By KEVIN RANSOM AnnArbor.com Freelance Journalist
If Danny Britt had his druthers, he would play most of his shows with a full band. But the cost of lugging five guys, a drum kit and a trailer full of guitars, basses, amps, etc., is just too prohibitive.
So, about 25 percent of his shows feature him fronting a full band, and about 75 percent are duo shows, pairing him with Marvin Dykhuis, the supremely talented lead guitarist in his band and a real gunslinger on the Texas Americana-music scene. (They’re also sometimes joined by a bass player.)
But, by no means is he complaining. Dykhuis is an impressive, proficient player who is just as nimble and expressive when playing syncopated blues, country-rock twang, or deft, delicate folk ballads. And Dykhuis is also a songwriter who co-writes some of the tunes for Britt’s full-band albums.
He also wrote or co-wrote several songs on the duo record Britt and Dykhuis released last year, “Two Guys, Two Guitars.”
“Before then, I didn’t have any records like this—my previous albums had been full-band recordings, and many people would come up to us after our duo shows and say they really liked the two-acoustic-guitar sound, and asked if we had an album that represented what they had just heard from us that night,” says Britt.
“So we knew we definitely needed to record something like that, for the fans who like what Marvin and I do together in that more spare, acoustic setting,” adds Britt, who comes to The Ark on Sunday for one of those duo shows with Dykhuis.
“Not only is Marvin a world-class guitarist, but he’s also a fine producer, and he was Tish Hinojosa’s bandleader and producer for years,” says Britt by phone from Austin, following one of two shows he’d done that day. Both of those were duo shows with Dykhuis, and he had two full-band shows scheduled for the next day.
For their duo shows, and on the duo album, Britt and Dykhuis also trade-off lead vocal duties, and harmonize wonderfully.
Britt grew up in Kentucky, playing a mix of bluegrass, country, rock and even classical. After doing stints in several bands there, he moved to Texas in 1980. He spent a couple of years as Jerry Jeff Walker’s road manager in the mid-late ‘80s, and has since played live shows with Jerry Jeff. He began doing his own shows in Austin in the early ‘90s, and has been a mainstay on that vibrant roots-music scene ever since.
Britt’s debut album, in 2001, was the full-band recording “Danny Britt and Red Dawg: Texas Stuff,” produced by Dykhuis After that came “The Other Side” in 2003, and featured various Austin-based guests, including Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, Christine Albert, Chris Gage and Dykhuis.
Then in 2007 was another full-band disc, “Walk this Road,” although it was more of an acoustic-country-rock disc than an electric one.
One of the highlights of “Two Guys, Two Guitars” is a poignant Britt composition, “She Only Drinks Whiskey in the Morning.”
“That one was inspired by a comment made to me in a club in Austin, by a gal who said she only drinks in the morning—although with her, it was tequila. So it gave me this idea to depict this good old West Texas woman, who’s had a hard life, her father had walked out on her, nothing came easy for her, and she ended up drinking too much, and drank so much that she would dance on the bar, and end up sleeping in her car. So, to remedy that, she now only drinks in the morning.”
Britt leaves the song open-ended, and doesn’t say whether she continues drinking throughout the day. “No, I decided to just leave it at that”—which was a good choice, because it plants that question in the listener’s mind and makes you wonder what her life is like. On the track, Dykhuis underscores the emotion in the song with shimmery, mournful slide guitar.
Another stand-out track is “Brother Put the Hammer Down,” co-written by Dykhuis with two other writers. On the album they play it in a syncopated, Piedmont-blues style. “We can do that one in a few different ways,” says Britt. “Sometimes we’ll give it a reggae type of vibe, sometimes we keep that bluesy feel, sometimes it’s got more of a country sound,” says Britt.
“Texas Eagle,” meanwhile, chugs along to a subtly locomotive groove that is both fitting and intentional, since it’s about a train ride between Dallas and San Antonio and is named after a train that is actually called the Texas Eagle. “I like the way we get the guitars to evoke that sound of the train clicking down the tracks,” he says.
Looking back on his years playing music and touring, Britt still cites Jerry Jeff as his biggest influence. “In the mid-‘80s or so, he decided to quit touring with a band, and he called me up and said he just wanted to do a bunch of solo shows, and said ‘I’ll pay you what you’re making now, and it’s just going to be you and me and the pilot,’ and we would play a different city almost every night, back to back to back.
