Whenever I review music from a friend or family member, I preface the review with that declaration for full disclosure and transparency. I also don’t suffer fools lightly, and if I did not truly enjoy something, I’d probably skip writing about it. Luckily for me, I love Dean the person and I love Dean the musician. Well… I wish he would have used me on the album but perhaps he’ll take me on the road! Shotgun!!!
Dean and I went to Northwestern University together, so I have been listening to his music for a while… Enough said on that! You stop that right now!!! It has a definite retro ’80s sound, well… okay… I first heard it in the late ’80s… but I mean the new stuff, which means it’s immediately in my wheelhouse.
While the sound is reminiscent of bands like the BoDeans and that great midwestern rock, ironically Dean is from Kentucky. Clearly we know where his musical tastes veered. He’s also been compared to Jason Falkner of the amazing band, Jellyfish… so there’s that. And Gavin Lurssen mastered this one!!! They have always been one of my faves! And Jimmy Zavala (Jimmy Z) said he heard Crowded House and Buffalo Springfield. Horrible company to be in there, Dean. I mean, come on, what kind of singer/songwriter is Neil Finn???
What’s different (from then to now) is more in the lyrics, themes and ideas. Dean is a deeply contemplative singer-songwriter who uses his life to inform and infuse his music. Okay, yes, most singer-songwriters do that, but I have seen his life transform in front of my eyes and in his music. Many of his tunes are go tos when I need to get through something or gain some perspective.
There is also a bit of dream pop thrown in, too. You especially hear it in the melancholy closer “Fade.” From the opening subtle, wailing and mourning guitar. The lyrics tell us where Dean has been…
“I’m falling, falling down to a place I’ve never been
No one knows the shape I’m in.”
But then the song starts to change. It slowly builds and there is a pulse of hope in the drum beat. Dean’s last lyrics fade into the air…
“I’m leaving. I’m leaving.
Going far from this place, I’ll fade to black.
Never coming back.”
For me, this is the crux of the album, and Dean as an artist. Even in the darkness he finds a beauty and light. Even in what’s a moody and somewhat sad song, there is optimism and hope. It doesn’t hit us on the head with the message, it just lets it flow out naturally. And it’s where we all want to be. We acknowledge the pains of the past, but do not let them define us. Not an easy task. For those of us who deeply struggle with this, it’s the centerpiece of mindfulness and present moment awareness. This album preaches that and Dean gives us something to aspire to.
It’s funny… or sad… but for many of us we want our artists suffering so that they create music to get us through the times when we are suffering. It makes us feel connected to others and “the other.” When an artist finds love and happiness there is the risk that, that edge will go away. To his credit, while there are definitely some straight on love songs, Dean’s happiness is infectious. This may be because I know him personally, but I feel the songs that celebrate love will affect anyone who hears them.
So Kenny Aronoff was supposed to play on one or two songs, but liked Dean and the music so much he’s on nine out of 12 tracks. Nathan Cooley is on tracks 2, 7 and 9. Shout outs to Thom Russo and Brad Wood for their individual mixes. I miss you, Russo!!! The full credits are at the end.
“Perfect” may be my favorite tune because of the blistering harmonica from Jimmy Zavala. Yeah he’s that good! So fine, I can see why I was not on the record. But I truly love this from start to finish. From the 1-2 opening punch of “Denial Changes Everything”
“All the effort in the world
Can’t change the someone who isn’t you
And all anger you can take – or make
I shed it like a second skin
I’ll walk away as I begin
I go all-out to find myself again.”
And here I am coming off a breakup. And you want to know why this album has been my go to for a while? Musical and lyrical cuts to the bone. A shot to the heart… and then a gentle massaging it back to life.
And Dean’s best life lesson to me… “Don’t paint the red flags white.”
We are only here on earth with borrowed time. Let’s make the best of it… and let the bad times fade and the good times propel us into the present… where we enjoy… fully enjoy each and every moment.
Borrowed Time by Dean M. Collins
FULL ALBUM CREDITS:
Dean M. Collins: Guitars, Words & Vox
Kenny Aronoff: Drums & Percussion
Nathan Cooley: Additional Drums
Shane Hulsey: Guitars
Samm Darden: Bass
Chris Zeigler: Additional Bass
Rashawn Matthews: Hammond B3
Eric Sproull: Piano
Jimmy Zavala: Harmonica
John Scholvin: Additional Guitars
Smokin’ Brett Resnick: Pedal Steel
Backing Vocals: Isabella Pappas, Nathan Granner, Stephanie Rogers, Cheryl Wilson, Samotta Acklin
David Lockington: Cello
David Ellis: Banjo and Mandolin
Tiffany Watson Ray: Fiddle
Paul Tuvman: Piano
Ariana Pappas: Backing Vocals
Thom Russo: Mixes (1, 4, 5, 6, 8)
Brad Wood: Mixes (2, 3)
Ralph Cacciurri: Engineer and Mixes (7, 10, 12)
Fabrizio Grossi: Mix (9)
Jason Achilles: Mix (Track 11)
Gavin Lurssen: Mastering
Dave Jenkins: Drum Engineer
Produced by Dean M. Collins