MD Dunn
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MD Dunn

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 1990 | SELF | AFM

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 1990
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter




"MD Dunn: The River Lately (2018)"

It’s a bit unnerving to suddenly find ourselves living in horrible times, among horrible people, and to not be able to predict when those times (and people) will come to an end. I honestly thought we were better than this, that we had progressed in some way. I was wrong. Being angry about it only seems to hurt me, but not being angry about it makes me feel guilty. And so I’ve been turning to music to help me through, and to remind me that, although a significant portion of the country has gone irreparably sideways, there are still lots of decent folks out there who are struggling with the same problems, the same anger, the same depression. Music tells us we are not alone. Music reminds us of what is truly important. I was turned on to M.D. Dunn’s music a couple of years ago, just before everything went wrong. His 2016 release Solace impressed me, and I was excited to hear more from him. His new album, The River Lately, features all original material, largely in the folk realm, but certainly not limited to that. This album contains some seriously excellent lyrics. But, perhaps more importantly, it is music to help us as we try to make sense of a world that lost its balance.

M.D. Dunn opens the new album with “The River Lately,” the title track. It eases in with a sweet folk sound on the guitar, and seems to kick in gradually, in stages, first taking on a cool, mellow 1970s vibe, like some of CSN’s mid-1970s work. Then the horn comes in, which is kind of a delightful surprise. I love the sound of this song, and the way it builds. But the lyrics are what really grab me. Check out these lines: “Have you been to the river lately?/You should see how high the water is now/Last time you couldn’t drown here if you’d been trying.” And these: “There are no shortcuts where we’re going/We’re going to have to play it through.” And these: “You probably have it all figured out anyway/Don’t let that keep you from trying.” How’s that for some good advice? The sax comes back in after this, and the song has kind of a nice little jam, which I dig. By the way, that’s Josh Norling, who plays both trumpet and saxophone on this album. “Hold on, hold on/With all those thoughts making noise all the time/Stick around for the punchline.” Yes.

“War In Me” feels like folk for the first few seconds, then comes in with a force, with an edge, which seems fitting for the song’s content. After all, turmoil within is going to affect what comes out. “You’re the sound I make when I dream/Another soul who is more than you seem.” What a line, eh? “You’re the sound I make when I dream.” This album is full of astute, intriguing lines like that. “War In Me” is followed by “The Story Begins,” which has a lighter, more playful vibe, in strong contrast to what we’ve just experienced. This track features more good work on saxophone. “When you arrive, the story begins.”

“Barn Swallow’s Dance” is the album’s first instrumental track. It’s strange, but sometimes when I listen to it, I feel it should have lyrics. I’m surprised when his voice doesn’t come in at some point. That being said, this tune has an uplifting vibe which I appreciate. The other instrumental track is “Dragonfly,” a pretty guitar piece that has a positive feel to it.

One of the album’s most important and timely songs is “The Cowardice Of Kings.” It is no secret that Donald Trump fancies himself a king, and that he has strange love affairs with dictators. He is a dangerous and doltish enemy of democracy, and thus an enemy of the United States, and he should be treated as such. Donald Trump is not mentioned by name in this song. But see if these lyrics don’t apply: “The cowardice of kings brings cruelty to the weakest/Go on and call him on it and you become his new enemy” and “The cowardice of kings makes everyone a traitor/Sees refugees as enemies and immigrants as invaders/Public dissent becomes a treasonable crime.” And this: “The cowardice of kings brings out the tyrant.” This song reminds us to “stick around” for “the weather will change.” Yes, but please hurry.

The first line of “Only In Summer” caught me by surprise: “All he said was she was pretty enough to be a stripper.” Before I could catch myself, I laughed aloud. M.D. Dunn follows that with these lines: “They used to say that back home/It never was a problem/He thought it was a compliment.” And there is a really good line about thinking about what you say before saying it: “Every scene you’re in needs editing/Before it goes to air.” This is a good country song, delivered with a passion, his voice once or twice reminding me of Brian Doser. The album closes with “We Need Everyone,” in which M.D. Dunn sings “We need you now/We need everyone/You have always, always been loved.”

