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"Little King of Dreams"

L.A. Times
August 20, 1999

Album Reviews
Reed Has a Feel for Heartland
*** 1/2

DENNIS ROGER REED
"Little King of Dreams"
Plastic Meltdown Records
By MIKE BOEHM


"Patience, patience, good things still come to those who wait" goes
one of many lilting refrains on this fine collection of acoustic
folk-rock and country music.

One hopes that's true for Dennis Roger Reed, the San Clemente
singer-songwriter who has played for more than a decade on his own and
with a variety of local folk, rock and bluegrass bands.

This CD probably won't establish Reed as a big performing star, or
even as a touring cult favorite. His pleasant-but-slight voice lacks the shine
for that, although it's more than enough to do expressive justice to his
strong lyrics and melodies.

But if he can get "Little King of Dreams" into the right hands, Reed
deservedly could join the list of songwriters who are sought by artistically
alive country singers and smart folkies looking for good material.
"Little King of Dreams," Reed's first CD, gathers some of his best
songs from over the years, and brings together a small gang of his longtime
playing partners to back him. Everything gets lovely treatment with
mandolins, fiddles, Dobros, banjos, and expertly played lead acoustic
guitars (Reed plays rhythm guitar and bass).

Several tracks marshal a more rock-oriented lineup with drums, piano
and organ--all played by one very adept musician, Tim Horrigan, who
plays with Reed in Blue Mama, a roots-music band. The patience of fans
who could see Reed's worth in live shows, and on two previous
cassette-only releases, is well-rewarded here.

The album opens in a breezy, pleasant mood with "Panama Lane" and
the above-quoted "Patience." They're toe-tappers, but one begins to
wonder what decade Reed is living in: These are songs about folks who
forsake the fast lane for love, living happily amid the not-so-genteel
poverty of forgotten towns in the backwoods or on the dusty plains.
"Broken down trucks in most of the yards / The grass give up, had to
work too hard," is Reed's deft, pithy description of the flatlands burg he
calls Panama Lane. Is Reed pulling a Norman Rockwell on us with these
too-nostalgic-to-be-true images?

As it turns out, he is setting up what amounts to a well-designed,
loosely linked concept album in which themes of love and small-town living
are entwined.

The two closing songs, "Gray Prairie Dawn" and "Rain on the Rails,"
are contrasting bookends to the chirpy optimism of "Panama Lane" and
"Patience." Love has eroded, the narrators face being left alone in their
Nowheresville towns, and their prospects look as bleak as those of
depopulated, rural America in general.

Fine songs are strewn along this descending emotional arc. "Stranger in
My Hometown," written with former bandmate Andy Rau (who plays
banjo on several tracks), is a poignant, gracefully lamenting song about a
man who wonders whether he will be welcome if he returns to declare his
love for the woman he left behind, and whether he has any business
revisiting a past full of regrets. In the end, he resolves to try, hopeful that
an old chapter can be new again.

"Drinkin' Rye Whisky," a lively country-swing number whose
protagonist tries to guzzle away his sorrows in a bar, and the Loggins &
Messina-like "She's Already Gone Away" provide buoyancy and balance
as the album gives way mainly to ballads or wistful anthems.
Most of Reed's stuff harks back to the groundbreaking figures of
countrified, folkified rock, with echoes of Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons
and Chris Hillman at many a turn.

The album's title track, a guitar instrumental played beautifully by
Reed's brother, Don, calls to mind the dark, doomed gravity of Stephen
Stills' "4+20."

While Reed lacks the vocal stature of his influences, he doesn't have to
make any excuses for his singing. He is gently in command
throughout--except for "Our Last Good Kiss," a fine anthem about an
adulterous affair, in which the country-rock arrangement overpowers his
voice.

He has simple stories to tell about the raw feelings of people who hold
tightly to tenuous strands of love, or who see the need to let go but can
barely face it.

His style keeps alive vestiges of a rural past that nearly all of us have
let go because, as much as we romanticize it, we prefer a more exciting,
bountiful and convenient life.


After his opening feint toward nostalgia, Reed proves too clear-sighted
to pretend that a loving, harmonious small-town Eden can be anything but
a vanished dream.


"The album (Little King of Dreams) really is great.  I was impressed by the songs and your singing is very strong.  The arrangements are great and the playing is super as well.  It was interesting to hear your brother and the two of you seemed to communicate musically in an interesting way."

Noted singer/songwriter Steve Gillette


              December 29, 1999, Wednesday,  Orange County Edition

SECTION: Metro; Part B; Page 11; Calendar Desk
HEADLINE: ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR;
POP MUSIC;
HEARING MORE FROM O.C. IN '99; 
SUGAR RAY, LIT, KORN, OFFSPRING OR NO DOUBT HAD A BIG PRESENCE, BUT YOU WON'T FIND THEM ALL ON MIKE BOEHM'S YEAR'S-BEST LIST.

BYLINE: MIKE BOEHM, TIMES STAFF WRITER

If melodic rock makes a marketplace comeback in the year 2000 and beyond, the heads of certain sons of Orange County should perhaps be outfitted for powdered wigs.

   The Offspring, Sugar Ray and Lit played the George Washington at Valley Forge role, providing some notable successes that should have given heart to a beleaguered rock 'n' roll army as it watched dancy teen idols, country singers, pop-R&B crooners, rappers and rap-rock hybrids occupy most of the high ground on the sales charts.

   Thriving outside the pop-rock encampment was Korn, the veteran Orange County rage-rock band whose funk-and-metal alloy established the style that worked so well for such '99 rap-rock breakthroughs as Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock.

