-Iconic music journalist Michael Dwyer on Dakota Avenue - Melbourne, April 2012
Good songs keep. If they're made right they’ll see your kids grow and mourn the passing of old friends.
The ten songs on DAKOTA AVENUE have done both without leaving a shoebox under Sherry Rich's bed.
After ten years, it's time they met the big old world they were made for.
"DAKOTA AVENUE is the place in Nashville where I lived and where all these songs were written,"
she says. The album was recorded with Jay Bennett in Wilco's loft in Chicago between 1999 and 2001."
The tapes have been dormant so long because other projects have consumed her time — not least
The Rich Family Album of classic country songs with her mother, '60s performer Noelene Rich,
brother Rusty and husband Rick; three albums with her acclaimed kids' band, the Mudcakes,
and writing with Ashley Naylor for a long-awaited second Grapes record.
These songs were written in a very productive period when I first moved to the US in 1998,
so they've been ready to go for awhile," Sherry says. "It took Jay's untimely death
to put a fire under it… under me. Sadly he never got the chance to hear the project finished."
There's plenty to admire in the detail of DAKOTA AVENUE, beginning with the singing pedal steel
of the great Al Perkins (of Flying Burritos fame), through the power pop dazzle of Pandora Mink
to the wafting blue chiffon daydream of Same Old Paradise.
But these songs aren't the swishy kind that sink or swim in Shane O'Mara's glistening mix.
As a writer, Sherry Rich has a way with mood and setting and longing that recalls
the young Bob Dylan's famous intent "to stay a part of that stuff that don't change."
Hotel Song is great example: a song about the small things that harbour big feelings,
set in some room on some highway that jogs a similar bittersweet memory in any traveller
who can picture it’s peeling wallpaper.
Hopeful Heart is another: not a recipe for a contented life, but a question on behalf of every
poor deluded soul who ever imagined they could see it coming in the beautiful haze "between
happy hour and closing time."
The sucker punch, of course, is Sherry's voice, a low and easy drawl that weaves like a slow
dancing partner with an alluring habit of falling off a key note like cigarette smoke off a painted lip.
The songs on DAKOTA AVENUE are co-writes with some of Nashville's finest: Tim Carroll, Will
--- Kimbrough, Pat Buchanan and Bob DiPiero are all country and/or rock journeymen with their own roads
and stories momentarily intersecting with Sherry's long trail from Bribie Island to Melbourne to the USA
and back. The band is no less stellar: Glenn Kotche, Pat Sansone and Leroy Bach have all done time
in Wilco at some point. Mr Sherry Rich, Rick Plant, is a constant companion on a range of instruments.
Another page would be required to fully describe the privilege of having the legendary steel and
dobro player Al Perkins on board.
But as producer and co-writer of the lion's share of songs, it's Jay Bennett's spirit that looms largest
over DAKOTA AVENUE. "I see this record as a time capsule of my early days in Nashville and also a
tribute to Jay and his incredible musicality" says Sherry. "He was at his creative best during these
recordings and put in many hours of tireless dedication. He and the other musicians all freely
gave their time and sublime talents to make it happen."
If you need to ask why they would do that, you may be unaware of Sherry's extraordinary past,
from the all-girl garage-pop sensation Girl Monstar in the late '80s to all-star roots-rock bands
The Grievous Angels and Courtesy Move via her timeless collaboration with Ashley Naylor, The Grapes.
And if that's the case, now's a good time to track some of those albums down.
Or you could leave it another ten years. Hers are the kind of songs that keep.