Chesapeake Country Girl Makes Good
Deanna Dove’s born by the Bay, recorded in Nashville and singing the gospel
by Rob Goskowski
If the Bay had a soundtrack, Deanna Dove would be at the top of the playlist.
Her first album, titled Chesapeake, lent the theme song to WRNR’s long-time Sunday morning feature, Voices of the Chesapeake. She backs up the words she sings with action, regularly singing the waders into the Patuxent River at former Sen. Bernie Fowler’s annual measure of the river’s clarity. You hear her at every Bay-themed concert, and you hear Bay-themed songs every time she plays. Her website’s even got an Activism link.
The busy local singer released her second full-length original album, a breezy and mellow disc entitled Peace, Love & Crabs, at an autumnal CD release party at Calypso Bay, a waterfront hangout and tiki bar in the southern regions of Anne Arundel County near her Calvert home in North Beach.
The cheeky album title, listed as Peace, Love & Crabs (and Beer) inside the CD cover, belies some of the serious topics Dove writes about, for she shows a depth that goes beyond Buffet-esque drunk-in-the-sun ditties.
A week later, the prolific performer released another album online, a compilation of her favorite gospel songs called Rock My Roots.
“I sang on the local radio station with my two sisters, The Dove Sisters Trio, on a Sunday morning radio show on WMGS years ago,” Dove said. “That was part of my growing up and part of my roots that I wanted to lay down on record.”
Both are results of Dove’s trip to Nashville a year ago.
“My plan was to find a perfect producer-partner,” says Dove. “From there, I would go into the studio and record a Christmas and a gospel album because I’ve been playing those songs over time and wanted to capture them.”
Peace, Love & Crabs was not part of the plan. When Dove made her pilgrimage in October 2006, she had an agenda focusing on music that others had written.
“I had files and files of uncompleted songs, but I had no idea I was going to do the originals or get them in any form to record,” Dove said.
Finding a producer in Nashville, the capital of the country music business, can be as easy as picking up a phone book. Dove found hers the mono-named ZIG through her landlady, who sang for the same producer.
Dove sat in on a recording session before she gave ZIG her CD. They started work the next day.
“By the time we finished with the gospel and Christmas records,” she recalls, “my producer said, ‘Deanna, you don’t want to spend your time and waste your money on something that you’ve already done. Write those songs.’”
She took ZIG’s advice. Her first order of business was to become very hard to reach.
“I have to be completely focused when I write, and I had that in Nashville,” said Dove. “I was out of town, so I didn’t have any friends stopping in and distracting me.”
The songs trickled forth despite her initial apprehension; then she battled her apprehension some more. “I was a little skeptical after the first five songs that I’d be able to do five more, but they came,” she explained. “It’s a struggle to get the songs out sometimes.”
New material in hand, she hit the studio again, pulling aside the Nashville session players as they set up their instruments to describe her influences and the sound she sought.
“For example, I told the guitar player that I really like Mark Knopfler of Dire Straights. That sound reminds me of the water,” Dove said. “After that, it was up to them to use their creativity to make it fit. They can’t tell me how to sing, and I didn’t tell them specific riffs to play. I had to give them the freedom to do what they do best.”
The Nashville sound is undeniable on Peace, Love & Crabs, blending well with Dove’s warm vocals and acoustic strumming. One of the album’s strengths is its varied approach to its three-part theme.
Love, for example, gets serious, cautionary treatment in the song “Lay Down With Dogs.”
“That’s a saying my father used to us girls,” said Dove. “I read this book called Unhooked, by Laura Sessions Stepp, about how girls today between 15 and 21 out there in today’s culture are pursuing sex and delaying love and end up losing both. It’s a sad situation, so I tried to address that and hopefully have a positive influence on young girls that hear my music.”
The tongue-in-cheek “Shallow Minded Powerboat Folk,” poke fun at sailors who turn their noses up at those who rely exclusively on engines.
The title track captures the spirit of a typical weekend on the Chesapeake, a pastime in which Dove has qualifications.
Her album release party at Calypso Bay “seemed casual,” said fan Mike Mullican of Churchton. “I mean that in a good way. It was like being on vacation, where everybody has that thing going where they’re more friendly than they usually are.”
The music of Rock My Roots is a contemporary homage to the songs of Dove’s youth. She sings standards like “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” with an airy reverence over acoustic arrangements.
“The gospel CD was recorded with a front porch feel,” Dove said. “I’m trying to give the feeling of everyone sitting around playing their instruments acoustically.”
Dove hopes to take Rock My Roots to the stage; her first venue will be churches, where she plans to offer the CD at half the price of her other albums to win listeners.
The Christmas CD is a contrast from the gospel CD with its up-tempo, upbeat renditions of tunes like “Please Come Home For Christmas” and “Santa Baby.”
“Some of the songs will definitely surprise the listener as they bring a lively spin to the slower versions,” Dove said. “Because these songs are so very familiar and I have sung them all my life, I would have to say that the Christmas CD highlights my best vocal work.”
Dove is headed back to Nashville to touch up a couple of tracks before she releases that one, “hopefully by Thanksgiving.” In the meantime, only Dove, ZIG and their studio mates know what Christmas àla Dove will sound like.
Dove still sings the Bay, but she returned from Nashville with a new versatility and three albums to prove it: one to play with on Friday nights, one to pray with on Sunday mornings and a third to stuff in Christmas stockings.
Hear Deanna Dove online at www.DeannaDove.com.