Blues With Friends
Keeping The Blues Alive Records
Dion DeMucci better known as Dion was one of the first musicians that formulated my musical preferences. As part of the post doo-wop group Dion & The Belmonts, this Bronx soul, mesmerized myself and my peers with singles like “I Wonder Why”; “A Teenager in Love”; and a remake of “Where or When”, a Rodgers and Hart composed song that originally appeared in the 1937 musical “Babes in Arms” and, a favorite of my parents. I was briefly upset in 1962 when Dion broke with the Belmonts but was satisfied when they both scored with hits of their own.
Dion was huge with singles like “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer”. On June 2nd, 1972 at Madison Square Garden Dion and The Belmonts were briefly united in a rock and roll re-union concert. I was there to see musical director Billy Vera lead them in one of the most exciting concerts I had yet seen. The set was captured and issued on Rhino Records. Off and on I was back into Dion as he evolved throughout the years, re-emerging from five drug years, and adding more and more blues to his music. Eventually Dion was embraced by the blues community as he received a Blues Music Award nomination, and a Grammy nod, in 2007 for his album “Bronx in Blue”. His follow up recordings include 2007’s “Son of Skip James”; 2008’s “Giants of Early Rock”; 2012’s “Tank Full of Blues”, and the 2015 single “New York Is My Home” with Paul Simon. Dion adds “the blues have been at the heart of my music since the early 1960’s”.
Dion states “Coming off my last album I was productive, and I ended up with a great batch of songs. I ran one by Joe Bonamassa, who said right away he wanted to play on it. And that’s how this album came about. Joe inspired me to invite others. I had songs that were strong and told good stories. I wanted the best musicians alive like Jeff Beck, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Van Morrison and more to take them in unexpected directions. Wayne Hood, my producer, brought out the best of them. We have amazing songs and great guitars.” Dion, now an octogenarian, has written fourteen originals, twelve of them new.
Bob Dylan wrote the liner notes. “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 with him.”
The opener “Blues Comin’ On” is the song with Bonamassa. “Kickin’ Child” first recorded, but unreleased, in 1965 was finally re-done and released in 2017, “but it wasn’t where I wanted it”, so it’s re-recorded again with guitarist Joe Menza. “Uptown Number 7” is a gospel styled tune that takes place on a train because “that’s what New Yorkers do if they want to get anywhere” featured is Brian Setzer. “Can’t Start Over Again” is a classic blues with Jeff Beck.
When Dion played “My Baby Loves To Boogie” for John Hammond, John said he the heard harp part, so here is John Hammond. “I Got Nothin’” is a vocal duet with Van Morrison and Joe Louis Walker on guitar. “Stumbling Blues” features the Vivino Brothers, Jimmy and Jerry. “Bam Bang Boom” is a song that describes the first time Dion met his wife Susan Butterfield, they’ve been married fifty-seven years; Dion states Billy Gibbons was a joy to work with. “I Got The Cure” is a bit of braggadocio with slide master Sonny Landreth.
“Song For Sam Cooke (Here in America)” is the other older tune about “walking southern streets with Sam Cooke in 1962”. Dion says “when I finished the song but it felt too personal, so I put it aside. Then in 2019, I saw the movie Green Book and after that I couldn’t shake the song.” It was recorded with another old friend Paul Simon.
“What If I Told You” features some emotive guitar playing from Samantha Fish. “Told You Once in August” features John Hammond playing slide coming from the right channel and Rory Block’s slide and backing vocal on the left. On “Way Down (I Won’t Cry No More)” Dion rocked it with Stevie Van Zandt. “Hymn To Him” is a gospel song Dion first recorded in 1987, it is reprised as a duet with Patti Scialfa, Dion concludes “songs are never finished” as Bruce Springsteen walked into the studio and added a solo.
Dion’ s voice sounds unchanged, his tenor, phrasing and pathos totally intact. This is an album that you will play over and over again. It’s the icing on the seven layer cake we call “Dion”.