Dumptruck – For The Country
Waiting in an airplane on the runway in Denver, ready to depart from a Colorado sojourn that had left things at loose ends. Pushed play on the old Walkman; the guitar slowly creeped in, gradually built, finally crashed into the chorus, relentlessly ringing as the singer was slinging my heart into the void: “Get offa my island…”
Dumptruck never really made much of an impression on the world during their measured mid-’80s heyday, but they left behind a few indelible memories, and one really good record, which has finally found its way onto disc. Ryko also recently reissued 1984’s D Is For Dumptruck and 1985’s Positively Dumptruck, but it’s this 1987 album that best stands the test of time — and also, as its title hints, carries at least a subtle link to the alternative-country bubbles that would be brewing a few years hence.
Dumptruck’s driver was Seth Tiven, who wrote all the songs on this album after the departure of Kirk Swan, his writing partner for the first two records. But For The Country also introduced Kevin Salem, who has since become a solo artist of considerable talent (if of similarly obscure stature). The guitar and/or vocal interplay between Tiven and Salem brought out the haunting melodies of moody ballads such as “Brush Me Back” and the title track, and fueled the brooding urgency of anthemic rockers such as “50 Miles” and “Wire”.
The country undertones were most evident in the disc’s strongest cut, “Going Nowhere”, a classic ’80s college-rock jangle-popper spiked brilliantly with twang accents from British pedal steel ace B.J. Cole. No one was calling it alternative-country at the time, but clearly there was something going on here that, while not heading toward Nashville, was steering sideways from the typical trappings of alternative-rock.