Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Presenting: The Great American Robber Barons

GENRE: Alternative, Folk Rock, Rock
COMPARISON:  Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue, The Byrds, The Clash, Lou Reed, Richard and Mimi Farina
LOCATION:  San Francisco, CA

Another very talented and rising star, who originates from New Zealand but now resides in San Francisco, is Keith Dion.  His is the most amazing story, again one of bullying and an abusive background, leading up to the present when he is emerging as a musical force to be reckoned with.

While he is also a songwriter, Keith has not actually written the lyrics for any of his own music to date.  He is making the statement of his lifetime, though, with his band, The Great American Robber Barons, through the darkly cathartic debut:  ‘Reno Nevada’, ‘Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal’.  This has been done in collaboration with former ‘Jefferson Starship’ lead vocalist, Diana Mangano.

Both his parents passed away in Reno, Nevada, after which Keith found a whole new dimension to his musicality.  His feelings go some distance to explain why the songs on the album are about gambling, vice and betrayal – and they are heartfelt.  The deaths of his parents made their son face a lot of things and as the layers continue to be peeled back so more dark aspects are being exposed.

This CD/DVD bundle contains a dark side of Reno, along with the same of the 1960s and the Vietnam war.  Keith’s lyrics are political, poignant and literate.  His laidback cool low register vocals combined with the impassioned vocals of Diana Mangano – masterful songcraft is nothing but sensational.

In the past Keith has worked as an ace guitarist in the New Zealand cult band, ‘The Ponsonby DC’s as well as such groups as ‘The Ophelias’, ‘3.05 AM’ and ‘Corsica’.  To add several more strings to his bow he has also recorded or performed with famous names such as members of The Kinks’, ‘Thin Lizzy and ‘Santana to name but a few.  He was also the producer and bandleader for the late Noel Redding of The JimiHendrix Experience’.

His upbringing and the sadness therein is brought forth through his talents.  This includes gun control, the sadness of war, animal and women’s rights and the fact that his father was a Vietnam veteran. 

Keith got his start in music playing in all original groups.  He was not remotely interested in cover bands.  Two early bands which had a lasting impression on Keith were Arthur Lee and Love from LA and The Jimi Hendrix Experience from London – both bands being very innovative and stylish and played a variety of music.  Many years later Keith ended up working with members of both groups and actually produced several albums of Noel Redding, bass player in ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’.  One thing led to another and he finished up producing two albums for Arthur Lee and then touring with him afterwards.

As Keith said, it all started when he was growing up in New Zealand in his early 20s.  He has since been fortunate enough to land record deals of his own in both New Zealand and later in San Francisco.

He is inspired by people, by situations and by experiences.  By listening to and having conversations.  Having spent his formative years in NZ after Southern CA, he had a somewhat different exposure to music.  Different songs, different people in each setting.  He also feels that having been around famous, talented and successful people has all helped him to understand and appreciate the importance of self – and not trying to copy others. 

Like most in this industry, Keith has certainly encountered his share of obstacles on this road.  For a start, he was forbidden, as a child, to have a guitar or anything to do with his music – by his parents.  So he had to do it all in secret.  But growing up only presented further problems – as his music and voice grew, so did the criminals he had to deal with – professionally.

Keith is also in the process of writing a book about his experiences in both NZ and San Francisco in the late 1980s.  ‘Snapshots of Heaven and Hell – Surviving the Music Business and Living to Tell the Tale!’ – is an amazing recount of part of his life to date.  It includes landing multiple record deals and having multiple hit records with several groups – then losing all that hard earned money.  The book describes the North American record industry in very interesting detail. 
Diana Mangano

Keith credits the group’s wide range of ‘hits’ – music, songwriting, record production, filmmaking, poetry and writing – as being the factor that sets them apart from other artists.  Naturally he also credits Diana Mangano from ‘The Jefferson Starship’, who is female vocalist with Keith, as being a pretty big attraction for the group too.

Looking at the immediate future, Keith can see them having more exposure at Film Festivals.  The visual effects produced by the use of his father’s vintage 8mm home movies from the 1960s also sets them apart from other artists.

There is an incredibly complex amount to the amazing Keith Dion.  This is a group to watch for and will be explored further as we venture down this road.  Keith was good enough to send me a copy of their CD so I have been fortunate enough to hear some of their music – and I like it and recommend it.  The lyrics are deep, meaningful, probing and interesting.  I am really looking forward to hearing more.
New release:  cover of 'Reno Nevada and Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal

To order copies of 'Reno Nevada and Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal':  305am

Story Source:  Lannah Sawers-Diggins and Keith Dion

Links:  Cyber PR
     The Great American Robber Barons   
     The Ophelias 
     The Kinks
     Thin Lizzy

Videos:  At The Hands of the Robber Baron

Diana Mangano's story, in her own words, to be posted here soon.  

Stay tuned.


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