Recent years have seen iconic rock ‘n roll singer Dion more productive than ever during his storied career and with it anticipation builds for the 8th March release of Girl Friends, his new album that finds him collaborating with a stellar array of female musicians.
This week sees the release of new single ‘I Aim To Please‘, a duet with Danielle Nicole that’s available here, plus an accompanying video that you can check out here at RAMzine.
Danielle Nicole first emerged from the Kansas City music scene as part of the group Trampled Under Foot that she formed with her brothers Nick and Kris Schnebelen, going solo to great acclaim thereafter. Apart from having been nominated for a Grammy, she’s won four of the Blue Foundation’s Blues Music Awards to date. Dion unabashedly calls her “one of the greatest singers on the planet.”
“I’ve noticed that men play a different tune when there are women in the room — and it’s a different kind of jam when women are in the mix. I don’t know why this is so, but it is,” remarked Dion about how his thoughts on Girl Friends developed. “Maybe we men, at some primitive level, are competing for their attention. As I said, I don’t know why or how. I do know it makes better music and we’re all better for it.”
As for the record itself, he remarked: “I wanted the best music possible so, I wrote up a batch of duets for me and my girl friends, the women who inhabit my headphones — the women who make me turn up the volume when they drop into my radio. I invited them to join me, one by one, and here they are, wailing on the guitar and into the microphone. You’ll hear the feminine genius in every groove of this record, and you won’t forget any of it”.
Two singles from the upcoming new album have already been released: December saw him and Susan Tedeschi join forces for ‘Soul Force’ that can be steamed here and before that was ‘An American Hero’ with Carlene Carter.
Girl Friends will be available on Keeping The Blues Alive Records and finds Dion keeping musical company with a line-up of stellar female artists who are heard on the album’s 12 original tracks, 11 of which were composed by Dion and Mike Aquilina with one written by Dion and the late Scott Kempner (The Dictators, The Del Lords). Joining Tedeschi and Carter are Rory Block, Shemekia Copeland, Debbie Davis, Randi Fishenfeld, Sue Foley, Danielle Nicole, Christine Ohlman, Maggie Rose, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Valerie Tyson. The album was produced by Wayne Hood and Dion, who were also producing partners on Blues With Friends and Stomping Ground.
Girl Friends includes liner notes by Darlene Love who commented, “I’ve been a huge fan since I was a young girl. In fact, when I sang ‘He’s a Rebel’ I was singing about outsiders like Dion. I’m a bigger fan today. I’m still trying to emulate his unique bluesy overtones. Now I’m thrilled again with these new collaborations — not just friends, but all girl friends — great women vocalist and musicians. This is just what the world needs now. These duets are riveting.”
Dion explained the album’s raison d’être more fully in a commentary titled The Feminine Genius that is included in the Girl Friends packaging. “I write about my preoccupations, and I know no better preoccupation than the female of the species. A friend of mine is a philosopher, and he talks often about the feminine genius — The undeniable difference that’s in women and the difference that they make in the world. I’m grateful to my friend for giving it a name, because the fact has always been plain to me, but I could never put it into words.” He went on to explain his mother was his family’s breadwinner, and that he had two sisters. He’s been married for 60 years to the former Susan Butterfield, who is name checked in the album’s ‘Hey Suzy’, and they are the parents of three daughters who, in turn, produced four more girls. He writes, “I’ve always been surrounded by the feminine genius — always living off it. Even my music has kept a tight focus on the ladies: ‘Runaround Sue’, ‘Donna the Prima Donna’, ‘Little Diane’, ‘Ruby Baby’. All those women, real and imagined, have made all the difference in my life.” He chronicled his female musical collaborators including those who joined him on his previous two albums as well as Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector, Cher and Patty Smyth.
This release follows his wildly successful Blues With Friends (2020) and Stomping Ground (2021) albums. Those two albums, with liner notes by Bob Dylan and Pete Townshend, respectively, include musical contributions from music royalty and icons Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, the late Jeff Beck, John Hammond, Van Morrison, Joe Louis Walker, Jimmy Vivino, Billy Gibbons, Sonny Landreth, Paul Simon, Samantha Fish, Rory Block, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, G. E. Smith, Keb’ Mo’, Marcia Ball, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton and Rickie Lee Jones.
There’s more from Dion on the horizon. Last year, The Wanderer, a musical based on his life debuted at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ and is expected to arrive on Broadway next year. Directed by Kenneth Ferrone and based on Charles Messina’s book, the initial run was the subject of critical acclaim with Broadway World calling it “a moving, no-holds-barred new musical about the glow of the spotlight, the shadow of addiction, and the triumph of the human spirit against all odds, set to the iconic sound of an incomparable era in American music.” The New York Times review noted the show “succeeds on sheer sonic strength,” with reviewer Juan A. Ramírez adding, “I was continuously charmed by this throwback-y musical and its angel-voiced ensemble.”
Girl Friends features the following tracks and female collaborators: ‘Soul Force’ with Susan Tedeschi, ‘I Aim To Please’ with Danielle Nicole, ‘Stop Drop And Roll’ with Valerie Tyson, ‘Do Ladies Get The Blues’ with Christine Ohlman and Debbie Davis, ‘An American Hero’ with Carlene Carter, ‘Don’t You Want A Man Like Me’ with Rory Block, ‘Sugar Daddy’ with Christine Ohlman, ‘Endless Highway’ with Randi Fishenfeld, ‘I Got Wise’ with Maggie Rose, ‘Hey Suzy’ with Sue Foley, ‘Mama Said’ with Shemekia Copeland, ‘Just Like That’ with Joanne Shaw Taylor.
The album can be pre-ordered here.