New York City songsmith Don DiLego's 2012 album, "Western & Atlantic EP," was recorded in Portland at a studio called The Secret Society. DiLego recruited multi-instrumentalists Colin Killilea (Pocketknife) and Marwan Kanafani (City Breathing), along with drummer Gregg Williams (Dandy Warhols, Sheryl Crow) and longtime songwriting partner and bassist Erik Olsen to work on the recording.
The seven-song EP takes hold of listeners with its opening track, "Midnight Train," and leads them through a mix of instrumentation, staggered arrangements and simply good songs. "Chicago" is a longing call to fall in love that includes a sing-along refrain; "Television Sun" is a twangy pop song driven by bass and piano; "Lonely Couples" explores fading relationships while it takes one musical twist after another.
Several of the EP's songs, including "The Holiday," "Carry On" and a cover of The Replacements' "Here Comes a Regular" managed to be recorded in one take.
Who: Don DiLego
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23
Where: The Playwright Public House, 258 A St., Ashland
Call: 541-488-9128 or see www.theplaywrightpublichouse.com
"Western and Atlantic" turned heads at the 2013 Independent Music Awards, winning in the best roots and country category.
"The process was that the band didn't get to hear the songs prior to the studio," DiLego said in an interview with IMA. "I would strum though the song a couple times, and each musician would gravitate toward the instrument they were hearing for it. We'd roll a few takes until we got something that felt right."
DiLego will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at The Playwright Public House, 258 A St., Ashland. There is no cover for the show. Call 541-488-9128 or see www.theplaywrightpublichouse.com. DiLego's lead vocals and guitar will be accompanied by drummer Williams, keyboard player Olsen (California Sons) and Paul Brainard (The Decemberists, Alejandro Escovedo) on pedal steel and trumpet. Cover is $6.
"Western & Atlantic EP" was no sooner out of the oven than DiLego began working on his next project — a full-length album titled "Magnificent Ram A" to be released soon, according to his website.
DiLego's 2006 album, "Photographs of 1971" released by Velvet Elk Records, was nominated for a 2007 Independent Music Award for best pop and rock album, and its hit single, "Falling Into Space," won international song of the year from the Australian Songwriters Association.
His first two albums, "The Lonestar Hitchhiker" (2001) and "The Lonestar Companion" (2003) were lauded by critics and fans for their retro-twang storytelling.
DiLego's approach to writing lyrics is one of total and absolute stream of consciousness, he said in a 2012 interview with American Songwriter.
"I'm completely envious and in awe of the Elvis Costellos and Bob Dylans of the world who are inspired to let a story unfold," he said. "I marvel at that. Truth be told, that songwriting style is not my usual cup of tea. I tend to like more abstract lyrics where I'm left a bit guessing and filling in the blanks. Jeff Tweedy is great at that now. It all probably has to do with my childhood affairs with Mad Libs and 'The Reflex' by Duran Duran."
Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash count among DiLego's other musical influences.
"My heroes are those whose careers or talents weren't a birthright," he says. "It's hard work. Songwriting doesn't get easier along the way. I think "Crazy" is the perfect song in every sense, and Willie Nelson is one of my heroes. I actually like his version best."