1970s Farm-Boy Soul
The Improbable Resurrection of the Emersons' Dreamin' Wild
In 1979, two teenage farm boys in Fruitland, Washington, made a highly improbable record. To understand how improbable, it helps to know the context: To this day, Fruitland has one business (a gas station) and no stoplight, and it is two hours from the nearest interstate. Brothers Donnie and Joe Emerson spent their days working the family farm and for their father's logging business, and playing music in a studio their dad generously built for them when he realized he had two devoted musicians on his hands. But he built it on a condition: He wanted them to write their own songs. (How cool is that dad?)
The boys didn't have a music collection. Joe hardly listened to the radio. But Donnie did, and the two young multi-instrumentalists—who, you can tell by the white jumpsuits they're wearing on the cover, were also goofballs—knocked out Dreamin' Wild, a sincere and starry-eyed record saturated with white-boy soul and mellow funk. Local record label Light in the Attic, which specializes in exhuming hidden treasures, has rereleased Dreamin' Wild, and it's a sweet, innocent gem. This note, for example, follows the song title "Feels Like the Sun": "An instrumental accompaniment designed by Donnie and Joe for you to enjoy. Sing or play a musical instrument along with the boys on this song." Adorable—and the song has a tender, paisley groove. (You can learn more about the Emerson brothers from Stranger writer Dave Segal's liner notes.)
Sometimes, when teenagers do something they love, throwing themselves into it full throttle with no self-consciousness and no cynicism, I wish I could bottle that vitality and sip it when I'm feeling old and busted. Dreamin' Wild has that kind of magical juice: just two brothers in a barn, making it up as they go, creating something shimmering and gorgeous. Dreamin' Wild sounds like 16 felt.
Dreamin' Wild is out now on Light in the Attic Records, www.lightintheattic.net.