DENNY FREEMAN
Diggin' On Dylan
(V8 Records)

 

Perhaps the beauty of Bob Dylan is that his music could be played so many ways—from the early 1960’s 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 “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right”, “Ballad Of A Thin Man”, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and many more. The sound is both jazzy and bluesy with a definite respect for Dylan’s 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, Dylan’s music was always more melodic than he was given credit for. On Diggin’ On Dylan, guitar master Denny Freeman sheds fresh light on Bob Dylan—the 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
DENNY FREEMAN


mwe3
: It’s a great idea recording an album of Bob Dylan songs as guitar instrumentals. I don’t think it’s been done before. Was touring and playing guitar in Bob’s 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?

DENNY 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 album’s “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.

I 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 more?

DENNY 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 the cover.

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 like.

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…

mwe3: 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 in print?

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.

mwe3: 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 what’s 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

 

 
   
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