Married to the Dashboard
Listening to certain roots performers' music can be compared to riding in a fast car, or a motorcycle, or maybe an SUV. Local singer Daphne Denniston is more like going down a bumpy road in the worn-out interior of a beat-up 3/4 ton pickup truck, knowing that there is a half-empty bottle of bourbon stashed somewhere in the cab. And, probably, a half-empty gun. Part of the fun is the hard-living danger. Married to Dashboard is her latest, a great title that follows her 2007 disc Five Dollars or the Truth. Sven-Erik Seaholm produced, and the local studio musicians on board (Peter Bolland, Reverend Stickman, and others) enhance Denniston's storyboards about life on the road and the characters to be met there. For the most part her country-rock vocals steer clear of a songbird approach, but they are more the straight-up, unadorned spinning of a raconteur. After a few tunes, the listener knows that Denniston's world is one of truck stops, dive bars, small towns, quirky people, and the wide open road. 'Jake Brakes' is the lament of a truck driver's woman, using great lyrics to paint a picture of a failing relationship. On 'Homefield Advantage,' it describes a struggle over a man from the unapologetic viewpoint of the woman whose one-night stand starts the trouble. 'Bob's Riverfront Diner,' an autobiographical slice of life about a real road café, is a highlight, with verses about Denniston, her sister, and apple butter. A lowdown lover is chronicled in 'Your Gibson,' as she tells him off for selling his prized guitar when jailed: 'I only came back for one thing/Your guitar was in love with me.' Denniston let's her pipes go a bit on 'The City Is Burning,' as close as the disc comes to a personal love song, and handles it well. The 13 tracks don't stray far from familiar country-roots styles, but the pacing is good, and because of Denniston's songwriting savvy, the listener is always engaged and connects to it personally. The lyrics are included, as one hopes would be the case with all such projects. The disc is the kind that gets better with repeat listens. 'Liberty County' rocks along with Denniston and a carload of cohorts trying to outrun the cops, 'Hold on to your beers, boys. If I'm going down, I'm going down.' Things are much more mellow on 'Cigarettes from Nicaragua,' as soft guitar is the only backdrop for a quiet commentary about a mismatched couple. The disc closes with a memorable country ballad, 'I Can't Tell You About Montana,' another sort of life story of someone who has done a lot of traveling, living, and loving. Married to the Dashboard offers a generous collection of musical stories about blue-collar people who work, play, and drink hard, written with good imagery and insight. Daphne Denniston's uncompromising style is refreshingly different and makes this disc always entertaining. Frank Kocher - Review From the San Diego Troubadour, June 2010.