Ken Dunn – Anthology, Volume 2
More rooted in vintage folk but never sounding preachy or controversial Ontario’s Ken Dunn with a 30-year 10 studio LP career has kept the vintage attraction of the troubadour tradition alive & well. He’s closely fluent in the Tom Paxton style. However, his opening tune “This Mountain,” has some Medieval string-quartet flavors.
There’s little that’s overwrought or embellished. “Cross of Lorraine,” has acoustic guitar picking clarity & the backup harmonizes beautifully. A story song pleasantly gripping. Dunn’s music encapsulates peace & social & environmental justice (always has) through his music but in a sensible manner.
This second 18-track compilation has some of the best of Ken’s work. Anthology, Volume 2 (Drops May 2–Independent) features earlier tunes & live ones. What’s peculiar, charming & adoring of Ken Dunn (lead guitar/acoustic guitar) is his liberating “hippie” voice & aesthetic. Not hippie-like Neil Young, or David Crosby but more Tom Rush & the late David McWilliams.
Nothing bad could possibly come from enjoying this man’s message. A brief listen to “Precious Life,” is impactful. It brings to light through an emotional melody & expressive lyrics something we may overlook. The best teachers can sometimes be singers like Ken. You don’t have to agree with everything he sings about but he doesn’t hammer home ideas like Phil Ochs or Country Joe & the Fish.
The playing is often spare. That’s the attraction. Ken’s not trying to use his music to ruffle feathers but just bring awareness. “Wings of Light,” even lands with a raga-style melody that George Harrison would’ve appreciated. Tying a gentle bow between a foreign music style & Americana lyrics – is quite impressive.
This music today is still appreciated by some & it’s not as heavy as it once was. There’s lots to like in songs that are well-written & poignant like “Inside,” — cleverly shaped with cool harmonica & mandolin picking. As good a children’s song as Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game.”
“Pour Me Home,” is superb — with its almost “Midnight Cowboy,” type harmonica tone. Ken’s different vocal style is delicate & cool as he sounds like a hobo on the side of the road with a vocal accent slurry like Dante’s vocal (Dante & the Evergreens) on “Alley Oop.” Wonderful stuff while “Doomed,” mixes a serious Leonard Cohen style with John Prine humor.
A trip down Ken Dunn’s pensive highway would be a worthy journey. Sometimes you’ve got to wonder if the world’s leaders do the things they do because they simply don’t have any music in their lives.
Highlights – “This Mountain,” Cross of Lorraine,” “Precious Life,” “Wings of Light,” “Inside,” “Pour Me Home,” “Time & Space,” “Shifting Sand,” “Doomed” & “Lover True.”
Musicians – Anna Green (Gypsy Starfish) – harmony vocals/keys
Color images courtesy of Trespass Music. CD @ Bandcamp + https://www.kendunnmusic.com/
REVIEW: Ken Dunn — Anthology Volume 1