Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dakota Lullaby: Albert & Gage

Dakota Lullaby

The joyous side of love and the blue side, the thoughtful side, and the funny one, the crazy bits of friendship and the thought provoking ones, the quiet of a northern prairie night and the voices of those who made history there --- you meet all these ideas in Dakota Lullaby, the latest album from Christine Albert and Chris Gage. There are a dozen songs on the disc, varying in melody from swing to folk to country to blues, in tone from raucous to funny to reflective. Though they are outstanding songwriters themselves, Albert and Gage didn’t write the music on this collection. In fact, the songs were written some thirty years ago.

Chris Gage grew up in South Dakota, where he met Tom Peterson and got to know several of his songs. Lives and times and circumstances diverged; Peterson stayed in the Dakotas, while Gage hit the road to play music, first with the Red Willow Band, and later with Roy Clark and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Albert was meanwhile honing her musical chops as a country and folk singer in New Mexico. Albert and Gage both set a course for the music center of Austin, Texas, where they met and formed a musical partnership and a marriage. Their live sets and their albums mix their own folk Americana country style songs along with well chosen covers of music by writers including Erik Moll, Caroline Herring, Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte Marie -- and occasionally Tom Peterson. Last year, circumstances worked out that another friend copied some old tapes of Peterson’s songs on to a CD.

“As we listened in the truck late one night I felt like we had just struck gold in the Black Hills,” Albert says. “Song after song, all written some thirty years ago, flew from the speakers right to my heart, and I was a goner for those words, those melodies, that spirit.” It’s a meeting of singers and songs that seems meant to be. Gage’s high energy take on If I Die Tomorrow brings to life a person we have all known, or been, with hints of a Cajun second line in the background of Peterson's prairie imagination. Albert and Gage join up on Cuttin’ a Rug to create vibrant images that could be real, could be a dream, all set to a swing melody that perfectly matches the words. Albert, who does haunting folk vocals better than just about anyone out there, brings those gifts to Those Who Love, a song which balances a lover’s lament and trust in hope framed in the quiet of a a prairie night sky. Then there’s the title song, Dakota Lullaby. It evokes landscapes and people, making the past present and the present past. It’s a cut and a song which deserve to become country classics.

The fine songs and outstanding singing are backed by a varied and interesting support, including harmonica from Mike Stevens, pedal steel from Lloyd Maines, clarinet from Michael Austin, and fiddle from Kenny Putnam.

Songs to think about long after the record is done -- and to laugh, dance, and sing along with while it plays --songs of Tom Peterson by Albert and Gage make an inspired combination, and a lasting one.

you may also want to see

Christine Albert: Paris, Texafrance

Albert & Gage: One More Christmas

Matt & Shannon & Ian & Sylvia

Wilderness Plots: the dvd

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous jessiev said...

this sounds fantastic, kerry - i LOVE the backstory. old music is so important to keep track of. thank you!

10:21 AM  
Anonymous ruth pennebaker said...

Kerry -- This is lovely. I'm wondering whether you ever come to Austin to enjoy the music. Would love to meet you.

10:49 AM  
Blogger ursula said...

I was lucky enough to catch Albert & Gage without trying during last SXSW, at Artz Rib House. Beautiful people singing beautiful music. Thanks for the review - I'll run out and listen.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer Margulis said...

I'll have to check them out!

1:20 PM  

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