughters, ages 18 and 15 respectively. They are both quite musical, and it’s a real treat to have them on this album. Proud dad moment!