Saturday Singles Nos. 117 & 118

Originally posted March 7, 2009

How the road sometimes turns!

It was about a year ago that I began my brief exploration of the song “Hitchcock Railway,” my favorite Joe Cocker tune. After digging through other versions of the song, I was able to share the version recorded by the song’s creators, Don Dunn and Tony McCashen. (A note: This is not the Don Dunn who’s also known as Duck Dunn and is a member of Booker T and the MG’s. This Don Dunn is originally from San Diego.)

It was also about a year ago that I began to share the four early and mid-1970s albums by Patti Dahlstrom. Sorting through the lists of credits – some of which Patti supplied herself from London, where she now lives – I noticed a number of interesting things. But the one that is most pertinent today is that Don Dunn sang background vocals on three of Patti’s albums, missing only the debut album in 1972.

Patti mentioned Don and wrote highly of him as a musician and a friend. So I went looking on the net for the albums Dunn made with Tony McCashen, one a self-titled record, the other an album called Mobius, both from 1969. I have yet to purchase either album, though I certainly hope to do so. Both pop up from time to time on vinyl at places like Ebay or through services like GEMM; prices run from $15 to $50, depending on condition. I have had a chance to listen to Mobius, and it’s good, leaning toward singer-songwriter, late 1960s pop-rock. I wanted to dig into it more and find out about the first record, so I began to look around a little.

This is where the chronology gets a little misty. It was in late summer last year that I got a note from Patti mentioning the song “Tumbledown Love” by Don Dunn. At about the same time, I think – as I said, the order of things is not entirely clear, likely because all this was happening as we were moving – I came across a blog that had a very brief mention of Don Dunn and shared two songs, “Two Tanyas” and “Tumbledown Love.” I loved them. So I went looking.

It was actually simple. When I’d been looking for Dunn’s music earlier, I’d been looking for the albums and had always included Tony McCashen’s name in my searches. When I Googled “Don Dunn,” the first result on the list was about a football player at Auburn University. The second said “We met in the kitchen of a friend and I played guitar and sang a few songs for Yuri and his wife Natasha. I knew nothing, at that point, of Yuri’s musical . . .”

Interesting, I thought. I clicked on the link to DonDunn.com and learned the story of Don’s time in Ukraine and of “Two Tanyas” and “Tumbledown Love” and the nine other songs that make up the 2005 album Voices From Another Room. I’d say that the story Don tells is one of a series of coincidences, but I learned long ago that there is no such thing as coincidence. Meetings, partings, opportunities, all are planned. I get the sense from his telling of the tale that Don feels the same way. I may be wrong about that, but it was certainly a series of unexpected meetings and moments that led to the creation of what Don calls “the recording of my life.”

An exchange of emails with Don ended up with a copy of Voices From Another Room sitting in my CD player and with Don granting me permission to share two of the songs from the album. But what was it I heard when I finally popped the album into the player?

First of all, eleven very finely crafted pop-rock songs, most of which carry a hint of the otherness that comes from spending time in a different place, whether that’s geographical, emotional or metaphysical. A writer as gifted as Don cannot help but reflect his surroundings and experiences – in this case, in Ukraine – and bring them to his music.

Second, the performances, too, carry a large sense of that otherness, no doubt brought to the album by the Ukrainian musicians Don worked with, from Yuri Kuznetsov and Andre Prosorov on down the line. All through the various idioms on the CD – blues, samba, pop-rock, ballad – that otherness slides through, bringing – for me, at least – a sense of mysticism, optimism and stoicism. It’s truly a remarkable album.

And I’m pleased that Don’s agreed to let me share two of its tracks, today’s Saturday Singles.

“Two Tanyas” by Don Dunn from Voices From Another Room [2005]

“Tumbledown Love” by Don Dunn from Voices From Another Room [2005]

(If you’re interested in getting your own copy of Voices From Another Room, you can email Don at info at dondunn.com.)

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