Led by singer/songwriter Gabe Dodson, Detroit-based Old Empire will release its full-length debut, Queen City Quandaries, on Gangplank Records on April 14th, 2009.
Old Empire’s music, which spans the breadth of American pop, is influenced by the iconic genres of American music, evoking everything from Motown, to 60’s surf rock, traditional country and NYC new wave. Songs like the Jonathan Richman-esque “Sweaterdress,” stroll with both confidence and vulnerability while the dreamy lilt of “Queen City,” and the rolling electric piano of “Empty Promises,” showcase the band’s versatility and emotional range.
The origins of Queen City Quandaries can be traced back to Dodson’s front porch in suburban Detroit, when in the summer of 2005, he began writing a collection of songs about the characters of the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. When asked about his unique writing strategy, Dodson says, “I’m into the idea that everything is a self-portrait, so I like to write in character. Around the time I was writing the record, WKRP was on when I woke up in the morning and watching it became a daily habit. It’s funny, but the humor comes from the characters’ vulnerability. To me, the show is about frustration, disappointment and unattainable aspirations. A friend challenged me to write a record about that side of WKRP, and I couldn’t resist.”
Dodson’s is fully aware of the smirk factor surrounding his songwriting approach for Old Empire’s debut, but he hopes listeners don’t miss the bittersweet reverie at the heart of the record. Queen City may be a nickname for Cincinnati, but Dodson’s images of corners bars, rusting factories, and breezy downtowns describe the emotional landscapes of countless cities across the American Midwest.
Dodson recorded Queen City Quandaries with a supporting cast of friends and former bandmates at Detroit’s Tempermill studios with producer and Gangplank-founder David Feeny. Since wrapping-up recording, the band’s line-up has coalesced around Dodson, sister and co-vocalist Alexis Dodson, guitarist Dan Clark, the rhythm section of bassist Tom James and drummer Brett Pickens, and back-up vocalist Chela Weber.
Even though Dodson says he’s sometimes surprised that Queen City Quandaries even got made, he’s anxious to see his songs live out in the world. Says Dodson, “I’ve always wanted to make a good record, and with the help of some great collaborators, I think that’s what I’ve done. Now I hope we get to make another one.”
Gabe Dodson – voice, guitar, keys
Alexis Dodson – voice
Dan Clark – guitar
Tom James – bass
Brett Pickens – drums
Chela Weber – voice
Press for Queen City Quandaries
Somewhere along the sun-speckled pavement of the farm-flanked lonely road between towns, the edges of tall-grass neo-country meet the boot-cut denim strutting metropolitan-y milieu of power pop…where easy going swing-ability and let-the-good-times-roll meets pedal-fuzzed left-right-guitar-jabs and sweet rousing choruses that get the head bobbing – and it’d feel at home either in the smoky bar or at the tight-pant’ed-club. It’s a nice, crisp pop record with an Americana ambiance, delivered modestly by an up-and-coming quintet from Detroit who can feel as much gothic-country theatrical as they can singer/songwriter pop-rock – featuring steady-strummed heartfelt balladry and day-dreamy boy-girl harmonies. Piano-pounding swing tunes cue up the artsy-indie-rock take on bluegrass (“Track & Field”) and the softly-sung don’t-wake-the-snoozers-in-the-backseat-on-the-road-trip country-flared sonnets (“Reflection”) or the straight-up pop with stylized organs, coaxing vocals and liberating hooks (“Empty Promises”). – Jeff Milo, Deepcutzmusic.com