CD Track List
The River Lately
War In Me
The Story Begins
Ghost Water
Barn Swallow’s Dance
The Cowardice Of Kings
When I Fall Away
Only In Summer
We Need Everyone - Michael Doherty

"River Inspires Dunn's new album"

Greek philosopher Heraclitus got Mark Dunn thinking when he was recording his ninth album.
His expression, “You could not step twice into the same river,” prompted the Sault Ste. Marie folk artist to consider his decades of living near the St. Mary's River.
“What is the nature of home when home is a river?” said Dunn. “The river's always moving and always changing. How does that change if you're in the same place for decades and decades? It's not really the same place.”
He often writes lyrics “a couple of lines at a time” by the St. Mary's River. While writing material for The River Lately, he walked the same route from his downtown home east to Bellevue Park.
“You get to see a set geography change over a span of time,” said Dunn.
He found composing songs for The River Lately to be a tougher task than usual with the title track going through “a good 10” revisions before he was finished.
“It just seemed like a long time,” said Dunn. “A lot of emotional stuff from the period was coming through and demanded that I deal with it in different ways.”
What helped was recording his songs at Warren Reville at Reveal Music between last September and January. That was “probably the best experience I've ever had” in more than 20 years of studio work.
Reville and Craig West performed bass. The River Lately also features Ken Coulter (drums), Josh Norling (saxophone, trumpet), Lynne Reville (piano, backing vocals) and Lindsay Pugh (resonator, lap steel).
Dunn knew he wanted Norling when he was working on The River Lately.
“When I was building the guitar part, I could hear horns,” said Dunn. “I have always admired Mr. Norling and think (he) is a really wonderful person.”
Norling also appears on The Story Begins.
“I think his horns make those songs,” said Dunn.
While listeners can't “draw a line to anything specific” in his own life, Dunn wonders if songs such as War in Me, Only in Summer and We Need Everyone might be “just too personal to even put out there.
“Maybe no one can identify with any of this stuff,” he said.
But Dunn is still hopeful what he dedicates “a good part of my time and energy doing has some value to other people.
“This is one of the ways that I guess I try to communicate or try to reach out,” he said. “The songs are powerful to me and I think there could be a reason why they come along beyond entertaining me for a couple of years while I put them together. I put them out there and hope that maybe they find a home in someone's life.”
The River Lately also partly fulfills a wish Dunn had when he was on tour last summer. His road travels included listening to Black Science, the third album from Sault prog outfit Machines Dream. West and Coulter are members. Norling guested on that disc and an earlier effort, Immunity.
“Wouldn't that be cool to have them as a backup band?” Dunn recalled thinking. “I was so blown away by Ken's drumming.”
The River Lately might be Dunn's last studio effort. He cites several factors, including being “more demanding” of himself and leery of repeating past efforts, for the possible hesitation of crafting another disc of original material.
“There's maybe a sense of not as much urgency,” said Dunn. “I don't feel as urgent about it all. I know that the world's going to keep spinning and everyone's going to be fine if I don't finish these songs. I can take my time with it.”
What is planned is a live disc with a band playing material he's written over three decades.
“There are a lot of older songs that have been revised (such as When I Fall Away reimagined as When I Fall Away on the new album) and my thoughts are that a live recording would allow them to live again,” he said.
A CD release show is expected at a later date.
Dunn's album costs $15 and is on sale at The Rad Zone, Shabby Motley or online at - The Sault Star

"MD Dunn SOLACE CD Review"

Singer, songwriter and poet M.D. Dunn’s newest release, Solace, features mostly original material, including several rather pretty guitar instrumentals. The music has something of a mellow 1970s folk feel at times. This is his seventh release, and was produced by Rusty McCarthy, who also plays bass, banjo and guitar on it. Also joining M.D. Dunn on this CD are Chris Murphy on drums, Al Wood on harmonica, Cliff Alloy on percussion, Jenny Gauvreau on piano and backing vocals, Sheldon Jaaskelainen on violin, and Britta Wolfert on backing vocals. Mark D. Dunn is based in Ontario (yes, great music continues to come from that area).

The album opens with “Beauty,” which begins with some excellent work on acoustic guitar. It eases in, the guitar taking you on a little journey. And then when the vocals come in, you find yourself on a familiar road: “You’re a little too tired/You know you’re too stoned to drive/So you pull over to the shoulder of a road you’ve known all your life.” The song kicks in and features something of a driving beat and energy, with passion behind the vocal delivery. “Come on and be the beauty/Heal this wounded world.” There is some great work by Al Wood on harmonica, which never rises to overpower the guitar. “I’ve got a hole in my heart the shape of God’s fist.” Like “Beauty,” the following track, “Master Of Doubt,” starts with some good work on acoustic guitar to pull you in. It’s the guitar that is really at the heart of this CD. “Master Of Doubt” is about a certain longing and a shyness keeping him from acting on it. “And too scared to even speak with you/I looked away before you knew.”

