Judging by the lineup of the current Tel Aviv Blues Festival (runs through July 16) the sector appears to be in rude health in these here parts. The indisputable star of the whole four-day shebang is Buddy Guy, the octogenarian Chicago- based legend who – geographic incongruity notwithstanding – will pack ‘em in at the Caesarea amphitheater on the opening night.
But there will be plenty of good down-and-dirty blues endeavor to be had across Tel Aviv, at all size and manner of establishment. The venues hosting blues shows this week include Levontin 7, Bar Giora, Mike’s Place and Haezor. The performer roster includes veteran acts such as vocalists-guitarists Ronnie Peterson and Avner Strauss, as well as members of the younger crowd, like the Betty Bears, David Peretz and Dani Dorchin. The latter will strut his stuff at Haezor on July 16 (8:30 p.m.).
At 38, Dorchin could not exactly be called a newcomer, but he is some way off his grizzly years. He will use his berth at the blues festival to launch his sophomore release, So the Story Goes. It follows his 2013 debut recording, One Man Band, and the bluesman has clearly made disciplinary strides in the interim. While his first offering showed Dorchin had got the blues message loud and clear, the new album is a far more varied affair and should appeal to fans of rock music, funk and possibly metal, besides outand- out blues.
So the Story Goes was recorded earlier this year, and Dorchin was keen to capture the magic of the moment by recording it in a live studio session.
Producer Sefi Zisling brought in his band, The Ramirez Brothers – who will be very much front and center on July 16, along with jazz bassist Gilad Abro – and supported by a handful of other top-notch local musicians they got the core of the album down in three days.
All told, the album comprises 12 new originals, all but two of which were written after the release of Dorchin’s 2013 debut release.
“Long Days at the Lab” is one of the relative oldies, and clearly references Bob Dylan, primarily through Dorchin’s convincingly strident Dylanesque vocal delivery. But, it seems, the Tel Aviv bluesman has moved on since the days when he worked at the now defunct Lab arts venue in Jerusalem when, he says, he put in long hours.
“It was also a time when I only played Dylan music,” he recalls.
Some years before that, Dorchin was fed a formative musical diet.
“When I was a kid my dad used to play a lot of jazz and blues records. He used to play his music really loud, in the next bedroom, so we’d fall asleep to it. After that I got into rock and folk, and Dylan became my main focus, from around the age of 16.”
Paternal inspiration notwithstanding, it still took Dorchin a while to get in on the act himself.
“I didn’t start playing guitar until after I’d finished the army. It was because of Dylan, and Neil Young. I heard, and played, so much Dylan. It was because of him that I learned English.”
Once he’d mastered the language he could get down to creating his own lyrics.
“I don’t exactly know why I started writing songs, but I did. The other older track on So the Story Goes is ‘Should’ve.’ That and ‘Long Days at the Lab’ were written around 10 years ago, and all the others were written in the last couple of years.”
His initial instrumental forays were of quite a different nature.
“I played in all sorts of bands, on harmonica,” Dorchin explains. The mouth organ is, of course, a prominent element of blues music, although Dorchin took it in a different direction.
“I played folk music on it to begin with,” he notes. “But the harmonica led more into a blues direction. I played with a lot of Israeli musicians, on harmonica, at the Lab in Jerusalem.”
Like so many Jerusalemites before him and, no doubt, after him, Dorchin eventually relocated to the western end of Route 1.
“When I moved to Tel Aviv I joined a blues band called The Greenbaums.
We liked [British blues pioneer] Peter Green [formerly Peter Greenbaum] a lot. We released one record and we toured in Europe several times.”
The band’s break-up, after four years of sterling work, signaled the start of Dorchin’s solo career.
“Until then I hadn’t had the courage to take a guitar and get on a stage to do my own thing,” he explains. “I tried to put a group together a few times, but I saw I wasn’t good at that, so I started as a one-man band.”
That takes a lot of courage, and plenty of dexterity.
“I’d play guitar and mouth organ, and I’d beat out a rhythm with my feet on the floor. It was a natural progression to move from stamping on the floor to using a hi-hat [cymbal] and a bass drum. Over the last three years or so I have upgraded that part of what I do, in my gigs in Israel and also abroad.”
Dorchin has clearly widened his musical interests too. In addition to the blues, the new album has elements of funk, rock and roll, and even heavy rock. The energy level rises and deepens appreciably on, for example, the only Hebrew track on So the Story Goes, “Mishehu Aher.” Things get really wild and wooly on the number, with an abundance of heavy drumming and guitar distortion.
Although Hebrew is Dorchin’s mother tongue, he says writing and singing in English comes to him pretty naturally.
“Most of the music I listen to is sung in English,” he states, although noting one basic difference between writing lyrics in either language. “When I write a song in English, the music comes first. I play something and then get down to the words. In Hebrew, the words come first.”
Whatever order the gestation process followed, Dorchin should deliver the blues-infused goods tomorrow evening.
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