REVIEW: Grant Dermody’s “My Dony” is Spirited and Authentic Blues


Grant Dermody – My Dony

Many white artists have covered blues through the decades. Some better than others – because some never “lived the blues.” An old blues player (if there are any left) can teach harp licks, guitar chords or piano pieces to help you along the blues path. But the critters on that road know you’re not from the neighborhood.

To capture a desperate feel, soulful atmosphere with a biting delivery of the blues — it needs sincerity. That’s the trick. Not in any book or riff. You’d have to find it in yourself. Or, never will. Pat Boone never did.

Many old bluesmen were born into it.

What I question is that while whites emulated the blues & quite good: Roy Buchanan, John Campbell, Mose Allison, Stevie Ray Vaughn. Johnny Winter. I seldom heard a white blues. Yes, some Caucasians live in poverty, squalid conditions, lead a hard life, have women problems, are slaves to bosses, family, society, credit cards, gambling, drugs, money, sex & are disenfranchised. But most blues = same story.

An expression of feelings from the heart thru a pen, through words, & ultimately a voice with chords on an instrument is where blues translate. It’s not commercial or contemporary music. Some have hit (“The Thrill is Gone”) simply because people related to it.

Grant Dermody (harmonica-vocals) successfully mines a deep shaft of the traditional vein heavy on juke joint greasy blues & though he could explore more deviant & lowdown strains he does an admirable job — spirited & authentic.

He even adds Cajun zydeco melodies through his blues licks which add flavor like dark chocolate & salted chips. It’s blended with serious strokes of melody & rural badass vocalizing. Grant sounds like an 80-year-old black man with a harp on a Mississippi back porch shack with a Mason jar of hooch & a hound at his heel.

Recorded in Louisiana, the 13-track LP produced with songwriter Dirk Powell (guitar) — My Dony (Thunder River Records – drops May 8th).

The harmonica has a familiar John Mayall / Paul Butterfield, tone (on “Real-Time Man”) but Grant’s voice is authoritative, aged in the bottle. “My Dony,” is soaked in slow blues drudgery with excellence. The zydeco giant Clifton Chenier’s “One Step at a Time,” is a blues/Cajun mix with Corey Ledet’s accordion.

Scatterings of traditional & near-spiritual (“Great Change”) stir generously. Not cut in a hotel on a humid day, it loses no edge. Dirk’s swampy songs have blues creepiness — “Too Late to Change Your Mind,” has Dr. John’s ghost. Hot accordion huffs & puffs on “Corner Strut,” & “Morning Train,” is back in a Cajun groove. One of Grant’s best vocals.

Humor in the blues for the older man: “35-59,” is instantly relatable: “…she’s 35…I’m 59…”

Jason Sypher (bass), Jamie Dick (drums), with backing vocals by Kelli Jones, Rhiannon Giddens & Amythyst Kiah.

The beautifully designed 52-minute CD with blues sincerity is available at Discogs.


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