“Miracles Happen (And Frequently Go Unnoticed) Even On A Day Like This” is the first of the album’s instrumental tracks. It is really pretty, and features some wonderful work on guitar. Again, it is the acoustic guitar that is at the heart of this release. Partway through the track, the violin eases in, and the track becomes more beautiful. The violin does the same for the CD’s title track, “Solace.” While that song has a strong 1970s vibe, the lyrics mention more modern contraptions: “She’s screaming at the phone/Under my window at 2 a.m./Got the broken GPS blues.” Those lines come as a surprise to me, and sort of lift me out of the song, if only momentarily. Another thing that comes as a surprise is the inclusion of a live track, “Watchful,” which was recorded in January of this year. On this one he is joined only by Rusty McCarthy on bass, which actually was recorded later. Basically, this is a live solo performance. I think I would have cut the audience reaction at the end, the applause, because it’s a bit jarring.

The album’s second instrumental track, “Snow Angels,” is, like “Miracles Happen,” quite pretty. Apparently, this one originally had lyrics, and a vocal version was included on Dunn’s first release, 1994’s After The Great Sleep (but I haven’t been able to find that track online to give it a listen). On this instrumental rendition, he is joined only by Rusty McCarthy. The other instrumentals are “Seasons” and “The Companion.”

“On Without End” is another with a strong 1970s vibe reminding me a bit of America or perhaps Stephen Stills or Neil Young. “City is green when seen from above/The river winding through like a snake/Swirling in the center/The cells in the body just glowing with love/It’s like looking in a mirror/That looks into the eyes of the universe/You go on without end.” Sheldon Jaaskelainen adds some beautiful work on violin. Britta Wolfert and Jenny Gauvreau provide backing vocals. It’s really good, but probably my favorite track is “The Last Beautiful Thing.” There is just something about this song that gets right to me. Sure, the violin is excellent. And I love the backing vocals by Britta Wolfert and Jenny Gauvreau. But I think it’s the lyrics that really make this track stand out. There is something warming and friendly and positive about them. “I know you/By the songs that you give/And you came through/Came through/When everyone was wrong/You came through/Came through/When everyone had gone.” It’s a beautiful song.

The album’s only cover is actually an adaptation of an e.e. cummings poem, “i thank you, god.” The last two lines of the poem are used as sort of a chorus, sung after the first stanza as well as later. The album concludes with “Diamond Inside,” which, sure, is a bit corny, but also really sweet. “Everybody has a diamond inside/See it shining in their eyes.” I ended up really liking this song, partly because of the beautiful violin. The sweet, honest feel ended up moving me. - Michael Doherty


Mark Dunn, known professionally as M.D., is a Sault Ste. Marie, ONbased poet, college professor, and musician who has released his seventh album, Solace, with 12 new pieces, including four guitar instrumentals: Miracles Happen, Snow Angels, Seasons, and The Companion. There’s an echo of Bruce Cockburn in Dunn’s guitar work with driving rhythms that veer suddenly into unexpected key shifts, delve into minor passages, then emerge smiling in the major keys they began in. The instrumentals are engaging guitar journeys that explore sound and acoustic space. By themselves they would be a compelling reason to acquire this album, but that’s only scratching the surface. In addition to being a highly talented player, Dunn is also a talented lyricist, bringing his poetic sensibilities and pleasant voice to songs such as Beauty, Master of Doubt, Watchful, On Without End, The Last Beautiful Thing, and Diamond Inside, plus a tribute track to poet e.e. cummings, I Thank You, God. The combination of strong lyrics and compelling guitar work make this album shine. Additional musicians on the album include
Chris Murphy, Al Wood, Rusty McCarthy, Cliff Alloy, Britta Wolfert (background vocals), Jenny Gauvreau (background vocals), and violinist Sheldon Jaaskelainen. This one’s a keeper. – By Gene Wilburn - Penguin Eggs


The River Lately (2018)

SOLACE (2016)

Transit, EP (2015)
Thursday's Monster (2008)
Clay Rooster (2006)
Floodgate (2000)
Shadow Show (1999)
The Official Bootlegs of Uncle OSAP and the Collection Agency (1998)
Fireside (1996)
After the Great Sleep (1994)



Singer-songwriter and guitarist MD Dunn has performed for thirty years. Dunn's music has been played on CBC, NPR, WPR, and on college and community stations across the continent. His ninth album, The River Lately, was released in 2018. Several tracks from the album received airplay. Dunn has toured Canada for years.
           As a journalist, Dunn has published many articles and reviews. His writing has been published in The Globe and Mail, Canadian Dimension Magazine, Exclaim!, Public Works Magazine, Pets Magazine, and many other publications.He has three books of poetry in print, most recently _Even the Weapons_ (BuschekBooks, 2015). 
          MD Dunn's music is focused around fingerstyle acoustic guitar with an emphasis on lyrics. A self-taught guitarist, Dunn's style has been compared to Bruce Cockburn and Joni Mitchell. 

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