Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Breaking All the Rules
Genres: Blues, Folk, Pop, R&B, Rock
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Dianne Davidson: Songwriter Extraordinaire
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 02/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In December 1991, I went to hear my favorite singer, Tracy Nelson, for the umpteenth time, on the occasion of her 47th birthday, performing at New York City's now-defunct night spot, Tramps. Midway through her first set, Tracy said, "This next song is by Dianne Davidson, who I think is one of the finest songwriters in Nashville today. It's called, `Tonight I'll Dream'". I am not the type to pay much attention to songwriters, but the name Dianne Davidson was vaguely familiar. About a month later the name suddenly clicked, and I confirmed what I almost remembered that night; Dianne Davidson had written Sounds of the City, a stunning song that Tracy had recorded on my favorite album of hers, Homemade Songs. Sounds of the City is about the loneliness and uncertainty of a musician's life on the road. The lyrics to that song had haunted me the first time I'd heard it, and they still do.
Anyway, Tracy Nelson is a powerhouse of a singer, and even though by 1991 I had almost gotten used to being blown away by her performance, tonight was different. The song that Tracy had introduced so simply, Tonight I'll Dream, was a revelation. Although I have had a lifelong habit of memorizing lyrics to songs I truly love (I have literally hundreds of complete song lyrics in my head) I had never experienced a song before that was so powerful that I kept hearing the complete chorus in my mind over and over, the very first time I heard it. For the next 48 hours, I could not get the catchphrase of Tonight I'll Dream out of my head, so simple, and yet, so profoundly beautiful. "Yes, I've always been a dreamer", I kept hearing, "and tonight I'll dream that you care".
Three days later, when I could take it no longer, I went up to a mega record store, where I remembered I could plug a song title into a computer, and perhaps find what I was seeking (this was just a little before most people, including me, had unlimited access to the instant information available on the Internet). I hadn't really caught the name Dianne Davidson when Tracy had announced it, so I went to the store's computer, and just punched in the words, "Tonight I'll Dream That You Care", and held my breath. Instantly, a photo of a woman in a plaid shirt came up. The album title was Breaking All the Rules, and the singer was Dianne Davidson. YES! Now I was sure, Tracy had recorded a song of hers before. The computer said the album was in stock, (in the folk department, of all places) and there was one copy available.
I ran upstairs to the folk department, rummaged through the "D's" for just a few moments, and was elated when I found what I was looking for. I didn't even wait to get back to my apartment in Queens. I called my best friend, who lives downtown, "I found it!" I screamed excitedly, "Can I come right over?" He wasn't sure what I was talking about, but come on down, he said. I was vaguely aware that I was acting like a lunatic, despite the fact that, at that time, I already owned about 1,200 CD's of many different genres and artists, and rarely got this excited over a single song.
When I arrived, I told him, "You know I went to see Tracy Saturday, right?" (Like that wasn't all I had been talking about all weekend). "Don't tell me" he said, "you found that song you've been raving about".
"Just put it on - track eight, `Tonight I'll Dream That You Care'". He must have thought I was crazy, but he followed my instructions. When the song was finished, he silently got up, and played the track again, and I realized that we both had damp cheeks. I felt slightly embarrassed, not that I was tearing up in front of my best friend of thirty years, but that I was intruding on such a somber moment, even though I had initiated it. When the song finished a second time, he stopped the CD and played it again, and then again, and again. The only words he spoke, in between hearing it, I think for the third or fourth time were, "Gorgeous. Just gorgeous". That evening, we heard the song, "Tonight I'll Dream That You Care" at least 10 times in a row. I visited a few more record stores the next day, until I found another copy, and bought it for my friend. When I gave it to him he smiled, for he had already found one for himself.
I realized a little later that Tracy Nelson sang backup on Dianne's version of this song, on this very album. And Tracy recorded the song herself, five years later, on her 19th album, Move On. But even though Tracy is my favorite singer, and has been for almost 30 years, when people ask me today, what is my favorite love song of all time, I always answer without hesitation, "Tonight I'll Dream That You Care", by Dianne Davidson.
For many people, finding one brilliant song by a new artist would be enough, but the rest of the album is impressive as well. Besides Tonight I'll Dream, Dianne's songwriting abilities are ably demonstrated on a heartbreaker called, My Father, which also brings tears to my eyes. It's about losing your father in your teens. I guess Dianne and I have that in common, among some other things, and it is from the lyrics to this highly personal, poetic song that the album takes its name ("Times were angry, we were so cruel, but I was a rebel, had to break all the rules..."). There are also a number of other gorgeous Dianne Davidson compositions; another standout is titled, Everything To Me.
Although she wrote or co-wrote more than half the songs on this wonderfully unique album, Ms. Davidson does not shirk from recognizing the works of other great songwriters. Her cover of Blues giant Willie Dixon's Built For Speed is a highlight and, after Tonight I'll Dream, my favorite track is a song that Jennifer Warnes co-wrote with Leonard Cohen for her own tribute album to Mr. Cohen, Famous Blue Raincoat. The song is called, Song of Bernadette, and I like Dianne's heartfelt rendition every bit as much as Jennifer's.
Dianne Davidson wraps up this highly satisfactory lineup with another of her own compositions, the bouncy rock-gospel effort, Heaven Bound.
Like so many great talents I truly admire, Dianne Davidson has not received anywhere near the level of recognition that she deserves. I am not bothered by this; as I've stated before in many prior reviews, considering the astonishing number of marginal talents who have found superstardom, while others with seemingly super-human talent languish in relative obscurity, Dianne Davidson is in good company.
Since acquiring Breaking All the Rules, I've leaned that Dianne had recorded several albums in the early 1970's (Baby, Mountain Mama and Backwoods Woman are the titles of her three rare vinyl albums, all recorded on the Janus Label; Tracy Nelson sings backup on several songs on the latter two). With a bit of perseverance and a lot of luck, I have managed to track them down, and now own them all. But this, her finest effort, is still available; don't be a fool; get it while you can. True genius is too frequently neglected into obscurity, and found by only the lucky few. "Tonight I'll Dream That You Care" may not wind up as your candidate for the most gorgeous love song ever written, as it is mine, but I can almost guarantee it will make your top ten.
She's come a long way
James Morris | 04/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The first time I heard Dianne Davidson, I went right out and bought her albums. This was in the 70's, she hasn't lost a bit in her voice. It's big, booming and clear sound reminds you of Tracy Nelson, who incidentaly sings background on one track.I enjoyed Breaking All The Rules, though her style has changed. Where she once was more folk and a bit country, she now has added a bit of pop and blues. My favorite track is Tonight I'll Dream, wonderful words and vocal. My new theme song has been chosen from this CD, Built For Comfort, all you large girls check it out. All in all I would recommend this CD and also her previous work, Backwoods Woman and Mountain Mama, I'm hoping they will be released on CDs."
James Morris | 10/26/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have always loved this CD, From "Built for Comfort" which has terrific rock quality, excellent guitar licks and steady got-to-move-your-body rhythm, all the way through to "Homeward Bound" with its soulful gospel-trained style. Dianne's voice is solid and soul-filled. Check her out!"