   The Offspring, Sugar Ray, Korn and Lit scored platinum or multiple-platinum albums in 1999; collectively they sold 8 1/2 million albums in the United States during the year, according to the SoundScan monitoring service. All told, Orange County's 10 top-selling rock bands of the 1990s sold more than 37 million albums in the U.S. 

   The Offspring's album "Americana," released in November 1998, was the top-ranked rock album of 1999--its 3.3 million sales during the year placing it No. 7 on the Billboard year-end chart behind Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Shania Twain, 'N Sync, Ricky Martin and Garth Brooks.

   Sugar Ray's winsome pop-rock ballads "Every Morning" and "Someday" were No. 3 and No. 19, respectively, on the Billboard chart of the songs most played on radio.

   On modern-rock radio, sounds from O.C. were inescapable: Lit's "My Own Worst Enemy" was the format's most-played song, leading a parade of  (Time Bomb). Social Distortion's brawny brayer took a year off from that band's punk-fueled sonic maelstrom to explore his roots in country music and blues and delve a bit into his tender side. It all came together splendidly on this diverse, typically tuneful album.

   5. Paleface Jack, "Out of Nowhere" (Paleface Jack). Rock 'n' roll played straight and smart, without hyphenation. Not modern-rock, not roots-rock; just good rock played with spark and intelligence.

   6. Dennis Roger Reed, "Little King of Dreams" (Plastic Meltdown). One of O.C.'s best song-crafters came up with this warm, winsome, quietly acoustic collection of Gram Parsons-like countrified folk songs about small-town romance. Without being explicitly social in his themes, Reed sings a cohesive elegy for the fading of rural America and a vanishing way of life.

   7. Patty Booker, "I Don't Need All That . . ." (PMS Records). A sweet and twangy treat from a singer steeped in country traditionalism and convincing in roles both sassy and vulnerable.

   8. Orange County Supertones, "Chase the Sun" (BEC). O.C.'s top Christian rock band continued its rewarding spiritual journey with a collection of probing songs about faith and its challenges and pitfalls. Warmly gritty singing from

Matt Morginsky and sharp musicianship that keeps a familiar ska-punk approach sounding fresh make this band eminently believable, even for rock fans who could never share its beliefs.

   9. Tub, "Coffee Tea Soda Pop Pee" (Centipede Records). Young men with guitars, cranking it up and venting their frustrations and anxieties to catchy tunes. Good garage rock never goes out of style.

   10. Relish, "Relish" (Volcom/Amerige). Young women with guitars, cranking it up and venting their frustrations and anxieties to catchy tunes. Good garage rock never goes out of style--although this trio also offers an appealing arty streak and impressive vocal harmonies.

   11. Lit, "A Place in the Sun" (RCA). Lit carved a place on modern-rock radio with an album that observed the catchy conventions of the pre-rage-rock KROQ sound. A style that sounds formulaic and tired in many hands came to life with Lit's catchy, zestful and affirmative takes on post-adolescent coming-of-age difficulties.

   12. Barrelhouse, "13 Sonic Splendors" (Barrelhouse). Another good, strong swig of blues and Southern soul from an unjustly obscure and unsigned band that mines rich, traditional sources for its raw materials.

   13. Sugar Ray, "14:59" (Lava/Atlantic). O.C.'s most boorish, lamebrained band transformed itself from a rap-metal monstrosity into a savvy crafter of infectious, endearing, good-hearted pop-rock songs. Moral: Never write off anybody who's still breathing.

   1990s Orange County Top 10 Albums

   1. Mark Davis, "You Came Screaming," Cutlet (1995)

   2. Jann Browne, "Count Me In," Red Moon (1994)

   3. Chris Gaffney, "Mi Vida Loca," Hightone (1992)

   4. Liquor Giants, "Liquor Giants," Matador (1996)

   5. Social Distortion, "White Light White Heat White Trash," 550 Music/Epic (1996)

   6. Dramarama, "Hi-Fi Sci-Fi," Chameleon/Elektra (1993)

   7. Joyride, "Another Month of Mondays," Doctor Dream (1993)

   8. One Hit Wonder, "Cluster----astuff," Lethal (1996)

   9. Sublime, "Sublime," Gasoline Alley/MCA (1996)

   10. Michael Ubaldini, "Acoustic Rumble," no label (1999)

   O.C. Artists of the Decade

   (in alphabetical order)

   * Jann Browne

   * Ward Dotson (Pontiac Brothers/Liquor Giants)

   * Chris Gaffney

   * Jack Grisham (Tender Fury, the Joykiller, T.S.O.L.)

   * John Melkerson (Eggplant/Eli Riddle/Lunar Rover)

   * Mike Ness (Social Distortion)

   * The Offspring


Copyright 1999 Times Mirror Company  
                               Los Angeles Times

Dennis Roger Reed is one of Orange County's unheralded treasures. In his
latest release, 1999's "Little King of Dreams" (Plastic Meltdown Records),
he dissects romantic entanglements and laments the loss of simpler times.
The splendid 15-song collection, featuring a stellar supporting cast of
local players, is rich in American music, roaming freely among country,
folk, bluegrass, swing, rock and the blues.
JOHN ROOS, L.A. Times, February 17, 2001

Songwriter Dennis Roger Reed draws upon his years growing up in rural
Southern California as the inspiration for most of his writing. He sketches
little short stories about the difficulties of earning a living and keeping
a relationship going in small farming and desert towns. Most of his
characters aren't leading happy lives; work is hard, and love just keeps
finding a way to slip just out of reach. But they survive despite their
problems and hope tomorrow will be better. Reed gives most of his songs a
contemporary bluegrass backing (banjo, Dobro, fiddle, and mandolin) but
combines that with standard bass and drums, as well. An honest and
refreshing collection of songs about real people.
JIM LEE, Dirty Linen, February/March 2001

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