Los Angeles’ Paisley Underground scene faded long ago, but some of Dream Syndicate leader Steve Wynn’s back pages are back in print on ex-Long Ryder (and Gram Parsons biographer) Sid Griffin’s Prima label. Both are now L.A. expatriates — Griffin is in London fronting the Coal Porters and Western Electric, while Wynn is between record deals while living in New York, playing Europe regularly and planning new solo and Gutterball projects.
Wynn’s first two solo albums for Rhino showed a clever, dark pop songwriter on the way to creating his own urban folk anthology. 1990′s Kerosene Man gets an excellent remastering, the better to hear its all-star lineup; six added 1989 demos include Memphis Slim’s “Mother Earth”. The just-reissued Dazzling Display from 1992 adds live tracks from 1990-93, two Wynn tunes, and covers of Sonic Youth, Paul Simon, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan.
The Danny & Dusty record, from 1985, qualifies as a lost classic. Wynn (Dusty) and Green On Red’s Dan Stuart (Danny) sing original duets of misery and damage in loose, roots-rocking style, like a young Willie & Waylon on a bender. True to the title’s namesake, a film portrait of alcoholism, most of these anthems for losers were recorded in a drunken marathon session over two nights, with Sunday taken off to nurse hangovers.
The sessions featured Green On Red’s Chris Cacavas on barroom piano, Dream Syndicate drummer Dennis Duck, and three Long Ryders — bassist Tom Stevens, Griffin, and Wynn’s Gutterball mate Stephen McCarthy on guitars, harmonies and lap steel. The musicians kept things traditional and credible, while sacrificing neither Wynn’s melodic angst nor Stuart’s taste for the gothic.
Playing a total of three shows and two recording sessions, Danny & Dusty were compared to Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue at the time, thanks in no small part to an entirely characteristic cover of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”. But with its sloppy vibe and suffering characters, the real model for the album was Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night.
McCarthy’s steel adds atmosphere throughout and takes a lead role on the one added track, “Bend In The Road” (a song probably too hopeful for the original release). All else has been lost of this genre exercise, and reunion plans have never been realized, but fortunately more than a hangover remains of that lost weekend.