Jeremy Ivey’s The Dream and the Dreamer is a collection of tunes that touch the tough folk rock semi-tone that spirals between the “stars and burnt out cars”.
It’s said the devil is in the details. That’s probably true; but in great folk-rock Americana music, that’s also the best place to find glimpse of heaven, too. This album does just that: It captures musical snapshots of America–images of “smoke from the sewers in the rain” and torches of the hate parade” all briefly lighted by one tired blinking neon light. This isn’t the exuberant Romanticism of Walt Whitman’s ‘I Hear America Singing’; rather, these songs sing Polaroid portraits of the sadly beautiful people who tread the streets of anywhere other than cliched cowboy town of Laredo.
Please allow me to invoke an American baseball phrase, batting out of turn, and jack the seventh song, ‘Gina the Tramp,’ into the lead-off spot, simply because it is a sublime tune. It’s a confessional acoustic song that pleads the pathos of a man lost in a city, without a job, with memories of Gina the Tramp, who ‘made dream catchers out of guitar strings,’ in a town with ‘a waffle house by the cemetery,’ ‘a busted out marquee light,’ a world ‘full of broken people,’ and ‘eyes like a cold bus station.’ These are spooky puzzle pieces, just like those found in a Flannery O’ Connor short story. Sometimes, the story that is left untold is the tale that haunts with the better melody.
And then there’s ‘Laughing Willy,’ a song that’s also batting out of turn. This is deep eerie stuff that conjures an autumnal scarecrow half-told and half-whispered tragic tale like The Band once concocted. It’s a trip back home that ends with the words, “The music of the after world is ringing in my ears”. That’s a magical incantation.
But the opening tune, ‘Diamonds Back To Coal,’ sets the folk-rock template. This is nicely pulsed (and very catchy) rock that chronicles the plight of America, as we ‘walk through a dead man’s town,’ and need to understand ‘the land we barrowed,’ ‘turn diamonds back to coal,’ and return to the simple beauty of Andrew Wyeth’s Christiana’s World. In a weird way, it’s an American answer to Fairport’s brilliant ‘Walk Awhile’ from their Full House album.
The Dream And The Dreamer is in the same orbit as the best of Neil Young, Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor stuff, and very recent Dave Rawlings’ recordings. That’s rarified air.
‘Falling Man’ is more pop pulsed. And it reminds me, oddly enough, of a great tune from Ray Davies’ Working Man’s Café or his Americana album with its sad chorus that yearns for a time with “no god or souls to save”. It’s the theme of ‘Apeman’ revisited, with Sir Raymond’s constant distrust of our very modern world with its “motor traffic rumble”.
There are also introspective songs that quell the tough photography of the other tunes. The autobiographical ‘Story of a Fish,’ with its Neil Young golden-hearted pulse rate, pleads to be a “river” to another’s “sea”. Then ‘Worry Doll’ chugs along with a bit of barroom honky-tonk piano and recalls the pathos of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Lodi.’ And yet, it throws a lifejacket with the line, “There might be something real inside this dream”. That’s the gist (and title) of this record: It’s a conversation between the dream and the dreamer’s stern reality.
Two songs, ‘Greyhound’ and ‘Ahead, Behind’, are pure crystal river country music that tell tales of weary travel, with at least one whiskey chaser. These songs echo the early 70’s sound of The Flying Burrito Brothers or the lesser known Mason Proffit. Yeah, a pedal steel sings, while wife and producer Margo Price harmonizes with a hitch-hiked highway heaven voice.
Now, it’s also said that lightening never strikes twice. But the few simple chords that usher in the final song, ‘The Dream and the Dreamer,’ once opened the epic psychological drama of (my beloved) Mott the Hoople’s ‘When my Mind’s Gone’ from the brilliant Mad Shadows album. Besides being an opportunity to champion Ian Hunter and Mott, it’s also important to say that these chords can rise again and herald yet another tune that deep sea dives into President Kennedy’s immortal words, “It’s as old as Scripture and as clear as the American Constitution”. The song is that good. It’s that patient. It bleeds with that history. And it parts some sort of Biblical sea. The “dreamer,” despite the Mayflower’s promise, finds the ‘’dream” flickering, under the light of yet another blinking neon glow, and sadly, “he drives his car on the native graves”.
The great Stan Lee of Marvel Comics once proclaimed, “‘Nuff Said”.
The equally great D.H. Lawrence said, “As I say, it is perhaps easier to love America passionately, when you look through the wrong end of a telescope…than when you are right there. When you are actually in America, America hurts”.
Oh my! Somewhere between that tough semi-tone that spirals between “the stars and burnt out cars,” this one plays with the width of a river gambler’s poker hand holding four of a kind, and it is a great record that just finds yet another simple way to say, “I Hear America Singing”.
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‘Diamonds Back To Coal’ – official video: