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Island Band Conjures Creative Nostalgia by Bridget Budbill, the Stanwood Camano News (This article appeared in the Stanwood-Camano News on April 17, 2007) Settled in his home-based recording studio on Camano Island, Mark Dodge is making the kind of music that won’t get him anywhere on American Idol. “Years ago people would tell me to move around more on stage, but that’s not really my thing,” said Dodge. “I’m a player, not so much of a performer.” But his playing might impress the likes of listeners who want to do just that — listen. Just released from his indie label, Big Quack Records, is an album, titled “Here On Island Time,” which features the musical complexities symptomatic of the original Fleetwood Mac, combined with the folksy storytelling of Willie Nelson and Joni Mitchell, all done with lyrics kindred to the heart and humor of Randy Newman. “On Island Time,” is the first release by Steve Harris and Friends (SHF), a live ensemble band headed by Steve Harris, who sings and plays acoustic guitar. Dodge, a musician since his mother started him on piano at age 8, also sings and plays electric guitar, bass, ukulele, harmonica and marimba. “My specialty is being diverse,” said Dodge. South End String Band alumna Wende Hilyard contributes airy harmonies, while also adding percussion and spotlighting as lead vocalist from time to time. Keeping the beat on drums is Thomas Kemper, whose stick work neatly completes the instrumental compositions like a bow on a birthday gift. The band’s musicality is a seamless combination of acoustic guitar riffs and staggering adagio harmonizing, slightly reminiscent of several tracks on Fleetwood Mac’s iconic 1977 “Rumors” album. The song “Between the Middle and the End” is a stirring tale of a woman named Mickey, who had “a silver smile that made the moon look warm,” as Hilyard sings sweetly. Hilyard’s aria describes Mickey’s mother — an Oklahoma child. “Whiskey made her drink too much, the silence drove her wild,” sang Hilyard. The band turns the tables for some good-natured fun with the song “Bare-naked Waltzing,” a ballad about stripping down to the essentials of love. “I’d give you the shirt right off of my back, my undies for you, wouldn’t ask for them back,” sang Harris. “Waltz across Texas, stark naked for you, even in winter, I’d turn all blue.” Laughs aside, Dodge’s affection for music runs more than skin deep. Having spent more than 10 years on the road playing gigs with a wide variety of bands and ensembles, Dodge was tired of, as he puts it, scraping by. “That’s how 90 percent of musicians live — subsistence living,” said Dodge. He’s played in numerous bands, from the Northwest to Erie, Pennsylvania, including Kittyhawk, The Morgan Whalen Group and The Random Brothers. Five years ago he pulled together some home recording equipment, which he says nowadays, with computer technology and ever advancing at-home accessibility, is more readily available than ever before, and began assembling tracks Dodge-style. Dodge began producing other local independent artists, such as Harris’ first album, Bob Christensen, Tim Miller and bands such as Giza and the South End String Band. His wife, Vicki, encouraged him to make sure he made time to play his own creations. “She’d say, ‘Get yours done, too,’” said Dodge. Finally, after some well-intentioned “nagging” from his wife, Dodge began playing around with his own songs. “I wanted to leave something behind,” said Dodge. “Most of my professional life I was playing other people’s music.” Now playing his own music, Dodge is enjoying biding his time island style. “As a producer, I get to play conductor in a way, except you can change the music as you go along,” he said. Even if the grueling road trips are over, it is clear Dodge’s ambition is still climbing up music charts. If he doesn’t ever make the Billboard music charts, that’s cool — he’s on island time, now. - Bridget Budbill, The Stanwood-Camano News

 

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