Click to hear: “Beggin’”
You’ve gotta navigate Portland’s acoustic music scene with care. Pick the wrong place on the wrong night and, bam, you’re being bored to death by some self-pitying singer-songwriter, or pow, it’s one awful cover song after another.
Here’s a helpful signpost: if you see that D. Gross is playing, head in that direction.
D. (Dana) Gross is a folk- and country-blues singer and guitarist who can hold his own among the best in town. To wit: he plays with Delta and Piedmont blues phenom Samuel James every other Thursday night at Blue. His sophomore album, We Left The Roadside, is as strong as any local roots record I’ve heard in a dozen years.
Gross’ voice sounds a bit like Jack Logan’s — there’s an easy southern twang to his tone, a wistfulness with a hint of a slur. About half of the 11 original songs here are strengthened by the addition of drums (courtesy of Jason Ingalls) and upright bass (Duane Edwards), with special guest like Aleric Vince Nez (fiddle), Amos Libby (tabla) and Todd Hutchisen (pedal steel) on a few others. Gross also plays harmonica and banjo.
Hutchisen engineered and mixed the album with Marc Bartholomew at Acadia Recording Studios, and Ron Harrity did the mastering. That’s worth noting, because one of the charms of this album is its warm, old-timey atmosphere. A photo inside the CD case shows that care was taken to mic Gross’ tapping boot.
Bring your boots to one of Gross’ shows. They’ll be tapping along, too.
— Chris Busby
D. Gross plays Thurs., Oct. 7 and 21, at Blue, 650A Congress St., at 10 p.m., with Samuel James. No cover (21+). For more on Gross, visit dgrossmusic.com.