TITLE: SONGS OF THE OPEN ROAD

ARTIST: FUR DIXON AND STEVE WERNER

LABEL: GRASS AND GRAVEL RECORDS

RELEASE DATE: 2011

By Carl Gage

FUR_AND_STEVE_COVER_songsopenroad_300It seems inevitable that the most talented of songwriters will sooner or later be compelled to do an album of cover songs. This offering by Fur Dixon and Steve Werner is a wonderful testament to the musicians that have inspired them.

The selections — legends Doc & Merle Watson and Woody Guthrie; folk heroes Jim Ringer, Mary McCaslin and the late Blaze Foley; talented local friends Randall Lamb and Dan Janisch — show not only the kinds of songs Fur and Steve like to perform and listen to but those that showcase their considerable talents.

Fur and Steve’s harmonies have always been highlights of their work. The arrangements are tight and the instrumentation just right. Steve’s guitar leads and runs add a pleasing dimension to the vocals, always tastefully applied, never overdone. On Dreary Black Hills and I Cannot Settle Down, Steve adds banjo, I imagine the one that his friends chipped in to buy him for his birthday a couple years ago, The banjo work is subdued and effective.

Backup musicians include Paul Marshall on rock-solid bass and autoharp on I Cannot Settle Down. Outstanding fiddle work is contributed by Brantley Kearns on Southbound and Dreary Black Hills, and Paul Cartwright on The Dealers.

The button accordion of Otoño Lujan adds a nice touch to Do Re Mi. On De Colores, the button accordion blends with the guitarron and Tony Zamora’s vihuela for an extra-authentic sound. The pedal-steel by John McDuffie on I Like How I Feel and Prairie in the Sky brings a hauntingly melodic touch to both.

The Barnyard Singers supply backup vocals on Dreary Black Hills and De Colores. The Barnyard Singers — a humorous reference to the roosters, hens and chicks in De Colores — consists of Susie Glaze, Steve Rankin, Ric Taylor, Dos Tres and additionally Brantley, John McDuffie, and Paul Marshall.

The beautiful Randall Lamb song, I Like How I Feel, is just a pleasure to listen to. Equally sublime are the wonderfully melodic Blaze Foley classic, Clay Pigeons, Mary McCaslin songs The Dealers and Prairie in the Sky, and Dan Janisch’s I Cannot Settle Down.

Do Re Mi and De Colores are a lot of fun, especially the latter, which is sung in pretty decent in Spanish for a couple of gringos.

Dreary Black Hills and Waitin’ for the Hard Times to Go give the album the feel of the tough life of the old west, and they fit the themes so often conveyed by Fur & Steve.

Dennis Moody, who worked on Fur & Steve’s first two albums, The Pearl and the Swine and Travelers, does very effective producing, engineering and mastering.

With a lot of variety and entertainment, this album is a welcome collection for Fur & Steve fans. And since this is marked Volume One, we may be in store for more! Get a copy soon. Available at FurandSteve.com or at CD Baby

Carl Gage is a singer-songwriter, musician, web site designer and technical writer based in Simi Valley, CA. He is active in the acoustic music community serving as vice president and webmaster for the Topanga Banjo • Fiddle Contest and Songmakers, Inc.