Scattered Poems


Scattered Poems | Alex Dunn

 

Seattle, Washington might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of
country-tinged acoustic music. Remember, though, the city was born as a timber town
and gateway to the gold rush. Since the days of the old (north) west, the loggers, miners,
and mariners that built this town would fill time between work putting their tales to
music.
On his debut LP Scattered Poems, Alex Dunn stakes his claim as the latest in a long line
of hard-worn men and women making American music in this northernmost port. Written
primarily in the quiet moments on a commercial fishing vessel in Alaskan waters, the
record is filled with reflections on the many iterations of that primary preoccupation of the
truly remote. “As cliché as it may sound, the overarching theme of this record is love”
says Dunn. “Each song might be its own story, but it always comes down to love; love
for my mother, for my grandmother, love for my family. Love for lovers, unrequited love,
and love purely for this simple chance at existence. As my mother always said, ‘to love
and be loved is all there really is’ (which is now engraved on my guitar strap.)”
Dunn came to music via cello and flute while in primary school, and while in college he
played bass in a band with drummer Alex Westcoat (Pickwick, David Bazan), Sam
Esecson (producer and engineer on Scattered Poems) and Colby Sander (dobro,
electric guitar on Scattered Poems). Done with school, Dunn embarked on a ten-year
adventure in Alaska as a commercial salmon fisherman. He taught himself to play guitar
as a way to keep music in his life while at sea. “I started writing songs to cope with the
long days traveling on the boat and sitting on anchor in remote areas of Southeast
Alaska” tells Dunn. “Most of the songs from Scattered Poems were written aboard the
fishing vessel over the past five or six years.”
As fishing vessels tend to lack recording gear, Dunn pulled into port to track Scattered
Poems at Sam Esecson's basement studio in the Ballard neighborhood (appropriately,
Fishermen’s Terminal in Ballard’s Interbay is home for hundreds of working fishing
boats, including the ones that Dunn himself has crewed on). In addition to Dunn on
vocals and guitar and Esecson on drums and percussion, the record features a host of
prominent Northwest musicians: Eli West (electric guitar, pedal steel, banjo, vocals),
Anna Tivel (fiddle, vocals), Birch Pereira (double bass), Colby Sander (dobro, electric
guitar), Bennet Pullen (bass), Dan Rainard (electric guitar), Dean Schmidt (bass), and
Kevin Suggs (pedal steel).
An elegant, bittersweet record, Scattered Poems is as tender as it is timeless. Its
particular charms resonate across generations, and if you told me that this was a
contemporary interpretation of a nineteenth-century songbook I’d believe you. Melodic
sawdust and salt air, Scattered Poems breathes with a sense of place, yet is imminently
accessible and speaks to the universal. Spend some time with it, and you’ll find yourself
enchanted.