Harmonies in the house: Mondlock visits Dawsons
It's no surprise that singer-songwriter Buddy Mondlock takes four or five years to release an album. Over the course of his some 25-year career, he has created a good deal of his own work. But his practice of contributing pieces to other artists, including Garth Brooks, Joan Baez, Guy Clark and Art Garfunkel, has kept him busy as well.
Mondlock will show off his acoustic, introspective style in Silver Spring on Friday evening in a performance at the home of Gene and Susan Dawson as part of their Dawsonconcerts house concert series. The songs will span his career, from his first album, "On the Line" (1987) to his most recent, "The Edge of the World" (2007), and everything in between.
When not on tour these days, Mondlock says he is in the demo stages of a new album that will depart from the pop sounds of "The Edge of the World" and have a more Appalachian feel.
"The themes are not necessarily those kinds of songs about hard times or the cabin down at the hollow. That's not what I'm writing about," Mondlock says. "But the sounds of the songs and the chord structures and the rhythms of some of them anyway are tending a little more in that direction."
Mondlock moved to Nashville in January 1988 from Chicago after being plucked from obscurity by country legend Guy Clark, who saw him perform at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. Although Nashville continues to be an epicenter for country music, Mondlock says the nature of the business has changed since his arrival.
"The publishing company I signed with first, it was CBS Songs when I met them. It was SBK when I signed with them and EMI by the time I left. The office itself was just in an old house that had been converted into some office space ... but that little tale of the three companies sort of epitomizes what's happened in Nashville, too, because the little guys kept getting swallowed up by the bigger and bigger companies," he explains.
Nashville may be his home, but Mondlock doesn't perform there often. Instead, house concert locales have become regular stops on his tours.
"House concerts have become pretty common around the country, and thanks goodness for them, because a lot of the old folk clubs and coffee houses that would have music four or five nights a week, a lot of those didn't make it in recent times," he says.
For Mondlock, it offers an opportunity to perform in an intimate setting.
"In most cases, you don't even have a microphone or anything," Mondlock says. "You just kind of get up there in the living room and sing songs for people. It's really kind of the purest way to present this kind of music."
Friday's concert will be the first time Mondlock performs for Dawsonconcerts, although he is not a stranger to the area. Mondlock attended St. John's College in Annapolis in the late 1970s.
Gene and Susan Dawson, who have served as hosts for the concert series for almost 10 years, were excited to book Mondlock.
"He's really good," Susan Dawson says. "He did collaborate with Art Garfunkel one time so there's a similarity, a little reminder there in his music. But we're really looking forward to him, and other people have recommended that we have him."
The concert series began as a birthday gift that keeps on giving. Susan Dawson asked singer-songwriter Tom Prasada-Rao to perform at her birthday party in 2001 after seeing him at a local show.
"At the end of the night, he said, Why don't you do house concerts?' and we said, OK,'" she recalls. "From that point on we started. In the next month or so we started having concerts and have kept it up."
Originally the shows were held in the Dawsons' home in Potomac, but they moved with the couple to Silver Spring six years ago. In their almost decade-long history, Susan Dawson says not much has changed.
"We have a lot of the same people that came to our house in Potomac. I would say in the last couple years with the recession maybe there's been a bit of lower attendance, but not a lot," she says. "Some people are diehard fans."
Attendees must make reservations in advance due to the limited space and are encouraged to bring a dish to share for a post-show potluck. The events are free, but a $15 donation per person is recommended, all of which goes directly to the performer.
Ever the hostess, Susan Dawson has learned the art of accommodating the some 30 people who pack into her living room once a month expect during the summer.
"Use paper plates, paper cups. Don't use forks, use toothpicks," Susan Dawson advises. "Just don't drop them where the dogs can get them."
Gene Dawson says many artists enjoy house concerts because they can fit an additional show into their preplanned tour, and the couple has established a network of artists and agencies over the years.
Even on vacation, the Dawsons find opportunities to seek out potential artists, such as on their 2005 visit to the Hot Chili Days and Cool Mountain Nights Music Festival and Chili Cook-off in Red River, N.M.
"It was an amazing festival, and we actually ended up booking three artists the next year who played at that festival," Gene Dawson says.
A guitar player himself, Gene Dawson says he and his wife enjoy the chance to enrich the local folk music scene.
"It's a great way to help the music community, and it keeps supporting singer-songwriters on the touring circuit," he says. "That's one thing that we are happy to be able to contribute to and it's not a bad party for us every month either."
Call for a reservation, and join the party in Silver Spring.
Buddy Mondlock will perform as part of the DawsonConcerts series at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. A $15 per person donation to the artist is recommended. Reservations are required. Call 301-949-1888 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.dawsonconcerts.com.