One of the first-generation rock ‘n’ rollers, Dion Francis DiMucci, has long walked his own creative path. Following a string of hits as Dion & The Belmonts with evergreen songs like ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘Runaround Sue’, he began writing songs that demonstrated a far more mature style, notably with songs like ‘Abraham, Martin and John’, a worldwide hit when itself was covered by the late Marvin Gaye.
Now in his eighth decade as a music maker, the former teen idol continues to pursue new avenues of expression, with Dion’s Blues With Friends, that is due for release on 5th June, representing the fulfillment of a lifelong vision.
“I wanted an album of songs that were strong and memorable and told stories that were worth telling.” Dion explained regarding the album’s impetus. To this end, his songwriting efforts were supported by a cadre of players, each of whom jumped at the chance to collaborate with a music legend they consider in heroic terms.
Composing the music and words for twelve songs, that he finished with co-writer Mike Aquilina, Dion co-wrote ‘Hymn To Him’ with Bill Tuohy and ‘Kickin’ Child’ with Buddy Lucas, then to play those songs Dion recruited help from a few notable friends and admirers.
“I needed to round up the best guitarists and musicians alive and pick them from every generation, every variation of blues.” Dion said of his feelings about the players he wanted involved.
The album’s guests include the cream of the contemporary scene’s blues-rooted slingers including Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, Sonny Landreth, Samantha Fish, John Hammond Jr., Joe Louis Walker, Rory Block , Jimmy and Jerry Vivino, vintage guitar guru Joe Menza as well as icons Stevie Van Zandt, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and Paul Simon.
Even Bob Dylan has contributed, writing liner notes for the album wherein he states: “Dion knows how to sing, and he knows just the right way to craft these songs, these blues songs. He’s got some friends here to help him out, some true luminaries. But in the end, it’s Dion by himself alone, and that masterful voice of his that will keep you returning to share these Blues songs with him.”
That’s a whole lot of star power but each participated not because of his or her marquee appeal but because of what each could add musically. The result is said to be “one reflective of nuanced devotion to the blues rather than a gratuitous display of individual virtuosity.” Very much Dion’s baby, with able support convincingly offering support.
Dion’s Bronx soul is very much in evidence across this full-tilt blues offering. Though that’s not surprising, as he notes:
“The blues have been at the heart of my music since the early 1960s. ‘The Wanderer’ is a twelve-bar blues and I was covering Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed in my early years at Columbia — much to the dismay of my corporate masters.”
That’s the way it’s long been for the man Lou Reed inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame more than thirty years ago. That night the normally taciturn Reed exalted, “And then there was Dion — whose voice was unlike any other I had heard before — a voice that stood on its own, remarkable and unmistakably from New York. Bronx soul.”
For this outing, Dion worked with producer Wayne Hood in whose Florida studio the basic tracks were recorded. “From the first day, I was at home. We hit it off like brothers on a mission. We caught the same vision and sound and off we went.” Dion explained. The result, Blues With Friends a project for the ages: “Great songs, great guitarists. What more do you need?” said the Wanderer.
Dion’s Blues With Friends will be released through Keeping The Blues Alive Records, a new label started by Joe Bonamassa and his manager Roy Weisman and an offshoot of Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation, Bonamassa’s non-profit that aims to conserve the art of music and the rich culture and history of the blues.
The label’s objective is to provide a platform for musical talent in blues and blues-rock based music and to help encourage the careers of extraordinary musical talent. 10% of all profits from the label will be donated back to the non-profit for promoting music education to students and schools in need.
Prior to the album’s release a number of singles have been released, with more due. ‘Blues Comin’ On’ features Joe Bonamassa; ‘Hymn To Him’ see Patti Scialfa and Bruce Springsteen on board (stream and download here), while ‘Bam Bang Boom’ features Billy Gibbons (here), and ‘I Got Nothin’’ both Van Morrison & Joe Louis Walker (here), and most recently with Jeff Beck on ‘Can’t Start Again’ (here). Top draw talent all. We feature the official videos for those singles within this feature here at RAMzine.
Dion’s Blues With Friends is available to pre-order by clicking here.