Unsung Hero – Nick Juno Honors Early Days of Dylan on Resurrected ‘Dope Fiend Robber’ Track

Nick Juno combines introspective stories and acoustic-rich folk in metro Detroit. Photo – Andrea Wingard Photography

Nick Juno never imagined he’d collaborate with Bob Dylan.

The metro Detroit folk singer-songwriter took an unfinished, unreleased and unrecorded Dylan song, “Dope Fiend Robber,” from 1961 and added lyrics and original music to it. Juno learned about the song through Untold Dylan, an online curator of more than 600 Dylan songs.

“I tried to make it in the feel of the 1960s Bob Dylan kind of folky way as well as Woody Guthrie. I didn’t want to sing it like Dylan; I wanted sing it in my own way,” he said.

A tragic sonic tale, “Dope Fiend Robber” highlights a World War II vet who becomes addicted to morphine after recovering from a combat-related injury. His growing addiction escalates into robbery and murder as well as his eventual execution.

As a gifted storyteller, Juno eloquently honors Dylan on “Dope Fiend Robber” as down-home swift acoustic strums seamlessly glide alongside his nimble vocals, “They found me guilty at the trial/The Judge condemned me to die/Been on that morphine quite a while/But once I was somebody’s child.”

“It doesn’t really mean anything in the greater scheme, but it’s pretty amazing to see my name next to Bob Dylan,” said Juno, who grew up in Flushing.

Juno developed a deep appreciation for Dylan and folk music while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in San Diego and Honolulu. By the early ‘80s, he was a high school graduate who casually learned guitar from his friends on base.

“The guys would show each other three cowboy chord songs, and the first guitar I had was this little old one. I had to take it to a buddy of mine to tune it every week or so because I didn’t know how to tune it. He said, ‘If you’re going to learn how to play this thing, at some point, you’re going to have to learn how to tune it,’” Juno said.

“I handled that, but that’s when I started playing, and my big love back then was Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Jim Glover, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. It was always a story first and then the music. I’m not terribly fancy; I’m a strummer, finger-picker folkie, but I know my role, and I want to tell a story, and I put the two together.”

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Folk Visionaries – Alice Howe, Freebo to Perform Friday at Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Cafe

Alice Howe will make her Black Crystal Cafe live debut Friday in Ann Arbor with Freebo. Photo by Robert M. Ring

With a new tour and full-length debut album, Alice Howe will bring her 2020 vision to Ann Arbor’s Black Crystal Café Friday.

The Boston singer-songwriter will make her first live appearance at the intimate 48-seat music club with world-renowned bassist Freebo, who’s performed with Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

“Freebo and I have been working together for the last three years. He produced my last record, ‘Visions,’ which came out in May of last year, and he and I have been touring together a lot. For this show, we’re billing it as he will be my special guest, so he’ll do an opening set, and then he’ll back me on the bass,” said Howe about her set with Freebo for Friday’s sold-out show.

“It’s really fun because I get to sing harmonies on his songs, and it’s a really collaborative thing that we’ve put together that just works out really well for both of us. We’re excited to take that to Black Crystal.”

Howe forged a fateful partnership with Freebo nearly four years ago at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. After meeting and chatting with him, she went through her record collection at home and discovered his musical collaborations with Raitt, Young and a host of other rock legends.

“That was a very cool moment for me where I realized, ‘Wow, I’ve met somebody,’ and we had a lot in common as far as our taste in music and production styles and singing styles and all this stuff was so in line with each other,” Howe said. “I grew up listening to the era of music that he really came up under, so for me to meet somebody from that time was like, ‘Oh my god, I felt like he was sent to me.’”

Having Musical ‘Visions’

Those similarities quickly led Howe to enlist Freebo as her musical mentor, collaborator and producer for “Visions,” a 10-track, introspective folk-blues expedition filled with striking originals and smashing covers from Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan. It’s a gorgeous extension of her 2017 debut folk EP, “You’ve Been Away So Long.”

