Art Person: Dennis Crommett | musician

Last modified: Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Dennis Crommett loves music and would like to think it will always be a part of his life. But, he adds, “I like to have a well-rounded life, too. I like a lot of things — cooking, reading books, being outdoors. ... I can’t sit in my apartment all weekend with the shades drawn and play guitar. That’s not me.”

Crommett’s a longtime figure in the Valley’s music scene, one who wears multiple hats and looks for ways to collaborate with other players. He plays electric and lap steel guitar with Winterpills, the popular rock/pop quintet, and he’s also the frontman for local rockers Spanish for Hitchhiking. More recently he’s become half of the indie folk duo Fideles with guitarist Margaret Garrett.

Crommett, of Northampton, is also a singer and songwriter with two records to his credit — and a restless curiosity about the world around him. He’s particularly taken with the natural world and finds that being outdoors, whether taking a winter hike or just sitting quietly by the seashore, “inspires the depth of feeling that leads to good songwriting.”

His most recent CD, 2011’s “In the Buffalo Surround,” on Signature Sounds, explores some of those themes with mostly quiet songs that hug the line between folk and country. His straightforward vocals and guitar, backed by bass, mandolin and occasionally drums, create a contemplative, intimate and sometimes dreamy sound, one the Boston Globe summarized as “elegant, understated eloquence.”

The album was inspired in part by a book Crommett read, “These Were the Sioux,” the recollections of a white woman who grew up on the Nebraska prairie in the early 1900s and wrote about Sioux rituals and spiritual practices. Though he doesn’t practice religion formally, Crommett, 33, says he is deeply drawn to spirituality.

Not that he’s all about quiet contemplation: He likes to crank up the volume sometimes. “New Year’s Resolution,” the most up-tempo song on the CD, features multiple electric guitars and was inspired by the Bruce Springsteen cut “My Lucky Day.”

“Someday I want to make a great American rock-and-roll album,” Crommett said with a laugh.

If he does, he’ll do it on his own terms. He says the best thing about music is playing with friends and bandmates, sharing ideas and riffs, as well as building a bond with listeners. He tried to draw on that feeling during a down spell in which doubts about being a musician surfaced.

“You start thinking of all the people who are trying to do this, and that so-and-so has a lot more Facebook hits than you, and you think, ‘Am I just wasting my time?’ ” Crommett said. But lately he says, he’s rediscovered his songwriting muse and found new musical energy in Fideles.

“I want to write and play music that means something,” he said.

— Steve Pfarrer

Fideles will open for Kishi Bashi Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Iron Horse in Northampton. Crommet will also be one of three acts performing Friday starting at 8 p.m. at the Parlor Room at Signature Sounds in Northampton.


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