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Dallas Wayne: "Here I Am"

By Jon Johnson, October 2001

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Wayne's rich baritone voice has also improved since the last record, taking on some of the phrasing and note-bending employed by Lefty Frizzell and George Jones during their peak years; something Wayne credits to having stopped smoking.

"That's purely physical because I quit smoking until about a week ago."

"The bus has a new engine in it, and every little noise it makes I'm in the back freaking out all the way on the drive up here, so I went and bought a pack of cigarettes. Actually, I still consider myself quit because I'll binge-smoke about half a pack, and I'll stop for two or three days. But I came into the new record more healthy than I did before and it smoothed out some roughness."

During the conversation, one gets the impression that Wayne is still getting used to the new album, though in some ways it's hard to understand why. Although it's hard to top some of Fulks' contributions on "Big Thinkin'," Wayne sounds terrific, and the musicianship of his regular backing band the Road Cases - guitarist Chris Lawrence, bassist Jeff Roberts and drummer Dale Daniels - is up to the task at hand.

"I like this new album just fine, but we did it awfully fast. When we got the go-ahead to do the record, we were scheduled for April, and then I had some back problems, so then (we were going) to do it in August. Then in May I got a call that the record's on, so I packed a bag and started driving to L.A. We got the band together, and by that night we were rehearsing. We rehearsed for two days, then went in and started cutting."

Still, lack of rehearsal isn't always a bad thing, as Fulks and Wayne both learned from former Buckaroos steel guitarist Tom Brumley, who played on Wayne's last album.

"Tom was talking to us about (the Buck Owens sessions), and he said that they would never know what they were going to do. Buck would go out of his way not to tell them."

"I'm pleasantly surprised about the new record and how it's doing. People seem to be accepting it, even moreso than the last one. It's taken me a while to warm up to (the new) record. After we got done with the final mix on 'Big Thinkin',' I thought 'This is about as good as it gets.' And I still enjoy listening to that record. I think it'll be the yardstick that I measure everything I do on."

In at least one respect Dallas Wayne is in a bit of an unusual position; one that can be difficult for marketing purposes. Though for all practical purposes he's a new artist as far as Americans are concerned, at 45 he's a good 15 or 20 years older than other country singers releasing their first or second albums.

When asked if this is something he ever thinks about, he replies, "Yeah, every day. I've done very little (country) in the States. I was with a bluegrass band, Special Consensus, for five years, but that's a whole different audience. I bailed on country music because I just (didn't like) where it was going. The opportunity to do the Special C. thing came along, and I went ahead and did it."

"It's been about 15 years since I've done anything in the States at all, and before that, it was singing demos for publishing houses in Nashville when I was living down there and going on the road as a bass player with people."

Like most people playing a more traditional style of country music these days, Wayne bristles at the current state of the country music industry.

"It's a source of sadness for me right now. There are bands out there that actually make a decent living almost parodying this kind of music, which bothers me a little bit. It's like making fun of your girlfriend."

"Redd and I were talking about it earlier today."

As for current artists who Wayne admires, he quickly cites Fulks, Dale Watson (with whom Fulks and Wayne wrote "Old 45's" on the last album), and Gillian Welch as particular favorites. Of Welch in particular Wayne comments, "Aw, she's nothin' but fine."

"The Opry's really trying to make a stab at getting something happening, realizing where their next core audience is going to be coming from. I'm really tickled to see them doing this, bringing in people like Big Sandy, Dale (Watson), and The Derailers, and that kind of thing. This is a good thing."

Wayne remains hopeful about the future of country. "It's gonna change. It has to change," he says.

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