the beauty of Bob Dylan is that his music could be played so many
waysfrom the early 1960s folk sound of Peter Paul &
Mary having a hit single with "Blowin' In The Wind", to
the Beatle beat of The Byrds scoring a number one in 1965 with "Mr.
Tambourine Man" to the jazzy guitar sounds in play on the 2012
album by Denny Freeman. One of the most eclectic electric guitarists
in the U.S. today, Freeman tackles the best of Bob Dylan on Diggin
On Dylan Denny Freeman Plays Songs Of Bob Dylan.
On the 16 track CD Denny serves up instrumental versions of classic
Dylan, including Dont Think Twice Its All Right,
Ballad Of A Thin Man, Knockin On Heavens
Door and many more. The sound is both jazzy and bluesy with
a definite respect for Dylans folk-rock roots. The instrumental
nature of the album gives these Bob Dylan classics a fresh spin around
the block and the results are both surprising and musically revealing
at the same time. Stripped of the sharp-tongued vocals and esoteric
lyrics, Dylans music was always more melodic than he was given
credit for. On Diggin On Dylan, guitar master Denny Freeman
sheds fresh light on Bob Dylanthe melodic genius. One of the
coolest Dylan tribute albums ever, Denny Freeman's Diggin' On Dylan
is essential listening for guitar fans and Bob Dylan fans. www.DennyFreeman.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: Its a great idea recording an album of Bob Dylan songs
as guitar instrumentals. I dont think its been done before.
Was touring and playing guitar in Bobs band in the last decade
part of the inspiration for a the Diggin On Dylan CD
tribute? Is there a story as to how this album came together?
FREEMAN: I have four previous albums, and was overdue putting
out another. But touring with Bob, and looking after my dad, made
it hard to find the time to get a new one together. When I was no
longer working with Bob Dylan, and after my dad died, it was time
to start recording again. I had several instrumentals, laying around,
that I'd demo'd, but they didn't seem to fit together, in a distinct
concept. I thought of doing a pretty straight blues album, and I had
an idea for an album of songs I'd written, inspired from a visit to
west Texas, that had a western, even cowboy feel. At least to me.
I also had been playing around with the idea of doing an album of
ballads / standards.
And since I was having trouble deciding which way to go, in a new
recording, it occurred to me that since I'd considered doing covers,
for the first time, with the ballads idea, that it might be fun to
do Bob Dylan songs as instrumentals. All my albums are instrumental
albums. I don't sing, myself.
And so many of Bob's songs have such strong melodies, I thought it
might be fun to give that idea, a shot.
I doubt if it would have occurred to me do do that, if I hadn't played
with him, but given enough time, maybe so. I'd already been wanting
to record some 1960's pop songs, as instrumentals.
mwe3: What was it like recording in the band with Bob Dylan
for the Modern Times album and why did you choose to cover
that albums Spirit On The Water on the Diggin
On Dylan CD? And of all your session work, which albums or sessions
stand out in your mind as most memorable?
DENNY FREEMAN: It was very difficult for me, recording that
album. We worked on it, several days a week, in New York, for a month,
about a year after I joined the band. It was hard to know what we
were looking for, with those tunes.
There were too many tunes to choose from, for my album. When I joined
up with him, the last album of his that I was familiar with was Nashville
Skyline, but after playing with him for nearly five years, I,
of course, became familiar with many more. I realized that the songs
I was recording were mostly older, so I thought I should include something
newer, and I always Liked "Spirit
The most memorable session would be Modern Times.
got to have a co-write on a later Percy Sledge album, "Shining
Through the Rain" I think it's called, and at the last minute
I got to play on a few songs. My song is "Love Come and Rescue
Me". There was nothing memorable, especially, about the session,
other than it meant a lot to me, to be on a Percy Sledge album.
I did a live album with Taj Mahal, that won a Grammy, but I didn't
get to record a studio album with him, and was sorry about that.
My first couple of albums were exciting to me, because I realized
I could just go do that on my own. I didn't have my own band, and
had always been a sideman, so it was nice to write my own songs and
do my own sessions.
From 1974-'82, I was in a band in Austin, called Paul Ray and the
Cobras. In '75-'76, Stevie Vaughan played with us. He was my friend,
because I'd already lived and played with his brother Jimmie. We recorded
a few times, but other than a pretty weak 45, nothing came of those
sessions, and I think the master tapes are lost. Some of it was pretty
good. There are many hours of that band, live, at gigs, but I've been
surprised at how little interest there is, from Stevie fans, in stuff
he did, before he was SRV.
mwe3: Perhaps best known for his lyrics, Bob Dylan is clearly
underrated as a melodicist. And it took The Byrds to help convey his
music to the Top 40 fans in 1965. Was there a guideline you used in
picking the tracks for the Diggin On Dylan CD, for instance
which tracks could work best without vocals, and have you thought
about recording a volume 2 at some point? I could think of a number
of tracks... lol
DENNY FREEMAN: I obviously agree that much of his music has
strong melody. There was no guideline, really, other than picking
songs that I liked, that I hoped would work. I recorded two other
songs that didn't make the 16 song CD, and yes, it occurred to me
to make a volume two, because I just scratched the surface.
mwe3: I was amazed that Frosty played drums with you on the
Diggin On Dylan CD. He was great with Lee Michaels
back in the 1960s. Who else plays with you on the Diggin
On Dylan CD and who else was involved in the behind the scenes
making of the CD, production, mastering, artwork, record label and
FREEMAN: I first moved to Austin in 1970, lived here for 20 years,
then left for Dallas, then L.A. then Dallas, then back here, to Austin.
