This time, some of the worlds most impressive musicians are helping singer/songwriter DUDLEY SAUNDERS climb up from the underground.
On his third CD, THE EMERGENCY LANE, players from the bands of DAVID BOWIE, DUNCAN SHEIK, BECK, PAULA COLE, MARIANNE FAITHFULL, LEONARD COHEN and RUFUS WAINWRIGHT take on Dudley's "post-modern folk songs" (IMPACT). The result is not only an artistic high-point, but a sign that Dudley's long-under-the-radar reputation is finally reaching a "tipping point" in the alternative music world.
With his trademark blend of HANK WILLIAMS country, JONI MITCHELL-jazz and RADIOHEAD-art-rock, the new album's 13 songs chronicle the lives of people living in a state of emergency. Characters range from coal miners (THE WINDING SHEET) to self-destructive teens (SEVENTEEN) to self-hating gay men (JESUS DIDN’T LOVE US ENOUGH), to street whores (THE RAIN ON 8TH AVENUE) and even serial killers (LOVE SONG FOR JEFFREY DAHMER).
But throughout, the harsh lyrics mesh with haunting melodies, and the haunting melodies break against dissonant harmonies – and it’s this kind of innovative songwriting that has quietly made Dudley such a favorite among America's best musicians.
Listen and see.
Like k.d. lang and Laurie Anderson, singer/songwriter Dudley Saunders began his music career first as a critically-acclaimed performance artist - only to find the experimental folk music he wrote for his pieces take over his career.
Described by critics as "surreal, modern folk tales" (VILLAGE VOICE), Dudley's performance pieces were a fixture on New York's East Village scene in the late '80s, combining text, visuals and song. But as he began to merge the music of his native Kentucky with the post-modern jazz and experimental rock he heard at the Knitting Factory, he began to draw an entirely new audience who convinced him to record.
THE SOUND AND THE SONGS
With its emotional tight-vibrato and effortless range, Dudley's voice is often compared to Chris Isaak and Jeff Buckley, and MuzikReviews recently declared it "one of the best voices on the alt-country scene."
The songs, though, operate more in the scene-painting mode of Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits, and tell dark, hallucinatory tales of bohemian life. In MUSHY-HEADED KID, for instance, a frightened man is "merging with the cracking wall/the crack extends into his face/the girls are bickering in the hall/yeah, he says, I guess/you do belong/in this place." Or witness the "buck-tooth call girls on the corner" in THE RAIN ON 8TH AVENUE, "like red-haired roses in the rain/dropped off by a drunken mourner/on the wrong grave."
And musically, emotional art-rock experiments cut through deep-dish mountain melodies and Latin-jazz harmonics. It's a strange and compelling musical stew.