Ron Samworth
Dogs Do Dream

(Drip Audio)

A guitarist and composer who's active in the Vancouver area, Ron Samworth needs no real introduction for readers of this magazine, who have seen his name mentioned many times for his being a core player in those various ensembles led by cellist and composer Peggy Lee, a fine recent for instance being the album titled Tell Tale, released under the moniker Film In Music, which I reviewed in very favourable terms just a few months ago.

As per its title, Dogs Do Dream moves along "concept" lines that would be the envy of those old-time "prog" conceptualizations, having as its core "the dream life of dogs"; or, better said, those mental representations that dogs - in this case, a specific dog, the hero of the story told here - have of the life they lead.

The music featured on the album is a successful mix of rock, jazz, folk, and classical, a whole that's much more coherent than my quick description could lead one to believe. Among the featured musicians, I saw familiar names appearing side-by-side with names I have never encountered before.

As it's to be expected, the story being successful depends for a large part on the voice of the... dog, which plays a great part on the album. Quite surprisingly, the dog - it's a male - speaks in a female voice, with bizarre results when it comes to the album's "erotic" moment. It has to be said that Barbara Adler has a voice that's very musical and versatile, and that - with some help from various effects and equalization - she easily succeeds in making the listener become involved, and feel as a part of the narration.

The album features many "songs" - here meaning: narration plus music - alongside some instrumental episodes, for the most part on the brief side, meant to give more "breath" to the story.

Fine recorded sound, a lot of styles being featured, a duration of about 60' - I never looked at my watch once - this is an album I listened to a lot, well beyond my critic's duty, for a whole week.

Music and text by Ron Samworth, produced by Dylan Van Der Schyff, recorded by Sheldon Zaharko at The Warehouse on 10 & 11 May, 2016, mixed and mastered by Dylan Van Der Schyff.

Featuring: Ron Samworth on electric guitar and effects, Barbara Adler on narration, JP Carter on trumpet and effects, Tyson Naylor on piano, keyboards, and accordion, Peggy Lee on cello, James Meger on electric bass, double bass, and effects, Skye Brooks on drums.

Appearing as guests, sometimes in a cameo role: Iris Pomeroy on vocals, Dylan Van Der Schyff on drums and percussion, Torsten Müller on double bass, Bill Clark on trumpet, Robin Holcomb on piano, Wayne Horvitz on DX-7 and effects.

The album works as a whole, like a "radio drama" of times long gone (it would be fantastic to catch it on stage, with the aid of pictures and assorted images). Listeners will have no trouble finding their favourite musical episodes.

Sleeping is a fine opener for the album: beautiful, appropriately dream-like, slightly melancholic, a unison melody for trumpet and cello, snare played brushes (an ensemble sound that at first made me think I was listening to a Peggy Lee record). Dream-like vocals. Effects, background voices. Piano, double bass. Then it's back to the theme.

Rapid Eye Movement presents a restless mood, effects, a filter modulation on the synthesizer, trumpet, "scratching" on the cello, vocal effects, percussion, the mood gets tenser.

Swimming starts with an arpeggiated guitar on an odd-time signature, drums, cello and trumpet in a fine melody. It gets faster, with keyboards, trumpet, narration. A rhythmic push, keyboards, trumpet, effects.

The Underbrush starts with piano, effects, and cello acting as a "noisy" carpet. Narration on a tense-sounding "silence", featuring effects. There's a rhythmic ostinato with guitar, bass, trumpet, à la Miles Davis circa Agharta-Bitches Brew, something that sounds like a fanfare, electric piano, synthesizer, and guitar.

Reflection is a concise episode for solo piano. It follows a melodic idea, makes use of the "smorzato" pedal, and at 1' 35" presents a blues-gospel sound that's surprisingly Monk-like.

Lying On My Back has an intro for arpeggio guitar in rubato, with finger sounds on the strings. Vocals are appropriately relaxed.

Muck About is a brief episode for solo double bass played arco.

On The Trail has a "folk" melody for accordion (it reminded me a bit of  Nimal-Skeleton Crew). Erotic narration. Back to the "folk"-sounding melody. Toms played brushes, fine accordion solo, then guitars, trumpet, synthesizer.

Cool Grass/Frisbee starts with two-hands piano, an arpeggio playing a fine melody. Harmonics, narration, a fine arpeggio as a pedal for a lyric-sounding cello solo. Trumpet with echo and effects. For me, this is the best track on the album.

Evening Crows is a brief episode for solo cello, "scratch", harmonics, glissando.

Smells/Other Dogs starts with narration, background sounds, traffic and birds, voices. A piano arpeggio, cello, trumpet. Noises, trumpet, something that sounds like a ring modulator, drums, piano, cello, a bluesy mood in ¾, a trumpet solo, cello. Quite Monk-like as per Wayne Horvitz, circa Miracle Mile. Nice, but in my opinion it goes on a bit too long.

Gulls, Gills, Guts features a double bass played arco playing harmonics, drums, percussion. Nice, but to me it sounds like an out-take off the Film In Music CD.

Drones... Bones, as per its title, offers a loop "ambient" scenario.

Fighting features a tense-sounding narration (of course!), with appropriate background. Then, an odd-time signature (which reminded me a bit of Material) with noises, guitar, synth, drums.

Waking Up fades in, with piano, cello, cymbals, trumpet, with a serene-sounding melody under the narration. Fine close, with a unison note from piano and the bell of a cymbal.

Dog Day works like a movie's "end credits". Starting with a rhythmic guitar chord, then drums played brushes, piano, it almost sounds like a bossa. Then, trumpet and cello paint a peaceful melody.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2017 | July 24, 2017