For “Visions,” Howe relocated from Boston to Bakersfield, Calif., to record her full-length debut with Freebo, Fuzzbee Morse (electric guitar), John “JT” Thomas (keys) and John Molo (percussion). In fact, her creative expedition begins with the nature-inspired “Twilight” and includes a much-needed Michigan winter sonic escape to a serene world dotted with dirt roads, sunlight, ocean and trees.

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The Interpreter – Bettye LaVette Shares Career Favorites, Dylan Cuts at 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Bettye LaVette will perform Saturday at the 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival. Photo by Mark Seliger

Bettye LaVette brings a magical soulfulness to her 60-year career, including Bob Dylan’s legendary songbook.

The iconic soul songstress and Michigan native beautifully interprets an era of treasures ranging from ‘60s R&B to British rock to deep Dylan cuts. Her latest release, “Things Have Changed (2018),” unearths Dylan’s extensive catalog from 1979 to 1989 as well as other cherished favorites.

“Well, there isn’t a ‘like’ to it, it’s just the way I hear the songs, and that’s the way I sing it. But as I said, I’m really not that much of a music enthusiast, so there are not a great many songs that sat around that I wanted to sing for a long time,” said LaVette, who was born in Muskegon and grew up in Detroit as Betty Jo Haskins.

“It’s the songs that appeal to me most, that’s why the Bob Dylan album worked so well for me because the lyrics have to be absolutely solid and be there. I’m almost 75 years old, and I can’t look my audience in the face, and people who are sitting close, I look at them even more intently, so I can’t have a whole bunch of gibberish coming out. It has to say something because I’m holding a conversation with them.”

LaVette will hold an engaging conversation with Ann Arbor audiences Saturday at the 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival, which also will include Nathaniel Rateliff, Mandolin Orange and Cold Tone Harvest. In her first-ever Folk Festival appearance, LaVette will share her career highlights and interpretations with a nearly sold-out crowd of 3,500 at Hill Auditorium.

“Most of those (Dylan) songs, I think there were 10 or 12 tunes on that album, I only knew four of them before I sung them. It’s interesting having almost a clean slate because I didn’t grow up listening. Many of these things didn’t make it to black radio, but ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ did and ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ I certainly know who he is,” she said.

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Musical Dichotomy – Jonathan Something Explores Conflicts of Human Psyche on ‘Outlandish Poetica’

Jonathan Something

Deep beneath Jonathan Something’s vintage-inspired rock lies the complexity and beauty of the human psyche.

The Brooklyn, Conn., singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer explores the dichotomy between a person’s emotionally turbulent interior and their serene façade on his latest release, “Outlandish Poetica,” which dropped last week via Solitaire Recordings.

Throughout “Outlandish Poetica’s” honest, eclectic and thought-provoking nine tracks, Something, aka Jon Searles, purposefully mixes upbeat, electrified ‘60s-fueled music with ironic, contemplative lyrics. It’s a clever and humorous way to musically and lyrically characterize the growing conflict most people experience when they mask their true self.

“I think I’m sort of a self-deprecating human being as a whole, and I think it’s an interesting vibe. I think a lot of people take themselves a little too seriously when it comes to music,” Searles said. “I like stuff that I can get a good laugh out of, especially stuff with dry humor, and on the surface level, wouldn’t necessarily be funny, but when you take it into the context of how they’re saying and what they’re saying, it packs a little punch.”

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Chris DuPont Combines Venue, Studio Recording for New ‘Live in A2’ Album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris DuPont believes the right live album includes an eclectic mix of original and cover songs recorded in a venue and a studio.

The Ypsilanti, Mich., folk singer-songwriter melded these two sounds together for his new live album, “Live in A2,” which dropped May 19.

The 12-track live album features six songs recorded during a June 4, 2016 show at The Ark and another six recorded during a studio session at Solid Sound in Ann Arbor, Mich. Each side of the LP represents a different live feel for listeners.

Side A incorporates the intimacy and energy associated with hearing DuPont perform his classic tunes – “Evergreen Waltz,” “Winterfox” and four others – in the 400-seat acoustic and folk music venue known as The Ark.

“I hope it’s a fun listen,” said DuPont while traveling back from a May 12 show in Denver. “I hope that it gives people the type of energy and affirmation that they might get at a live show because for better or worse I really strive for polish.”

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