Track listing: Television Song, Ten Dollar Ring, Silver Line, Two Shots, Ordinary, You, South Dakota, The Ghost of Abe Lincoln, Hollow, The Ballad of Emily Rose, Hailey Goodnight
NOTE: This is a review of Bryan Dunn's album, Vicious Waltz, during its production phase. As it turned out, Bryan continued to write, record, and produce this recording for another year, resulting eventually in Vicious Waltz. So read this, but don't look for this album. Anywhere. It was never released as described below. Still, the mid-production recording was pretty damn good.
The danceable ½-disco groove "Television Song" sets the tone for Bryan Dunn’s latest release, entitled A Vague Recollection of Dancing. The 10-song record constitutes what is easily the best effort of Dunn's career, with regard to his songwriting, production, and musical maturity. While his lyrics have consistently drawn listeners to his songs, in the past Dunn's themes could be counted on to frequent autobiographical loves and loves lost. Recollection does not entirely avoid the topic, but surrounds it impressively with topics ranging from "Ordinary"’s comment on Top 40 artist egos to "The Ghost of Abe Lincoln"’s anti-war strains.
Not to be overlooked while listening to A Vague Recollection of Dancing is the impressive effort Dunn made on this album to include many of the songwriters and musicians he’s worked with since relocating from Austin, Texas to New York City in 2001. Among them, Lara Ewen’s half of the “Ten Dollar Ring” duet and Jeremy Goldsmith’s lead on “Silver Line” add a pleasing variety to the brilliance of this album. Still, as with his past recordings, Recollection's greatest strength lies in Bryan’s keen ability to write poppy narratives that hold a listener’s attention from first chord to the last reverberation of his guitar strings.
Each of Bryan Dunn's recordings, enjoyed genuinely as whole works, seems to uncannily produce one unofficial, yet crystal clear, fan favorite song. His contribution of “Sunshine” to 1993’s eponymous Echo Juliet album is still requested when he returns to his musical hometown of Austin. More recently, “Audio, Stereo, Radio” from 2005's Static and Scripture garnered him both critical praise and audience catcalls. After several listens to A Vague Recollection of Dancing, it’s unclear which will be this recording’s fan staple. Perhaps this collection will elicit more generalized thought and reflection from listeners than hoots at live shows. Perhaps, should you catch Bryan at one of his frequent New York City appearances at Rockwood Music Hall, you can see for yourself. After just a few listens to my under-the-table-obtained rough version of Recollection, “Hollow” has my vote.
Musicians performing on A Vague Recollection of Dancing:
Bryan Dunn, Acoustic Guitars & Vocals
Jeremy Goldsmith, Electric Guitars
Drew McKeon, Drums & Electric Guitar on “You, South Dakota”
Jim McNamara, Acoustic Bass
Emily Helming, Electric Bass
Andy Mac, Piano
Lara Ewen, Vocals on “Ten Dollar Ring”