Album Review: Don DiLego, “Western And Atlantic”

Written by Album Reviews, Music

Don DiLego’s first album in five years, the Western And Atlantic EP, is an excellent return to form.

One of my favorite things about social media is the concept of the random connection — you know, like when you learn on Facebook that your co-worker went to college with someone you knew from high school. I recently had a similar experience that brought me back in touch with an artist I admire.

In 2007, I reviewed Don DiLego‘s Photographs Of 1971 for another website. Its mixture of reverby baritone guitars, analog synths, singer-songwriter introspection and a Dave Davies cover hit my sweet spot perfectly. And it was all wrapped up with DiLego’s versatile and evocative voice. It was one of my favorite albums of 2007.

Over the next five years I never heard his name mentioned again (this was almost a year before I was on Twitter or Facebook, where its so much easier to keep track of these things), so I figured he, like so man other talented musicians, had taken his shot at rock stardom, and then decided to make his parents happy and put his degree to use.

Last month, “Outlaw” Pete Chianca, who thinks he’s too good to write for Popdose these days, tweeted a link to a bunch of reviews he had written (not for us – hmmph!) , and I saw that one of them was for DiLego’s new Western And Atlantic EP. I bought it from his Bandcamp widget (embedded below) and was glad to see he’s back on form.

While Western And Atlantic sounds like an urban intersection, it’s also a description of Don DiLego’s musical sensibilities, where twang meets traditional pop structures. This is most evident on “Midnight Train.” “Chicago,” and “Television Sun,” the latter of which is available as a free download below.

“The Holiday” has a lovely melody reminiscent of gospel-soul, but features a weeping steel guitar and harmonica, while the ghostly piano, distorted guitars, and Beach Boys harmonies of “Lonely Couples” would have fit beautifully on Wilco’s Summerteeth. And even though it’s an EP, there’s still room for a cover, too. But instead of The Kinks, he went with “Here Comes A Regular” by The Replacements. All of this leads me to wonder if DiLego is hacking into my iTunes library. He’s happily welcome to it if the results continue to be as good as this.

And, as it turned out, the five years between Photographs and Western And Atlantic wasn’t a return to a day job as I had feared. During that period DiLego released two EPs as part of the duo Beautiful Small Machines, scored the film “Ranchero,” toured the world, and co-wrote an album with Jesse Malin. All that extra work has kept his instincts sharp, and it’s great to have something new from DiLego under his own name again, and I look forward to listening to all those other projects he did in the interim.

Western And Atlantic was recorded live in a Portland studio while DiLego was working on an album called Magnificent Ram A. Hopefully it won’t be another five years before that gets released.