These songs are meant to be shared. I don’t mean over social media; I’m not fishing for re-tweets. I mean they’re meant to be a shared listening experience. And I’m talking about Ypsilanti-based singer/songwriter Chris Dupont who’s putting out a new album of live recordings this weekend – half of which were recorded here in Ann Arbor at The Ark, and the rest at Solid Sound Recording Company, east of M-23.
You can go ahead and listen to Dupont’s breathtaking, finespun folkscapes in solitude as well, and you’ll likely be just as soothed, swooned or delicately decimated with emotions and catharsis, but I think with the specific vibe this ensemble emanates, the songs often render a certain kind of reflective rumination in the listener that kind of calls for an orphic electricity, and you unconsciously absorb a collective of fellow humans in your close proximity.
The cascade of acoustic guitar strums, the lap steel’s soft ambiance, the calmed crest of bass and the radiance of the winding violins, each harmoniously crash over you in combination with this caramel-croon voice that’s just weighty enough to surpass a lullaby’s whisper; unraveling some heartrending lyrics sung from a point of fresh healing. I often argue that anything fusing orchestral baroque, rustic Americana, heart-heavy folk, and a few sunrays of melodic pop this well should naturally yearn for an audience’s worth of ears to fully and properly appreciate the, if you’ll allow me, power of music – especially when it’s utilized to foster expressions so vulnerable and forthright as these…
But Dupont and his band spend as much of their year on the road as they possibly can – and from talking to the Ypsi songwriter, those travels are spurred by what he considers to be a very rewarding experience as an artist – to connect with his audiences during and after these performances. When he was in school here studying music, he said that a class on the reactions and sensations of a live audience really stuck with him. Dupont, along with his band (Kate VanDusen on violin, Luke Jackson on bass/percussion, Betsy King on vocals/piano, Tony Pace on lap steel and Billy Harrington on drums), are out there on the road to connect – they want to tell you their stories, and even more so, they want to hear your stories. Attendees typically come up to Dupont to inform him of their own experiences, and how a certain song resonated deeply with them and their memories.
So this new album is out, available on iTunes, and it has some great, poignant moments recorded live in The Ark, where you can feel the electricity in the room. Listening to it, you may just feel transported into one of the chairs in the room; you might even imagine a tiny neighborhood’s worth of fellow audience members commiserating with you in the shadows as you listen…
New albums come out every week and we are so individualistic in our consumption of it. We might stream a new album and then seek water-cooler type conversations with our friends about what they thought… But, inevitably, our engagement with new music releases is often very solitary – an artist produces something in a studio that has four walls and a ceiling and you listen to it in your home or car or wherever, where it’s sort of limited to your own world.
But Dupont is an artist you simply have to experience live – even if by a slight removal of hearing the live incarnation as a recording. There’s something else present in the room when this band plays, something shared between those in attendance, and even if it doesn’t make a sound when you’re in the moment, live, it is giving a oh so slight supernatural amplification in the backgrounds of these songs.