The Fireside Wake • Andy Dalton’s One Man Award Winning Opus

Best Album Release • Most Innovative Artist • Best Rock Instrumentalist

    icon Jun 25, 2020
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Without doubt one of the more fitting honors bestowed at this year’s 34th Annual Review Music Awards was the trifecta achieved by musician Andy Dalton for his 97-minute opus The Fireside Wake, which received the nod as Best Album Release, with Dalton also receiving top honors as Best Rock Instrumentalist and Most Innovative Artist. 

Considering that Dalton is immensely accomplished as a guitarist, drummer, vocalist and also plays piano and harmonica - again, these honors are entirely fitting insofar as his work is highly reminiscent of the caliber and quality of other ‘one-man-band’ rock luminaries as Todd Rundgren and Dave Grohl, who wrote, performed, and recorded the debut Foo Fighters album all on his own.

Perhaps my Review colleague Matt deHeus best summed up the majesty of The Fireside Wake when he reviewed the work in these pages earlier this year:  “The word that comes to mind the most is a very versatile one - ‘Volume’. Not merely for its size and scope, clocking in at over 90 minutes, the album is epic in its reach. If you sit down and listen to the album in its entirely 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.”

When asked how he first became passionate about music, Andy references the good fortune of having a gifted guitar-slinging musician father (Dave Dalton) to help show him the way.  “I started playing guitar at the age of seven, and because my Dad’s a guitar player, there were always instruments laying around the house.  I would say watching Wayne’s World with Wayne & Garth head-banging to Bohemian Rhapsody was my first exposure to the love of music and my love for the energy it infuses into one’s life.”

“I started out tinkering around and learning riffs from CD’s I liked, plus I played percussion in the Junior High School band,” he continues. “There were three percussionists in that band and we all fought over the drum kit, but then my Mom got me a hand-me-down drum kit a few years later, so I grew up playing drums and guitar.  I would write a riff on the guitar and immediately hear the drum parts in my head, so then I’d move to the drum kit. Whenever I heard a new song if the drummer was solid I could enjoy the rest of the song; but if the drummer was sloppy or not helping the song along, it made me hard to tolerate the song.”

“Beyond that, after high school I was in a band called See You Next Tuesday that got signed to a New Jersey label called Ferret Records,” continues Andy. “We toured the country 20 times and did Mexico, Puerto Rico, Belgium, Germany and Canada, playing all this grind speed-metal stuff, so I had to learn a new style of playing. That band lasted from 2004 to 2009. Then when I came back to reality to attend school and get a job, I discovered all that drumming and practicing for five years created a situation where I would never need to worry again about playing my drum parts. I got both the drum and guitar down pretty solid during that period.”

Apart from a brief reunion show in 2015, ever since his band days Andy’s focus has been on his solo work. “Some of the songs on The Fireside Wake date back to 2004 and the material goes all the way up through 2017, when I wrote the final songs for the record,” he explains.

“I started recording in 2013 with my brother Matt at his studio down in Rochester Hills and ended up doing the rest of it with Andy Reed at his studio here in Bay City. Andy and I really hit it off and he’s on my wavelength in terms of what I’m trying to do.  I didn’t know if I should put out an EP or an album, but I saw friends of mine putting out CDs and records yet didn’t have my own project, so it started out like slinging spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick. Eventually, I decided to take all my favorite songs and record them in one collection that would bookend that part of my life, so the project ended up being 18 songs and 97-minutes long.”

Given that thematically the song-cycle on The Fireside Wake holds together so well, does Andy consider this a concept album?

“I’m not sure if it counts as a concept album technically, because to me a concept album has this over-arching idea and a common thread through the songs; whereas with my project, I didn’t necessarily write it that way,” he reflects.

“I write about a lot of similar things - making sense of the world, my own mental health, relationship stuff - typical fodder; but I’m trying to do it in a way that hasn’t necessarily been said before. I’m not a ‘singles guy’ and love listening to records as a work of art from start to finish. I want to hear what the whole album sounds like so I can hear the context of the single and what the song means in the grand scheme of things.”

“With The Fireside Wake I put the songs into an order that made sense to me,” he continues. “It’s almost like three separate bands are happening on that album - a Space Rock Band, a Pop Rock Band, and a Bluesy Band - so consequently, I didn’t want too many blues songs back-to-back, or too many space rock songs positioned together, so the album is parsed out and flows more like a roller coaster.  It takes you up and then lets you down so you can breathe.”

While Andy says he was particularly pleased to have won the Most Innovative Artist and Best Album Awards, the one he was truly surprised about was the Best Instrumentalist honor. “I was surprised that I won that one,” he confesses. “I was up against guys like Joe Balbaugh and Loren Kranz who are extremely accomplished musicians, which kind of threw me for a loop.”

Sadly, with so much going for him and The Fireside Wake poised to do great things, the COVID-19 crisis hit and as with all of us, derailed his plans in their tracks. 

“Right now the album is only available through digital downloads,” explains Andy, “and my intention in 2020 was to prepare a crowd funding campaign so I could print special deluxe vinyl copies and CD’s and T-shirts. The crowd funding was supposed to happen all through May, so I could have product ready for the REVIEW Awards and Saginaw On-Stage; but then COVID-19 happened. Consequently, I felt it extremely insensitive and an obscene time to request money from friends and close followers most affected by this problem who work as tattoo artists, in salons, or in bars - all industries that got hit the hardest with the lockdown. Therefore, I’ve had to shelve this until the world gets a little bit back to normal.”

“This is a project I’ve been working on most of my life and frankly, I want a vinyl copy of The Fireside Wake so I can include it with the album collection of all my musical heroes. I can’t wait to do that. But when this pandemic hit it slapped me with another giant setback, but also made me realize I’ve got to be even more patient.”

“The Fireside Wake is a big record and while many people don’t have patience to sit down and listen to a 97-minutes record in its entirely, it is a fantastic road-tripping record - kind of like listening to Andy Dalton radio - it never strives too far from this common thread that’s going on.”

In terms of moving forward with his musical career during the COVID crisis, Andy says he is doing his best to make lemonade out of the situation. “I was performing every other Monday at White’s Bar and am super-thankful they let me do my own thing and are so supportive of me. I’ve been able to cut my teeth there, so when COVID happened and suddenly I had no more gigs, I decided screw it - I play every other Monday and am not giving up my routine, so I’ve been doing the Facebook Live thing since the lockdown.”

“This started on my laptop with a built-in mic and camera playing acoustic guitar at my computer; and then for the 2ndshow I added more technology by adding a mixer into the computer so I’d have soundboard quality audio,” explains Andy. “Two weeks later I added another camera and two weeks after that I added this broadcasting software that supports graphics, so during the shutdown I still play every other Monday and stream live for two or three hours, only each week it gets more evolved and complicated.”

“Now I’m up to three separate cameras, multiple graphic overlays, and do one set of cover material and one set of original material with costume changes and intermissions. It’s like I’m putting together this weird Monty Python Saturday Night Live hodgepodge to see how weird I can get with it. I just added a foot controller so I can change camera angles with my feet, so now it looks like I have a camera operator in the studio, but it’s really just me performing and operating equipment.”

“It blows my own mind that I’m pulling this off, but this is how I’ve kept my lemonade full during this time of lemons.

To download a copy of The Fireside Wake go to



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