One of the contenders for my top ten records of 2012 is an album that is over 30 years old. Dreamin’ Wild by Donnie and Joe Emerson made zero impression when it was released in the punked-out and discofied year of 1979 and is one of those timeless records that inhabits its own wonderful world. And in the case of the brothers who created it, they might as well have been from another planet considering how far from the engines of rock ‘n’ roll commerce and fashion they were operating in. Their story recalls The Shaggs: young kids making unique rock ‘n’ roll in a small rural town (Fruitland, Washington) isolated from the epicenters of hip, fueled by passion, dreams of pop stardom and a supportive father who believed his sons were the next big thing.
Donnie and Joe received a further push from their lifelong farmer father, who drew up a contract stating that he’d support his sons lofty ambitions with their very own recording studio as long as they focused on original material, sage advice for a man with zero experience in the music business. After taking out a second mortgage to help cover costs, Don Sr. also built his children a 300-capacity concert hall (dubbed Camp Jammin’) replete with ticket booth, stage, and fully functioning snack bar
While the Emerson brothers did not become the next Osmonds, the eight tracks on Dreamin’ Wild reveal a depth of songwriting and musicianship that is hipper and more sophisticated than one might assume based on first impressions. The album jacket projects an image of a teenybopper lounge act when in fact the Emersons have more in common with the gritty and soulful power pop of Dwight Twilley, the blue-eyed soul of Hall and Oates and a loosey-goosey Lindsay Buckingham. It’s a formidable record and one that will compel you to wonder why it took so long to find an audience.
Seattle’s Light In The Attic Records released Dreamin’ Wild on June 26 and it has already earned a secure spot on my playlist. It’s amazing how smoothly this three decade old beauty segues into new stuff from Ariel Pink, The War On Drugs or Jonathan Wilson. By being so far out-of-the-loop the Emersons were actually deep in it.
Here’s a pretty groovy fan-made video for “Heart” from Dreamin’ Wild. NSFW.