Dave McGrew – Somewhere Between Truth & Sanity OUT May 26th!

inNewson May 25, 2017


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Dave McGrew, b. 1959 in Cordelain, Idaho, set out to work picking fruit at the age of 6. He has been working harvests ever since. I know Dave through my brother, Paul Duffy. Paul and Dave are best friends and together spent 20 years fruit picking career in the Great Northwest. I first met Dave when I visited my brothers in the orchards of Dryden, Washington when I was 16 in 1979, and he has been like an uncle to me ever since.

He often visited me in North Carolina, traveling the drink houses of East Winston, helping me discover talent such as Preston Fulp and Albert Smith. He lived and worked for Music Maker when we were located in Pinnacle, NC. He built our studio and offices in rural Orange County, NC, and re-outfitted our present offices in Hillsborough, NC, all along writing songs, recording, and putting up with me taking his photograph. My older brother, Daniel, also worked with Dave in the orchards as a kid and I am going to paraphrase the notes he wrote for Dave’s first record as they are so right on.

– Tim Duffy

For a moment in the 1970s and 1980s, among the Okie and Arkie old-timers, the Mexicans coming in, the fruit tramps were hippies you didn’t see on television. During the revolution the cameras focused on the sons and daughters of the professionals and managers, at Columbia and Yale. After the revolution they interviewed the bombers who became lawyers, the strike leaders who joined Wall Street. Still out in the orchards were the white kids who had fewer chances to join the mainstream and had taken a different road in any case.

They gloried in the life of the tramp – the undisciplined worker our economy relies on for the dirty stuff, who does a day’s work for a day’s pay and takes no shit. For Mexicans now, it’s a way to escape the third world through the first, to support a family and buy a ranch down south. For the Okies and Arkies, it was a way to eat when the dust bowl and the bank ate their homes. For the hippies it was a way to be human, to run with their lights on when all the world was blacked out.

In 1979 when I ran out from Yale to find my older brother in the orchards. They were best friends, and hung with a group of other fruit tramp balladeers, Paul insists that there weren’t as many as five. He and McGrew are the only two I know about who are alive. It was a tiny group with a broad perspective. They made their music already knowing about John and Alan Lomax’s collections of the songs of old-time working America, knowing about Woody Guthrie’s advocacy for the Okies and the trade unions of the 1930s. McGrew is like Guthrie, hardworking exiles from the striving class, laboring sons of working guys who had become two-fisted businessmen and left their families in tatters. They are complicated.

McGrew’s lyrics speak of fragmentation and isolation. The self is in pieces and the part with a mouth is lonely. To read the song sheets is sad. To listen to the songs, though, is to hear the McGrew I first met in the sunshine when I was a teenager, who moved through the orchards faster than anyone, an active, problem-solving, reliable friend. He stands in the circle of his acquaintance and enthusiastically entertains, in unity and connection. I have seen him do it in firelight by the ditches in the orchards. He wrote in the Northwest from roots in the Southern musical tradition, and then came to temporarily roost in North Carolina. Now when the fruit tramps have dispersed, I have sat with him at the Music Maker studio in Hillsborough and listened to his recordings together – the golden harvest of life.

– Dan Duffy

Recorded October 5, 2014 and February, 10-11, 2016 at Music Maker Grotto, Hillsborough, NC. Engineer; Aaron Greenhood. Produced by Tim Duffy. All songs written by Dave McGrew. Dave McGrew; vocals, guitar. Tim Duffy; guitar. Aaron Greenhood; mandolin. Cornelius Lewis; bass.

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