On a night when the news calls for storms and meteorologists issue area-wide tornado watches, I find David Clemens and the rest of the DC3 sitting on the upstairs patio at Jimbo’s in Porterdale. The band is having a round of Pabst Blue Ribbon – the standard beer of choice in the music industry from what I’ve been told. David hovers over a basket of fresh onion rings, and he is quick to introduce the rest of the band, Andrew Carroll on drums and Clayton Ferguson on bass, as well as his wife, Tamra. David stands up and greets me, firmly shaking my hand with the kind of handshake you might expect from someone who spends his time manipulating the strings on a guitar.
David points out that, even though he plays solo shows and a number of gigs with the three-man DC3, he is really trying to push his full band project, Little Dawg.
“Little Dawg is us three guys plus Courtney Bozaich and Curtis Barrett,” he said.
Courtney is on her way, I’m told. The guys all sing her praise as the second vocalist in Little Dawg. David talks about how the band had wanted a female voice to sing alongside him, so they auditioned a couple of girls before Courtney was recommended.
“We were going to let her audition, but then I saw a video of her singing and we just offered her the spot.” Andrew chimes in from the next table: “She’s really able to take any song and make it her own,” he says. “Wait ‘til you hear her do ’30 Days in the Hole.’”
That’s about when the white SUV pulls into the Jimbo’s parking lot with Courtney in the passenger seat.
While we wait for Courtney, Andrew, the drummer, explains the group’s dynamic: “Me and Clayton—we’re the class clowns. Courtney is kind of there with us, too. She’s able to take our jokes and roll with it. David is like the father of the group.” Courtney, having just stepped outside, throws a few “old man” jokes in Clemens’s direction. “But,” Andrew explains, “we run like a democracy. We vote on venues and gigs, and the majority always rules.”
The conversation turns to the origins of the band and David gives his wife, Tamra, a lot of the credit for his current projects.
“After we got married, I didn’t really play anymore. I just put it to the side. I did a lot of hunting and fishing. I just didn’t play. Tamra always asked me why I wasn’t doing anything with my music anymore, and she always tried to get me to go back to it. One day, she signed me up to audition for ‘The Voice.’ I got to sing about four words for those guys before they cut me off.” But Tamra had succeeded in sparking the fire for David, and it wasn’t long after his audition that the DC3 and Little Dawg started coming together piece by piece.
Clayton checks his watch and lets the group know that it’s about time to start playing, so I move in to a table in the corner of Jimbo’s roomy upstairs bar. The DC3 hosts the weekly open mic night here every Thursday starting at 8 p.m. As the music cranks up, I’m surprised by the diversity of tunes that the band plays. They open with an original song called “Walkin.’” I’m struck immediately by the quality of the composition – a narrative tune that is some fusion of late 90s alternative rock and contemporary country. During their set, they play through covers of popular songs by John Mayer, Kenny Chesney and Eric Church with David taking the lead on vocals. Courtney gets her chance to shine, too, belting out tracks by Miranda Lambert, Gov’t Mule (really) and Otis Redding.
The other musicians on the stage also earn their keep. From stage right, Clayton runs his fingers up and down the frets on his bass guitar. He tells me between sets that he really likes the bass lines that he gets to play in some of cover songs. The more unique the riff, the more fun it is to play. He cites Grammy award-winner Victor Wooten and American jazz composer Marcus Miller as his musical influences. In this setting, he seems to be the quiet one, but I’m not buying it.
On the opposite side of the stage, Andrew works through the percussive portions of the songs. The instrument that he is sitting on, the cajon (pronounced cah-hone), really just looks like a big wooden box, but when Andrew plays it with open hands, it creates the bass and snare sounds of a more sophisticated set. In front of him is an upright African drum called a djembe (pronounced jem-bay) as well as a line of chimes. The crowd goes crazy when he (or Courtney) runs a hand down the line of chimes, setting them to ringing.
The other guitarist, Curtis, isn’t able to make it out to these open mic gigs as he has to commute from Stockbridge, so you’ll have to catch a show to meet the fifth member of Little Dawg. Even in his absence, though, the other musicians praise his talent. David even goes as far as calling Curtis a type of mentor. “He really taught me to slow things down,” David says. “He’s taught me a lot about guitar.”
Even though the group identifies David as the front man, I get the impression that Little Dawg is a band of equals. Everyone praises everyone else in my individual conversations with the members of the group. Little Dawg, is not a band full of big egos. Instead, Little Dawg is a band of artists. The members have roots and inspiration in different genres from gospel to blues to country. They have the ability to play most anything, the talent to make it sound familiar and the courage to take the familiar and make it new. There is no arrogance, though. The band remains modest and humble.
“If just a handful of people find our music and decide they like it,” says David, “that’d be a dream come true.”
May 11, 2013 at 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Covington
Open mic at Jimbo’s every Thursday night
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