Musician Denny Breau is set to perform Nov. 6 at Gardiner’s Johnson Hall. Contributed photo

I’ve known Denny Breau for many, many years and unabashedly confess to be a complete fan of his amazing skills on his 6-string, acoustic guitar. This Mainer, son of RCA recording artists Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody, began playing his instrument of choice when he was 9 years old and was performing professionally by his early teens. In the over 30 years of his career he’s been delighting audiences as a member of the Turkey Hallow trio (with the late Tom Rowe and Tom’s son Dave) as well as a solo performer, and he fronts the Denny Breau Trio, also. It should be noted that he was inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and was the youngest inductee ever in that organization’s history; he also gives private guitar lessons and teaches music clinics. So, when I found out that he would be appearing at Johnson Hall in Gardiner, I thought it would be a good time to reconnect and see how he’s doing nowadays, and seeing the last time we talked was in March of 2020, a lot has happened in the world since then. So gave him a call at his Lewiston home.

Q: If you don’t mind, sure, let’s do it now.
Breau: Let me turn the TV off here. I was watching college football, a good game, too. There, let’s go.

Q: Well, you said something earlier, when we were setting this interview up, about working on a new album. Do you have that new solo CD we talked about last year ready to put out?
Breau: Well, not yet, it’s a little ways away, it’s about 90% done, I’ve been slowly picking at it the last two years because COVID slowed things down quite a bit. Then summer was upon us and camp (laughter), it’s hard to get me out of my camp, you know? So as soon as it gets cold I’ll get back in there and finish it up. I was listening to it this morning, actually, and there’s one song that needs a solo and some harmonies need to get turned up here and there, and I haven’t got the graphics done at all yet.

Q: What will it be like, musically speaking?
Breau: Because the album, or CD or whatever you want to call it, is going to be a real hodge-podge of country, blues, folk and Chet-picking stuff, I’m gonna call it “Pot Luck” and have a big, messy table full of food and half-empty dishes everywhere, that’s my thought, anyway (laughter).

Q: (Laughter) Perfect, what could be more Maine than that?!
Breau: Well, I don’t know, a bunch of beans and some red hotdogs and whatever, you know?

Q: Yup, I do. Now could you talk a little about some of the tracks on “Pot Luck”?
Breau: Yeah, there’s a couple of blues tunes, there’s a couple of tunes, one dedicated to Lenny called “Lenny” with Chet style picking, and then a song called “Bury Me High” which kind of has the same connotation as far as the music goes: the Chet sort of thing. And then there are some real traditional folk tunes and then I have a Cajun tune on there, so, yeah, like I said: it’s all over the place, there’s some pretty love songs, there’s some songs about dying, there’s all kinds of {stuff} on there. You’ll have to listen to it for yourself and then you can decide (laughter).

Q: Well, with an album like that you never know what the next song is going to sound like which makes for a great listening.
Breau: Well, it does once, then after that you kind of know what’s going to come up next (laughter).

Q: True, but none the less, it’s not the same style cranked out 12 times in a row, you know?
Breau: Correct, correct. Well, these days to hit all different markets you have to have different styles — I don’t know, those are just the songs that come out of me and I guess they’ll just speak for themselves.

Q: Now, what was your last album, something about your camp? When did it come out?
Breau: “Mirror in the Camp” and that’s got to be 10 years ago, at least, it’s been a long time. But, hey, it comes in spurts: I don’t do anything for a while, I don’t write anything for a while and then, all of a sudden, I have an inspiration and then the right circumstances come along to afford to do a CD and I go for it, and then COVID hits (laughter) and then everything shuts down!

Q: And that’s reason enough to head up to your camp and get away from it all.
Breau: Yeah, that’s really my repose, that’s where I can go to get away from everything and, what do they call it?, oh, yeah: just relax!

Q: Just out of curiosity, do you perform a lot nowadays?
Breau: Yeah, I’ve been playing my butt off all summertime, ever since it got warm enough to do outdoor gigs. I played a bunch at Lenny’s {a gastropub in Westbrook named for Denny’s late older brother, a famed jazz guitarist}, played the Sudbury Inn, every Friday night from May to last night I was at Mel’s Diner over at Poland Springs, and had numerous parties and birthday parties. Yeah, I’ve been playing plenty, I even played the Fryeburg Fair on Monday, I’ve had my shots so I kind of feel okay.

Q: Now, you’ve played Johnson Hall before.
Breau: No, I never have, this will be my first time there. I don’t know why it never happened before but I’m glad it is happening finally now, I’m fortunate.

Q: Wow, so in light of this revelation, what can folks expect from your debut at this venerable venue?
Breau: Well, I’ll play a few covers but mostly original stuff. Some of it will be off the new CD, some of it will be from “Mirror in the Camp.” I still get a lot of requests for “Pot Roast” and “Mirror in the Camp” and “… My Daughter’s Daughter,” those are all songs that seem to tickle people from whatever reason. Also I’ll be doing some picking, I might even do a Beatles medley that I worked up on the guitar, let’s see how I feel on that night. Hopefully, if they like me they’ll have me back.

Q: I don’t think you have to worry about that, man, but I’m prejudiced.
Breau: (Laughter) Thanks.

Q: Is there anything, Denny, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Breau: Just to get out and support live music, you know, we’re counting on it, it’s our living, and be nice to each other, that’s important.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 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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