Over the years, I’ve been a fan of singer/songwriter/guitarist Denny Breau — son of Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody, popular country performers and RCA recording artists of the 1940s, and younger brother of the late Lenny Breau, a jazz guitarist who was called by Chet Atkins “the greatest guitarist that ever lived” — and I recently learned that he’s returning to Slates in Hallowell on Monday night, March 9. To that end, I gave him a call at his Lewiston home.

Q: Good morning, Denny, how are you doing?
Breau: Good, man. I was just starting a new song.

Q: I checked my records this morning and discovered that the last time we chatted was back in January of 2013 when you were preparing for a show at Slates.
Breau: Wow, that long ago … Here we are again — going to Slates (laughter). So fire away, my friend, fire away.

Q: Well, you must have been in Hallowell since that 2013 show, right?
Breau: Oh, yeah — oh, sure. I’m usually there every year. Well, there may be times when maybe a year will go by before I’m back or maybe even a year-and-a-half, maybe two, but in the last few years I’ve been there at least once a year. And that’s a good thing because I really enjoy Slates … it’s a small, small venue so you feel very intimate with the people you’re playing to. That’s one of the things I love about Slates, and of course the great food … I love their food.

Q: It’s been a long time, probably 20 years, since I’ve been there but I vividly remember the food, for sure. I’ve got to ask, what are folks going to get, musically speaking, when you get back there this time ’round?
Breau: Well, they’re going to get pretty much the same thing they always get, which is some honest songwriting and some genuine picking and some good old Maine humor — you know, just a general good time. I guarantee they’ll leave feeling better than when they came in, let’s put it that way (chuckle).

Q: Wonderful, we all need that nowadays, that’s for sure. When last we spoke you were supporting your “Mirror In The Camp” album.
Breau: Yeah, that’s right. It was fairly new at that point, and now it’s old. I have to get it reprinted. I am working on a new one, though — you know Bobby Colwell and the Root Cellar? Well, we’ve been working on it a little over a year. I just get in there whenever I can. I’m trying to fit it in with life (laughter). I’m working four or five nights a week and trying to have some time off, which is becoming more important to me as I get older. Getting ready for the onslaught like the normal ski bars where you’re background noise, basically. But hey, it’s a living, you know?

Q: Yup, I do — and one thing about Slates is that you’re not background noise there, man.
Breau: No, and that’s a good point — people are there for you, absolutely. It’s wonderful that way.

Q: Oh, I just remembered, when we were setting this interview up you were unsure if you were going to have another musician joining you there.
Breau: Frank is doing the gig — Frank Coffin, he plays bass and is Melinda Liberty’s other half. Frank and I and Melinda have been friends for 40 years now, playing in different bands together. Right now Frank is so busy with what he’s doing. I’m so lucky that — because it’s a Monday night — I can get him (chuckle).

Q: When I called you, you were working on a new song. Does songwriting come easy for you?
Breau: No, not at all (laughter). I’d just had a nice breakfast, picked my guitar up and started playing this rag/bluesy kind of thing. I’m going to write the rest of it, but I’ve got the idea.

Q: Once you get it finished, will you take it up to the Root Cellar and set it down?
Breau: Yeah, that’s usually what happens and with this new material. I’ve been able to get some other people to help out like Joyce Anderson, David Surrette and some really good musicians to come and play on the CD — like Stevie Jones from the Boneheads, he’s on there. So yeah, it’s been a really cool experience, and we’re almost done. I’m trying to tie it up, so that I can have it when I get back from Florida, so I can sell it this summer.

Q: What are you going to call it?
Breau: I’ve been thinking about calling it “Sampler” because it’s got blues, it’s got folk, it’s got country, it’s got a little jazz — it’s got a little of everything. Somebody said, “Oh, you should just call it ‘Pot Luck,’” and I said, “Jeesh, that’s a great idea, because that’s kind of what it is.” That’s where I’m at with that, but the stuff that is almost done sounds just wonderful to me. I can sit there and listen to it and know that I can listen to it in 10 years and still enjoy it.

Q: So folks at Slates will get the chance to hear some of this new material, I would imagine.
Breau: Yes, I’ll be doing a couple of new tunes that I haven’t done before I’m sure, along with all of their favorites … I get a lot of requests for “Daughter’s Daughter” and “Mirror In The Camp” and “Pot Roast;” those are probably my three most-requested original tunes.

Q: What was that first one?
Breau: “Daughter’s Daughter,” I wrote a song when my granddaughter was born and that’ll be on this new album, because people have been asking me, “Do you have that on CD?” This time — for the first time on the new CD — I’m going to have my Chet Atkins’ medley too …

Q: Oh, fantastic!
Breau: … People have been asking for that forever, you know. So that’s going to be on it, too. It’s a real hodgepodge, so I don’t know what the hell I’m going to call it.

Q: Well, “Hodgepodge” is not bad, either.
Breau: Yeah, “Hodgepodge” is kind of cool — hey, thank you.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Breau: Well, one thing that I would strongly suggest is that people come out and and support live music. I think that’s a real important thing in my life and in your life and in everybody’s life — that’s one thing I’d like you to pass on, and I guess that’s probably about it. All I can think of now is getting back to that song.

 

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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