“We did that for a few years, non-stop, and being with him so much was the best education I could have ever had as a songwriter. I hadn’t really started writing songs yet, but he really opened my eyes up when it came to how to write a song.
And those who know what a hell-raiser Jerry Jeff was back in the day - and that his audience was even more boistrous - won’t be surprised to hear this anecdote from Britt: “We played many different kinds of venues, from the nastiest dance halls to the most foo-foo theaters, and everywhere we went, the venue told us they’d never seen so much alcohol consumed by the audience at a single show.”
Kevin Ransom is a free-lance writer who covers music for AnnArbor.com
Two Guys Two Guitars Review by: Fred Schmale, The Hague, Netherlands
(Translation from Dutch)
The delicious simplicity of the title radiates down to the delightful simplicity of the music. But do not deceive Austinse these guys are just damn good at what they do. Marvin, from Wisconsin and in Austin since the early 80's, we know of course of his decades of work with our Tish Hinojosa, Marvin Dykhuis is a popular sideman. He has played with hundreds of musicians and has many CDs produced and recorded in his beautiful studio next to his beautiful house on the outskirts of the city. The modest Marvin has a few years ago released his first solo CD, so well that sales at its Dutch concerts with Tish in 2011 bewildered him.
Danny Britt was born and raised in Kentucky, where he learned playing bluegrass from country to classical music and rock 'n roll everything. Since 1980 he lives in Texas. He was in the 80s of the last century a few years tour manager for Jerry Jeff Walker. From the 90's Danny a singer / songwriter with now four CDs to his name, the debut from 2001 was produced by.... Marvin Dykhuis. Marvin and Danny are friends for life and play many gigs a year. These concerts are an epitome of relaxed and fun of the men sing beautifully and play amazingly good guitar. Between the hard work by the friends found time to take some self-penned songs and they did that one day, June 8, 2012. That was ten, five written by Britt, one of Britt / Dykhuis and four of Marvin, getting along with others. The bonus is a song by the deeply regretted Champ Hood ("High Hill"), one of the cult heroes of Uncle Walt's Band, the favorite band of the early Lyle Lovett late 70s.
Marvin and Danny, one of Austin's royal couples, provide a delicious treat on this CD sympathetic. Listen to 11 jewels, with an additional entry for the naughty waltz "She only drinks whiskey in the morning" (The American whiskey has that extra e!) Britt, the lazy jazzy 'Spend the day with you' Marvin (he wrote together with Lee Duffy), the subtle 'Tu cancion "(Marvin / Tish:.' You never asked me why I love you, you never asked me why I feel the way I do And if you would ask me why I feel so happy I would say it's just because you love me too ') and the best number, pinned together "Warm summer wind. To listen many times and always sigh again: "What is this beautiful, what is this relaxed, which is played well, oh oh oh ... '.
No Depression Review by Larry Looney
2 Guys 2 Guitars
Before anyone writes this off as ‘just another album from Austin’, they should give it a listen. True, the Austin scene produces an incredible number of releases each year – but this one is something special. Danny Britt and Marvin Dykhuis are exceptionally talented, veteran musicians and good friends, and the camaraderie generated by comfortable familiarity and the deep wells of talent from which they both draw are elements that are easily heard…and seen, if you ever have the good fortune to hear them perform in a live setting, as we did last Sunday. That show was just the two of them, completely acoustic, in the living room setting of a house concert – they also do shows with a full band.
The songs on this disc are mostly originals, penned by Danny or Marvin, sometimes with co-writers – the one cover is a great one, ‘High hill’, written by Champ Hood, and a widely-loved favorite from the repertoire of Austin’s own Uncle Walt’s Band. The songs deal with love found and lost, life on the road, friendship and loneliness and more – sometimes delivered in a straightforward manner, at other times (such as in Danny’s ‘My aim’s gettin’ better all the time’) with a healthy dose of humor. The album is a great example of truth in advertising – the title says it all: ‘Two guys, two guitars’. The production is clear and the arrangements are unadorned, allowing the quality and warmth of this music to shine through in a way that is not simply entertaining, but refreshing. Their guitar lines intertwine effortlessly and support each other with no egos getting in the way – the vocals are relaxed and smooth, and the harmonies are exquisite.
It’s very obvious that these two are having a blast making this music. It’s equally enjoying for the listener, and has to be heard to be appreciated. Check out the Red Dawg Music website below for lyrics, pics and more information…and listen to the samples below for an idea of how great this duo sounds…and by all means, see them live if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed.