A panoramic American image. 

It always amazes me, the vastness of the plains states. The ribbons of highways and rails, the endless flow of trucks and trains.  Coal, oil, corn and goods moving in all directions, guaranteeing our privileged lives.

This song is influenced by Joan Baez’s music and song, ‘Once I had a sweetheart’.  The melody and guitar part fell out from sky.  The song relays the story of a man thinking about his girlfriend who is no longer with him.  He talks about their love. Although, he mentions the ‘unkind words’, we don’t know who said those unkind words which led to the demise of their relationship.  The blame seems to be on the sweetheart who gives him that one last kiss before leaving. 

I think most of us at some points in our lives have gone through delusional relationships.  It usually happens because we create a false impression about someone due to our own emptiness.  We try to find and see things in others that we lack.  Perhaps the unkind words that led to the loss of love were not the words of his sweetheart.  The song is a combination of a little bit of delusion and self-loathing that most of us go through.

This is a melody one can play over and over. The storyline is about the end of the line in a relationship.  The result is the soft sadness, the inevitability of the final scene.



A classic pop-rock song that will always have a life of its own!

In this project older and newer material will live side by side as we feel they are all equally strong and help define Denny as an amazingly productive songwriter with a steady output of songs and stories.

So here is Fourth of July which has been a staple of Denny's live shows for years. Be sure to check out the video we made some years back -- more an experimental illustration of the song then a full fledged music video.


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I wrote this when I was 20. That same year I also wrote “Got the Whole Night” and “Cherry Orchard”!  I was working at the Gaslight surrounded by a group of young very talented songwriters. Lots of inspiration.

Most of the time, when you are working on a song you get a good chord progression and melody and you wait for some words to show up. Sometimes, you think of a good title and work on the words for a chorus and verses before even finding the melody.  On very rare occasions, all the pieces arrive simultaneously.  What a lucky and remarkable experience.

Jimmy Kid was that rare event. A story about a horrible childhood incident.  I remember just watching my right hand writing down the words. I felt very removed just hovering above while the song poured out.

At the time, I was working in the Village, Boston (Passim’s) and Philadelphia clubs. Willa Rouder a wonderful ragtime (stride) piano player would “back me up.” She created a gorgeous piano part for the song.  I will have to look for an old recording and will share it with you.




“Lost my conscience and I feel fine,
Perfect prescription for white collar crime”

“Built a franchise of greed and fraud,
I’m selling Bibles autographed by God”

An overview of the freedom and ease of robbing and ripping off people at extraordinary levels without great risk of conviction much less jail time.

The banking crisis and bail out of 2008, maybe one guy went to prison. A kid steals ten dollars worth of stuff from a 7-11 or sells grass, gets caught goes to jail.

Produced and arranged by Erik Nielsen who played the drums. Fantastic performances by David Grissom (guitar) and Dana Russell (bass).


Lost my conscience I feel find

Perfect prescription for white collar crime

Wheel of fortune the price is right

Beat the clock every day and night


Life is plastic limit to the sky

Buy every toy before I die

Shake my hand now you owe me

For about a grand your lunch is free


Hedge my bets evade some tax

Stuffing my money between the cracks

Built a franchise of greed and fraud

I’m selling bibles autographed by God

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What a beautiful name!

Martha Promise was the wife of Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) “King of the 12 String Guitar. “ There many great stories about his life. He had been a prisoner in Angola, LA for murder and was pardoned by the governor because of his great musical talents.
The songs “Irene Goodnight” , “Alabama Bound” and “Midnight Special” are probably his most famous.
One of my favorites “In the Pines” could have been about Martha.
In my song I imagined letters between Ledbetter and Martha and how their lives will be upon his release.

“Martha Promise you’ll wait for me again, Martha Promise I promise, I ‘ll get out as quick as I can”.

There is a great accordion performance by Rich Kuhns. (Leadbelly also played accordion).

Produced by Erik Nielsen (drums) and I am playing an old National resonator guitar.


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It should not be too hard to write songs about women and cars.
Chuck Berry “Maybelline” the Beach Boys “Little Deuce Coupe”, Bruce Springsteen “Thunder Road”, Bob Dylan “From a Buick Six “ are all classics.
Born in Detroit should have given me a little edge. “Driving Home” and “Married” come to mind.
I wrote “Deep Wells” during the Iraq war. The oil there is such a lure. Access to cheap gasoline will always drive our ambitions.


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I started to play guitar when I was six. It was mostly because of Elvis but my folks also had Segovia records. I learned to play on a Gibson LG-1 acoustic steel string.  One of my favorite songs that I learned to play was “Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash. The recorded version had these simple but incredible “runs” between chord changes. I learned to play it with a flat pick.

For a very long time I did not make much progress. Except for Buddy Holly songs like “Peggy Sue” and Ricky Nelson’s “Be Bop Baby”, I was pretty uninspired. A few years later, a friend’s older sister had Bob Dylan’s debut album. He covered “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down.” Everything about it was amazing, the song, singing style,  the harmonica. He also played the guitar very differently. Instead of using a flat pick, he picked the strings with his fingers.

This style of playing became my obsession. With the help of some older Detroit folk guitar players like Marc Chover and Ted Lucas, I was able to learn the technique. The great masters of include Robert Johnson, Elizabeth Cotton and Rev. Gary Davis. Among the most important and influential was Mississippi John Hurt.

Hissyncopated acoustic fingerpicking style inspired thousands ofguitar players.  His story was recently presented on “American Epic” on PBS.  He recorded for Okeh records in 1928 in Memphis and NYC, and then went back home to Avalon, Mississippi where he was a farmer. He almost never knew the fate of his recordings.

His obscure 78 rpm records became the resource for young folk guitar players of the early 1960’s. Folk artists like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Dave Van Ronk and many others adapted his style into theirs.

In 1963, John Hurt was “rediscovered” by two musicologists who found him in Avalon.  They introduced him to the growing and appreciative young folk music audience. He made additional recordings and concert appearances until his death in 1966.

 Anytime you see an acoustic or electric guitar player (e.g. Bonnie Raitt, Ed Sheeran, Derek Trucks) using their thumb, index and middle fingers in an alternatingpicking pattern instead offlat picking, it is likely they studied John Hurt’s technique.

 Check out performances of “Candy Man” and “Spike Driver Blues”.


This Old World

I have been interested in reviewing the music that I grew up with in Detroit. All the great Motown acts, like Martha and the Vandellas, Miracles, Temptations. Aretha is from Detroit. There were also a number of amazing blues artists who came to Detroit from the south, most notably John Lee Hooker. And the rock scene exploded with great acts like the Bob Seeger System, MC5, Amboy Dukes. I got to see all these artists perform while I was still in high school, and their performances were extremely powerful and helped me to broaden my musical interests and style. While in New York some years later, I was immensely influenced by the whole Village scene. They all played the Gaslightwhere I worked as a dishwasher and performed.  The gift to be able to meet and “study” with some of the great American blues artists - Brownie McGhee, Rev. Gary Davis,  Booker White – will always be part of my life as a musician and  a key influence to my music and style. I listened to other songwriters and other folk musicians, continued to play the guitar and to perform, and began writing songs. It gave me a foundation that I still rely on today.

This song brings together lyrics from a number of related songs. I have been listening to American folk songs from the early part of the 20th Century, where quite a few are closer to hymns and spirituals. This Old World comes from this effort of connecting my own songwriting, style and sensibility to a musical past that I never tire of as a source of inspiration. There are parts of other folk lyrics that seep into my own songs, words that also can be found in renditions of Oh Mary Don’t You Weep, Gospel Plow, and One Good Thing My Mother Done. There are variations and versions of these songs that have been recorded by numerous other artists. Even Dylan performed Gospel Plow on his debut album. And if you listen to the line “One of these mornings about 12 o’clock, this old world is gonna reel and rock” its from an old folkfield recording used as a sample in the intro of One of Us by Joan Osborne.

I am always looking for the “poetry” in song lyrics. Most times reading song lyrics by themselves is pretty underwhelming to me. So when I come across a beautiful line it gets really exciting. In This Old World there are lyrics that give me that same thrilling feeling, like “step in doctor put your grip aside there’s no soul not afraid to die” or “ bought my ticket at the gates of hell”. Just really nice.
The production and recording of these San Franscisco based sessions are created in a fairly straight forward manner. Collaborations in different forms drive me creatively and on this song, as with many others, I have worked with the drummer and producer Erik Nielsen. Together we come up with the structure of the song. Intro, verses and choruses. We then record with an acoustic guitar and a snare drum, in one single uninterrupted live take. This process, to me, has always been the most creative. The live take as a sketch. From there I add other guitars, bass and organ. And when we get the chance we tap into our extended list of prominent and wonderful musician friends to come in and help out on a song. For this recording, Lisa Chu, a San Francisco Bay Area violinist layered some beautiful parts to the recording.

I am interested in timelesss music. Not nostalgia but a sound that defines a certain period. Music that is hard to pin down when it was first recorded. When a sound, a song structure, a melody feels both of the past and present.
And when they can melt into one another, it can be forever.

I think This Old World might be one.