Dew Daddies – Soda chasers
One evening in 1994, Dennis Scoville left home to take a summer stroll in search of a soda. He came back with a country band. “I never bought that soda,” the pedal steel player recalls. “I never got that far.”
Scoville stopped short after he heard startling sounds floating from a window: old-timey music, bluegrass — stuff hillbillies played, not hippies. “I was surprised to hear that kind of [country] music in that neighborhood. It wasn’t stuff you generally heard,” Scoville says, disdaining the “hippie crap” that often filtered through the university area. So he sat on a stoop and listened. It was the Dew Daddies, then just two brothers, Andy and Joe Ruff.
During a break for Joe to stick a pinch between his cheek and gum, the Ruffs discovered Scoville sitting in the shadows. From that shady introduction, the Dew Daddies were born. It’s been a transitional run, with Joe Ruff relocating to Ohio and other personnel changes and additions, but the current incarnation of the country sextet has been solid since March 1996.
“We’re still pretty green,” admits Andy Ruff, whose squirmy demeanor could make him a candidate for Ritalin. That greenness he refers to — a complete cluelessness on how a band is ” supposed” to make a record — is a pivotal factor in the Dew Daddies’ charming debut Makin’ Good Time. A sinister mandolin opens a foreboding tale of obsession, “Train of Thought”. Like a man tied to the railroad tracks, Ruff moans, “This train of thought hauls a load of broken dreams…God knows I’ve tried but I can’t seem to get out of its way.”
Tear ducts get a workout on the barroom ballad “I’m Not Crazy (But I’m Out of Her Mind)”. Scoville’s swooping steel skates throughout the waltz, circling gracefully around acoustic guitar and harmonica. On the bouncy, almost frantic “Love-Hate Relationship”, Ruff deals another one of his wiseacre wordplays: “It’s a love-hate relationship/I love her and she hates me.”
While Scoville and Peter Conway (who also has toured and recorded with Chris Whitley) had extensive recording experience, the remaining four members didn’t know a mixing console from a mixing bowl. Though Ruff planned to record 14 or 15 songs that day, veteran players tried to check his enthusiasm, cautioning him against such lofty ambitions. Indeed, the Dew Daddies fell short: They nailed only 13 cuts before calling it quits after 16 hours. “That was the beauty of it,” bassist Dave Johnloz says. “We went in there bull-headed and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
“The innocence shifted the balance of the project,” Scoville adds, chuckling into his coffee cup. “And it saved us about $8,000.”
While the band was baptized in the waters of Ray Price, Ernest Tubb and Buck Owens, Makin’ Good Time was producer Geoff Bushor’s first foray into country. But his gentle hand gives the record a spacious, natural touch. Most importantly, Bushor knew when an instrument needed to speak, how loud it should talk, and with whom it should converse.
With the album’s release on their own quasi-label, the Dew Daddies aren’t talking record companies or agents or cross-country tours. They’re just talking about music. “I love this music so much,” Ruff says. “And just being a suburban middle-class kid, it’s important — my desire and love to play this music.”