A strong and well-considered debut album with excellent production.
You would be forgiven for assuming that because Gregory Dwane’s self-titled album is the first full length record he’s released that he’s new to the industry, but in actual fact, that’s not true at all. Dwane, the kind of musician often referred to as a “lifer”, started out by relocating from his native North Carolina to New York in the early 90s, and from there he has continued to plow forward with his musical dream, playing however he could – including touring the world as tech for the likes of Alanis Morrisette and Macy Gray – and never giving up, even if at times the odds seem stacked against him. But it was the pandemic that made him finally pull a set of songs together: “I hadn’t had a six to eight-hour stretch with absolutely nothing to worry about in…forever,” he has said of the collective pause the world took, something that gave him time to gather inspiration and some old demos that ultimately led to these 11 tracks.
‘Do You Really Want Me’ kicks things off with a barroom intro and a thoroughly tipsy swagger throughout. “Do you really want / Love and happiness / Or do you want me / On my knees begging please until I confess,” Dwane asks desperately. ‘Growing Up’ features some rocking guitar parts, but at its heart it’s still a simple piece of guidance and hope for the future of Dwane’s son (“You gotta learn from bums and scrapes / I know one thing – your hearts right where it should be / And I have no doubt you’ll be a better man than me”). ‘I85’, an ode to life on the road, is a cleanly produced rocker of a song, while ‘When You Said California’ – a real standout – inhabits the lazy tone of the Californian way of life, even as its lyrics bemoan a partner choosing to move away to the golden state.
Having recently worked as a producer for Amy Ray, famously one half of the Indigo Girls, Dwane called her in to provide harmonies on two tracks with him. The first is ‘Gone and Changed’, a gently honest confession that a relationship doesn’t feel right (“I don’t know what’s going to happen / But it’s looking like it’s the end / We’ve broken everything / And there’s nothing left here to mend / Who wants to live like that”), while ‘It’s Fucked Up’ tries to carefully help a loved one deal with past trauma (“It takes time to understand / All the things that happened / Cause we align with the pain / And repeat the actions / The things they did to you / The things they said weren’t true”).
‘Gimme A Solution’ sees Dwane (who has admitted to his battle with alcohol) question if we’re not all addicted to something in our own ways: “Mamma’s gotta Jesus problem / Daddy loves to drink / Everybody needs a little something / To pull them from the brink,” he ponders over a bouncing, jiving beat. ‘Don’t Change for Me’ sees Dwane asking for life to slow its pace, while ‘I Don’t Like You’ rock and rolls its way to assuring a loved one they’re the only one for him.
‘Lost and Found’ is refreshingly frank with the advice it doles out: “Yeah I’ve been lost / I’ve been found / Laying face down on the ground / And everybody wants to tell you / How you should be living / Maybe you should just / Live your own fucking life / And I’ll live mine” (and if that’s not clear cut enough for you, “Mind your fucking business” is repeat five times at the end). ‘Fragile Man’ is the most blues leaning of all the tracks, featuring a tongue in cheek tale of machismo: “So lie to me / One more time / Tell me everything / And everything is fine / And right before we get it on / Tell me I’m second to none”).
Dwane may have had to toil away for many years in the music industry, often taking a back seat to the main action, but here he’s finally got his chance to shine in the spotlight, and judging by the quality of the material he’s produced, that’s a place he definitely deserves to be seen.