After two solo recordings — "Sail Me Away" in 2013 and "Fading Gracefully" in 2009 — blues artist Doug Warner features a lineup of local all-stars on his new "She's Comin' Unravelled."
Along with Warner on acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica and vocals, look for tracks with Bret Levick on guitars and vocals, Jeff Pevar on electric, slide and bass guitars, Don Harris on piano, B3 Hammond and Wurlitzer, Greg Frederick on bass, Matthew Kreimelmann on drums, Dirk Price on guitar, Bob Evoniuk on lap steel and Inger Jorgensen on backup vocals.
The nine tracks on "Unravelled" share a common groove, a distinctive sound akin to guitar stylist J.J. Cale. The music seems to float — without breaking much of a sweat. Cale is noted as one of the originators of Tulsa Sound, a loose genre drawing on a mix of country, rock 'n' roll and blues of the late '50s.
"Cale is a guitarist that I studied for years," Warner says. "He learned his style from Tony Joe White, who learned it from John Lee Hooker. That sound was developed by a new generation of blues artists breaking away from typical blues shuffles. Cale is known for his approach to a groove. He is the king of the groove."
Warner cites Tom Waits and Bob Dylan as influences for lyrical content, and he and "Unravelled" producer Bret Levick share a taste for the music of T-Bone Burnett. Burnett, whose long list of credits includes songwriter and producer, collaborated on the music for the film "Crazy Heart," winning a Golden Globe, an Academy Award and a Grammy for the song "The Weary Kind," and was executive music producer in 2013 for the Coen brothers' film "Inside Llewyn Davis."
"Bret knew exactly where I was coming from, and he made it all happen in his studio, along with the great local musicians we brought in to play tracks on the album."
Levick writes music for movie and television soundtracks and has plans to present Warner's title track and another song on the CD, "Trouble," to producers in Southern California.
"We'll see where that goes," Warner says. "I've heard all kinds of stuff in the 50 years I've been playing. I don't hold my breath over any of it. I just keep playing."
That's what "I'm Funny That Way" on "Unravelled" is all about. Warner shares the same aversion to fame that Cale did during his career.
"That's exactly what the song is about," Warner says. "When you're young, you can get bent out of shape about being overlooked as an artist. The older you get, the more you get used to it. So I'm just having fun with it. Ultimately, it's the work itself that feeds you. The weight of success, money and notoriety is unimaginable. Jim Morrison had fame, but he's dead and I'm not."
Warner, 66 this week, says the title track is one of the most interesting songs to him on the new CD.
"It just came crashing into my studio and grabbed me by the collar," he says. "It's about a woman who gets in a car and everything just starts to go wrong. It can be taken as metaphor or it can be taken as reality. No one knows for sure. The hook at the end is, 'might be lady luck in the shadows, might be brother pain coming once again.' It's that tension that makes the song interesting."
"Trouble" is a good effort by Warner at writing and performing a slow, dramatic song in the style of Dylan or Johnny Cash. Warner says he kicked and screamed through the song's recording.
"I told Bret it wouldn't work because it wasn't my style," he says. "But he insisted the song would be the best one on the album. I love the song now, but it still sounds foreign to me. It sounds like a Leonard Cohen song, but I think Bret was right. It's a cool song."
"Something Bound to Come My Way" is a fun blues shuffle, with Warner on lead guitar and harmonica.
Another of Warner's favorites is the last cut, "Hold On." Levick and Warner come from different places on the funkometer, and sounds got caught in the middle as the song developed. Harriss came into the studio and glued it back together with his Wurlitzer, piano and B3.
"It was amazing," Warner says. "I'm really proud of this album. Bret is not just a good producer, he's a great producer, an incredible talent."
"She's Comin' Unravelled" is available at CD Baby, by mailing $15 to Doug Warner Blues, 516 Belmont St., Medford, OR, 97501, or at Warner's live shows.