Life is Grand For Bill Dickson

Bill Dickson’s smooth soothing vocals and classic folk rhythms carry his CD, “Isn’t Life Grand” along a dreamy road that’s full of wonder.  It makes no sense standing there wondering why, we’re all just a bunch of monkeys and isn’t life grand (when compared to the alternative)?

The album really is about how grand life is. In Bill Dickson’s world, there is a zest for life that makes even the painful some sort of celebration.  He sings about a long drunken night counting off the hours thinking about his wonder woman that can become every woman.  He follows the lure of the sea in a light shanty about “taking my life where the wind may blow”.  He’s created a classic campfire song in “This Moment” with the sage advice to “live in this moment.  Forget about the future, it may not be here and that’s a fact,” because “if you’re watered and fed and you had your poop that’s all that matters.”

Click on album cover to preview the tunes

There are a couple of femme fatales lurking in the songs: the shape-shifting wonder woman who’s kept him up wandering all night and the girl across the street who’s “gonna, oh my, I don’t want to say, but you can feel her rhythm from a thousand miles away.”  He can’t resist being pulled toward her but she would never be his, she likes choice too much.  The way he puts it, “She’s got feet and she’ll dance.”  As dangerous as they are, these women fill him with energy and the urge to dance his life away.

The urge to roam is evident in some songs.  In “No Matter Where We Roam,” after fibbing about having been someplace he wasn’t, he claims to have been to “Oilberta”, to “Vancouver, they speak Chinese there” and “to Chicago, I got the blues there,”  but  “no matter where we roam we’re all going home”.

His understated wit gives the album a pleasant ambience that perfectly matches his performing style.  It’s a style that is beautifully captured by Steve Sherman’s production which supports and enhances the songs without smothering them.  Even when he takes lead guitar breaks they are intimate reflections of the song as it was created.

The album is not without some self-examination.  In one song Bill uses the metaphor of changing trains to express his wish for self-improvement: “There’s going to be some changes made around here, I want to be  a work in progress.”  In another, when his partner goes slamming out of the place – “She shouted names and my ice cubes shook” – he wonders about it for a few moments before his mind wanders off to vacant thoughts about China or Dublin.

He’s over her.  So he says, but you always have to wonder if it’s true when someone takes the time to write a song about it.  I always tend to think it’s a case of forgetting to remember to forget.  “I’m Over You” is a jazzy light boogie you can imagine Fred Estaire dancing to and even singing.  It’s a little less light-hearted when he says, “it’s a cold rainy night, you shoulda wore a sweater.  There’s a phone booth in the alley, you oughta go and call yourself a cab.”  Okay, I’m convinced.

Bill Dickson is a subtle and witty songwriter who appears to be an old hand on stage, but he admits that last year when he showed up to an open stage at Heartwood, “it was a whole new thing for me.”  He’s been writing for decades, “ever since I first picked up the guitar.  It’s just something I had to do.”  He has appeared in comic troupes and has done a few standup comedy routines (including an impressive showing at Heartwood’s Story Slam) but he says “I used to be painfully shy about playing for people.”  It was about ten years ago that a friend started having annual parties where people would get up and perform, so Bill gave it a try. “I got some encouragement so that was the start of it,” he says.

Coming in September, Bill will be teaming up with David Hawkins and Bill Monahan for a special songwriter evening at The Bleeding Carrot in Owen Sound.  This little triple bill features songwriters who like to tell stories in their songs.  Bill and the others will be on stage all the time, taking turns with their songs, Bluebird Café style.  The show is on Sept 21.  Tickets are $15 (available at the venue) and there is very limited seating capacity, so it will be an intimate evening.

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One Response to Life is Grand For Bill Dickson

  1. Gillian says:

    Had the pleasure of seeing and hearing these three early this summer for Friends of the Meaford Library–highly recommended!

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