April 22, 1997
By: The Madhatter
There you have it! One of Mobile's greatest acoustic combos, Dog Named David, have a debut release which certainly lives up to, and beyond its title--It's Alright. The band name has more words than members, but the exquisite and insightful acoustic grooves served up on their first release goes beyond words. Way beyond. Like up to the level bands like Vertical Horizon and Jackopierce reside. Andy Cloninger, Mobile native, and John Wallace, Pensacola, FL native, make up this very dynamic duo known as Dog Named David.
Throughout their twelve song CD (the twelfth track is actually a "hidden track") there is a prominent texture created from drums, bass, piano, and backing vocals which definitely carries the music beyond a stereotypical acoustic forte. Some acoustic purists might object to the momentary electric guitar breakdown on the first track "What I Need." Surely a more logical purist can hear the purposeful placement that creates a darker mood. Which is contrasted with the bright bass line eluding to a happy Rusted Root type of vibe.
Wallace shares singing responsibilities on "Time Capsule." His distinctive voicing is also featured on the chorus of "The World Is Round." It falls into a tangled web with the melody line sung by Cloninger in a true Indigo Girls style. The lead chasing melody chasing lead technique. Cloninger and Wallace trade off lead guitar duties throughout the CD. Their first collaborative songwriting effort is captured on the third track "River of My Compromise."
"We had been named Minds Like Mine," Cloninger said in a recent interview. "We thought that was so genius, then it turned out that every place we played people would say, 'Oh yeah, my sister dated the drummer in your band,' or 'My girlfriend dated the bassist.'"
After finding out that the original Minds like Mine was a cover band who also toured Alabama, they had to go back to the drawing board. Before going in to the studio to record "It's Alright," Dog named David played under the generic name Andy Cloninger and John Wallace. It wasn't until halfway through the recording project that the name was solidified.
"I was flipping through a James Taylor song book and he has a song called 'Me and My Guitar,'" Cloninger said. "There is a line that says 'I've got a dog named David--I got a bird named Dina---I've got a birth mark on my thigh in the shape of mainland China.' So I thought Dog Named David was cool. Then I called John and he had been reading about King David in the bible. He freaked out because he had been thinking about King David as being a man after God's own heart and yet being a dog too because he killed Uriah to get his wife. I've heard someone draw the conclusion that Goliath called David a dog before David killed him."
Their sound is customized through the non-traditional tunings present in every song. Wallace plays in variations of the music notes G, C, and D. They both play in alternate tunings from each other alot to add more texture. Together it makes for a 90's acoustic style with heavy influences in the tradition of James Taylor. Other musical influences Cloninger claims include: Caedmon's Call, Bebo Norman, and Lenny Kravitz.
Currently the song receiving radio play is the title track "It's Alright." According to Cloninger, the song was written impromptu on stage at a fraternity gig. Some listeners may think there is a girl singing in the spotlight, but Cloninger can reach that range well.
"Oh yeah I can sing that high," said Cloninger. "When I first started writing songs I wrote them all at the very top of my range, almost falsetto it was so high. That was really thrashing my voice, but I thought that was how I was suppose to sing. Then I started listening to David Wilcox and he is a baritone and I'm a tenor. So I started singing David Wilcox songs. I realized I could sing low, like on "Run Me Down" that is very low, almost sounds like a different person singing. Then I started writing songs more in the middle of my range."
Live, the band tends to explore the improv side of music. Dog Named David plays almost 100 percent original music, except for the occasional cover song required at the longer gigs. Even then, most people think they are original too, due to the obscureness. As most bands, everything doesn't always go as planned!
"Alot of times we'll mess up and switch the verses. We're used to having that kind of freedom in concert because no one had the CD before. So we'd take the liberty to make up a new verse if we wanted to. But now people have the CD they want to hear the songs. They know the words and when their singing along it's weird when they hear a verse out of order."
Every song on the CD has a meaningful underlying theme. Whether it is the misled freedom in "No Freedom" or the youthful response found in "Too Young," Dog Named David seems to have a grip on the real meaning to life. If you don't get it on the first listen, well "It's Alright" (pun intended) you can still sing along!!
Dog Named David's debut CD "It's Alright" can be found locally at Peaches, Satori Sound, Blockbuster Music and BaySound. Upcoming shows include a "Tuesday Nooner" spot at the University of South Alabama on May 6. They will also be at The Track in Gulf Shores on May 9 for the Power 88 Anniversary Free Concert. And they will appear with Richie Havens at the Mobile Civic Center on May 10. On varying Thursday nights the band can be found playing at Chan's on Pensacola Beach, FL. Dog Named David is a band definitely worth checking out.