Frosty moved here in the 1980's I guess, when I became a fan, and
played some gigs with him, and enjoyed his work with other folks.
So, Frosty wasn't new to me. I've already played with him this month,
and have two other gigs with him, with my trio, in a couple of weeks,
along with Jon Blondell, an amazing bassist, who also played on the
album. Jon also is playing 3 part trombone harmony, on it. I started
the album here in Austin at Wire Recording, and used those folks,
but also recorded south of Dallas, at Palmyra Studios, and used my
Dallas pals, Michael Dohoney on drums, and Jim Milan on bass. I also
used Elana James on violin, who played with Bob, briefly. I played
all keys and harmonica. Not many other folks were involved. I used
DES Mastering in Dallas, Guy Juke for artwork, and put it out myself.
mwe3: What guitars are you mostly playing on the Diggin
On Dylan CD and has your choice of guitars changed over the years?
Also what guitar is featured on the CD cover art of the Diggin
On Dylan CD? Any big news for you in the guitar world?
DENNY FREEMAN: On Diggin On Dylan I probably mostly
used Strats, but I used a Gibson 175, maybe an Epi Les Paul
Over the years I've had a few Gibson hollow bodies, a Byrdland, a
Barney Kessel, an L5 copy, a Sebring, which is the black guitar on
I've mainly been a Strat guy, and still am, and feel like that's the
only guitar I can play very well, but I have a Gibson Flying V, an
Epi Firebird, the Epi Les Paul, and the 175, all of which I really
No real news that I can think of. I don't have a sunburst Strat, anymore,
and am really wanting one. That's the most beautiful guitar, to me
Did you record many overdubs on the Diggin On Dylan CD
or was it cut mostly with the band live? Did you sweeten the sound,
adding reverb or high end during the mastering process? Also can you
mention the amps and other gear you used to record the CD including
effects, strings, picks?
DENNY FREEMAN: There were many overdubs, because I like to
record bass, drums and guitar live, so I can have those basic tracks
down, and then go from there. I played all the guitar, and organ,
piano, harp parts, so there were a lot of OD's, right there.
And then I brought in Jon for the horns and Elana for the violins.
I'm sure high end was added and low end, during mastering, but no
reverb, at that time. I wouldn't have minded more reverb, in the mixing.
I used a Marshall stack that was in Palmyra studio, and I used a Bassman
reissue, and a Deluxe reissue, made by Tungsten Amps. WahWah on one
song. I don't usually use pedals, so no other effects that I can think
of. I like a set of strings that starts with .011, and medium picks.
mwe3: How would you compare Diggin On Dylan with
your other recent solo album Twang Bang, which was also released
on your V8 Records label as well as your other CDs? Are all your albums
DENNY FREEMAN: I couldn't compare the two, other than to think
that they would both have my "sound". The others are all
originals, recorded in different studios in Austin and Los Angeles.
I have two other albums in print, Twang Bang and A Tone
for My Sins, and two, my first, Blues Cruise and my second
Out of the Blue which are now only available, with the other
three, on iTunes, etc.
They're all instrumental albums, except on Blues Cruise I'd
written some vocals, and included three, with vocals by Kim Wilson,
Angela Strehli, and Bill Carter.
What was it like recording with Barry Goldberg on his Stoned Again
tribute to the Rolling Stones? Is that album still in print, what
was that experience like and whats your history with Goldberg?
DENNY FREEMAN: Working with Barry was like working with other
players. Nice guy, good player, but the album was guided by the producer,
Carla Olson. Don't know if it's in print. I only know Barry through
that work, and his producing of the Percy Sledge album, which was
co-produced by Carla's husband, Saul Davis, both friends of mine.
mwe3: How about future plans regarding new music, sessions,
live shows and other musical and non musical activities coming up
for you in 2013 and beyond?
DENNY FREEMAN: At the same time I was recording Diggin
On Dylan, I was recording new originals. I decided to put out
the Dylan one first, and haven't quite put the finishing touches on
the other. So, I have one almost ready, and many ideas, more than
time or money, for other projects.
After returning to Austin, about a year and a half, ago, I've been
playing a lot, around town, with many different outfits, at my favorite
venues, with many of my favorite players. Not traveling much, just
hanging out with my girl, playing gigs, trying to learn how to play
guitar. Is good, I'm fortunate...
Thanks to Denny Freeman @ www.DennyFreeman.com