Teenage Optimism Resounds on Donnie and Joe Emerson’s Latest

Donnie & Joe Emerson, Still Dreamin’ Wild: The Lost Recordings 1979–81

(Digital, CD, and vinyl out June 17) The unlikely saga that accompanied the 2012 reissue of Donnie and Joe Emerson’s wonderfully AM-ready Dreamin’ Wild went like this: Back in the late ’70s, thinking the kids were really onto something, their father mortgaged his Fruitland, Wash., farm to buy the boys professional recording equipment and build them a concert venue where they could play for fans. It all cost $100,000—and then most of the farm when the record didn’t sell and concerts didn’t materialize. Dreamin’ Wild was pure hope manifested on vinyl, and, rediscovered and re-released by Light in the Attic, it feels like listening to teenage optimism itself. If it represents a wild fantasy cooked up in a part of the state that makes Moses Lake seem cosmopolitan, the Emersons’ follow-up shows what happens when those fantasies start to falter. Still Dreamin’ is not a reissue, but a collection of tracks recorded from 1979 to 1981 that either didn’t make the cut for the first album or were intended for a later record that never came to be. It was a trying time for the brothers: One of their best friends, who sings backup on Dreamin’ Wild, died in a car crash; Donnie made a disillusioned foray into the L.A. music scene; and with the music business not going as planned, they had to make a difficult decision about whether to get a real job or continue to reach for the stars. Musically, Still Dreamin’ has Dreamin’ Wild ’s irrepressible, synth-pop optimism, but this time, some anguish peeks through the lyrics. Nothing serious—“Why do you ride the tide/That takes you away from me? . . . Tonight I cry a lover’s cry”—but still there’s an emotional depth that makes the album feel more substantial than its predecessor. A few songs clock in at over four minutes, which gets trying given the music’s simplicity. But for the most part, Still Dreamin’ is as comfy and inviting as an afternoon snooze.


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