The Fireside Wake • Andy Dalton Hits the High Register

    icon Jan 30, 2020
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When you are undertaking something big, especially a creative venture, there really is no substitute for vision.  The ability to bring a semblance of order in an environment ruled by chaos and uncertainty is a gift and is valued both in industry and the arts.

The “vision thing” can be a double-edged sword, however.  Those who have it are often operating with unusual clarity for their surroundings and circumstances - and that can be a mixed bag.  It can come with equal parts bemusement and disgust for the things you observe and experience.  And it can bring bouts of introspection that can swing from self-exultation to the deepest self-loathing. 

It’s tough work and a lot rarer skill than we are led to believe.

Which leads us to The Fireside Wake, the much-awaited opus from Andy Dalton.  Known to many for his work with the award-winning Dirt Fest Music Festival or with his former touring band, See You Next Tuesday, this is his first solo outing.   Given the sheer number of releases in this area it is really worth exploring what makes this one unique.

The word that comes to mind the most with The Fireside Wake is a very versatile one – “volume.”

The first way this word might apply is in the most obvious attribute – it’s size and scope.  Clocking in at over 90 minutes, the album is epic in its reach.   Despite its length, there seems to be a consensus among many listeners that this is a work to be listened to in one contiguous piece.  

These days, we don’t always enjoy things that way.  If you have the opportunity, however, to sit down and listen to the album in its entirety – maybe even with headphones – it will conjure up many of the great cohesive efforts of the past.  When people name drop works like The Wall, Quadrophenia and Zen Arcade as comparisons, you are on to something.

In a “normal” review I might wax poetic about the guitar tones in “Two Hundred Sixteen Thousand,” the wry smirk silently apparent under a song like “The Clone Blues,” the breezy nonchalance of “Hey, You” any number of details to his album.  It’s full of special sounds and moments.  This time I am suggesting you listen to this work holistically if you can.  An album, rather than simply a collection of songs.  To coin a metaphor, this is a meal and not a bag of snacks.

The second use of the word volume would be similar to how we refer to encyclopedias, dictionaries and other reference books for their comprehensive treatment of a topic.   The term fits as this is a work that seems to be about one thing – a protagonist trying to get through the day and cut through all the noise as he makes observations about himself and the world around him.  Whether admitted or implied, all art is autobiographical.

And, speaking of noise, that leads us to the final use of the term volume.  This album cries out to be played loud.  It’s a rock and roll album through and through; a guitar tone aficionados grail.  There ain’t no sense in playing another man’s primal scream for understanding at low amplitude.

One story I wanted to pass along about the making of The Fireside Wake is a fact I learned late in the process.

Aside from the occasional cameo by friends like Eric "Brody" Braeutigam on harmonica or Jay Glysz acting as a foil for the “weird space transition parts,” most of the album is performed by Dalton himself on guitar, drums, bass and vocals.

One exception is a “Stroll Through Respite Territory,” in which Dalton engages in dueling guitar leads, Allman Brothers style, with his father Dave.  It’s one of many a high points on the album and a good addition to the catalog of rock and roll styles included on the recording.  As the younger Dalton put it, “I am so happy with how it turned out. I can't imagine listening to it any other way.”

Finally, there is one other thing which cannot go unmentioned in a discussion of The Fireside Wake and that is the December release party hosted by Dalton at Fisher Hall in Frankenmuth.  In terms of attention to detail, how about things like a gratis taco bar, complete with vegan options, and a selection of craft beers, including a porter brewed especially for the occasion.  Or how about literally bringing the “vision” into 2D with a series of five original paintings inspired by the concepts explored on the album.

But, despite these elements of staging, the true star of the evening was the songs.  In a format he has honed during regular solo performances at White’s Bar and other area venues, Dalton presented the music in a truly unique form.  With the aid of loops, pedals and a small stash of cool guitars, he was able to recreate a mesmerizing version of the album that had those in attendance transfixed on the performance and raving about it for days. 

Whether or not anyone decides to try and step up to the challenge, a new bar has been set for going “all in” in support of your music’s release.  Truly a special event commemorating an equally special recording.

The Fireside Wake is available for download at  Digital downloads are available now with crowdfunding for physical releases on CD and vinyl underway. 



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