Dead Rock West brought country harmonies to Claremont
Acclaimed Los Angeles duo Dead Rock West brought their soulful country-rock-folk hybrid harmony singing and stellar songwriting to the Folk Music Center tomorrow for an intimate concert on Saturday.
The band, singer/songwriter Cindy Wasserman and guitarist/singer/songwriter Frank Lee Drennen, have been on the Folk’s stage before, sitting in with pal and producer of their 2011 record, “Bright Morning Stars,” Peter Case. Tomorrow’s show is their first as a headliner at the venerable Claremont music store.
“I love it there,” said Ms. Wasserman. “We were excited when they came to us because we’ve always wanted to play there on our own.”
The duo will no doubt dig into their upcoming release, “Glitter and Gold,” their fifth full-length record, due out September 22. It includes outtakes from the band’s shimmering 2015 Everly Brothers tribute “It’s Everly Time!,” reimagined with in-demand Los Angeles rock ‘n’ roll string foursome, The Section Quartet, as well as some new original tunes.
“It’s a new-old record,” Ms. Wasserman said. “We’re in the midst of getting ready for a new originals record, but we wanted something to happen right now. It’s exciting for us because I don’t think we’re afraid of releasing covers.”
In the beginning, he said the band loved “re-doing things,” but there was a fear they weren’t putting out enough original music.
“But now we have been doing it long enough that we thought, ‘You know what, we’re just going to do what we want to do and mix it up a bit.’ So that’s what this record is. It’s a little bit of a mish-mosh,” he said.
The band’s last release, 2017’s “More Love,” was produced by actor, writer and X and Knitters bassist-vocalist-songwriter John Doe, whom Ms. Wasserman credits with introducing Dead Rock West to its extended musical family.
She began singing with Mr. Doe in 2003. That led to an opening slot for Dead Rock West on a 2007 John Doe solo tour, followed by road work with Mr. Doe, Mr. Case and Grammy-winning solo artist and Blaster, Dave Alvin.
Since 2007 they’ve logged thousands of road miles supporting X and its roots offshoot, the Knitters; Mr. Alvin solo and in his various incarnations, including both the Guilty Women and the Guilty Men; and Mr. Case, with whom DRW will join forces for a tour in November.
Ms. Wasserman’s musical partner Mr. Drennen has called Mr. Doe, Mr. Alvin and Mr. Case “the holy trinity.”
“We’ve been really lucky to just get to work with all of them,” Ms. Wasserman said. “And they’re all so loyal it just naturally led to them asking us to do other things with them. It really never gets old because it’s such a fun experience being on the road with your friends, because now they’re our friends.
No recent discussion about Dead Rock West has been without a mention of Ms. Wasserman’s August 2015 breast cancer diagnosis. Her treatment, which included chemotherapy, was completed in 2018. She’s now in remission.
“I’m doing really great,” Ms. Wasserman said. “I had an aggressive type of cancer, and I’m completely healed now, and I’m happy to be around, because there was a moment when I thought, ‘Okay, well that’s so crazy how this happened,’ and, ‘I can’t believe this is it.’”
The diagnosis came as a shock, and at a most inconvenient moment: on the way to the airport to leave on a tour with X.
“I didn’t know anything about it, so I really thought ‘That’s just it,’” Ms. Wasserman said. “But here I am. It’s kind of a miracle. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, that’s for sure.”
While she was battling cancer, her brother, noted bass player Rob Wasserman, who played with Lou Reed, Neil Young, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello and countless others, died in 2016. Suffice to say it’s been a tough few years. But the perennially sunny Ms. Wasserman just naturally gravitates toward the positive.
“Oddly enough, Frank and I had nonstop work, and I was afraid to turn anything down,” Ms. Wasserman said. “That’s probably why I didn’t do so well in the beginning, because I didn’t stay home and treat it. But I just love working, and I thought, ‘I can handle this. I can do what I need to do and go out on the road.’ But it really wasn’t the case.”
Urged by her doctors, she decided she would have a better chance of recovery if she dialed back the road work.
“Oddly, I had one John Doe gig every month, so after every chemo thing I did, you start feeling better toward the end of it, and I had that one gig then,” she said. “It magically worked out. In hindsight I think that’s what kept me going, because it was such a bad experience for me.”
Her doctors told her on a scale of one to 10, she was a 13 with side effects. But the music and touring helped her push through.
“I made it through. The very last gig was the first one where I thought, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ But I made it,” Ms. Wasserman said. “After it was done I thought, ‘I can’t believe I even made these gigs.’ It was just having something to look forward to.”
Dead Rock West plays the Folk Music Center in Claremont at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, August 24. Tickets are $15 and are available at the store, 220 Yale Ave., Claremont, or at the door.
More information on the band is at deadrockwest.com.