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Clubland: Larry Dulong takes one giant step with debut CD

  • PHOTO BY JAMIE HOGAN<br/>Larry Dulong

Larry Dulong is a wearer of many musical hats: multi-instrumentalist, solo performer, band member, open mic host, and, as his answering machine message mentions, a busy piano tuner/technician.

That last job requires much calm and patience, qualities that came in handy during the gradual creation of Dulong’s first-ever CD, “Random Sighting” — which took six years to finish.

Now it finally exists as a physical object and Dulong is having a CD release concert at the Iron Horse in Northampton, June 30 at 7 p.m. Northampton singer/songwriter Burris Jenkins opens the show.

“Random Sighting” isn’t just the name of the album, it’s also the name of Dulong’s “catch-as-catch-can” band over the years, which never had a steady lineup. He’d get a gig booked and then call around to see who could play.

As a result of that approach, he said, “My circle of musical friends and acquaintances grew.”

More than 20 of those folks appear on the new record, and a number of them will accompany Dulong at the Iron Horse show, including Jon Weeks on saxophone; Dick Amberman on keys; Paul Lamoureux, Doug Bliss, Greg Dwinell and Dave Loomis on guitars; Peter Kim and Dulong’s son Forest Loomis-Dulong on bass; plus George Plouffe on keys and Jim Cote on drums.

That ensemble should have no problem reproducing the folky, folksy sound of the album, which kicks off with one of its strongest songs, “After All Is Said and Done.” Dulong’s affable voice leads the way over music that sounds like a cross between the Prairie Home Companion band and Springsteen’s E Street Band, with the big sax presence of Weeks, Mitch Chakour’s Hammond organ and muscular drumming from Joe Fitzpatrick.

“No time to wait, don’t hesitate / just take that giant step,” Dulong sings on “Giant Step,” one of the many supportive songs on “Random Sighting” — his debut solo CD, even though he’s been a professional musician for four decades. The album is his own giant step.

“That song was written for one of my kids’ graduations, and finishing [my record] is a graduation,” he said. “It is great to be able to show this to someone and say, ‘Hear this, I produced this, I spent time and money on this and in the end I am proud of it.’ It is so much different than the hundreds of live gigs I’ve done over the years.”

“Why Climb the Mountain” is a shimmering acoustic waltz full of experiential detail (beavers gnawing, a hundred-year-old orchard, log bridges, turkey vultures soaring) and positive thinking. “Push your boundaries back e_SSRqtil you reach your summit,” Dulong sings. “Now it’s back to the Valley afternoon sun slants / knowin’ that you can, when you thought you can’t.”

The song is rich with color, featuring the fantastic Eric Lee on fiddle, the five-voice-strong “Random Chorus,” plus Dulong on accordion.

“It was my first instrument, the instrument I play best,” he said, pointing out that the skeleton on the CD cover, drawn by his old friend Stephen O’Connell, is playing Dulong’s prized small blue accordion.

He jokes about the instrument’s bad reputation (he himself gave it up for a while around 1970 because “it wasn’t the coolest instrument”), but has a real love for it, pointing out that June is National Accordion Awareness Month.

Though Dulong is well-known for his piano skills, he plays guitar for much of the record. “I wanted the recording to be the best I could make it, and that meant get the best [players] I knew into the studio,” he said, praising the musicians on his CD like a true fan: “Dick Amberman’s boogie on ‘It’s Your Life’ cranked the song to a new level.”

Dulong does allow himself a miniature spotlight to close the album (“Third Floor Day Street”), playing solo piano that’s both richly romantic and bluesy.

He’s excited for the big Iron Horse CD release show, for which a few old musician friends who’d moved away are coming back to town to play with his group. “There may be guest appearances by other family members and friends,” he added. “I better finish the set list!”

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