A DOZEN years ago, a pal asked Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen to add backing vocals to a project he was working on.
Though they’d never met, they noticed that their voices effortlessly harmonized.
Soon they were inseparable singing partners, and they’ve been singing together ever since.
In 1990 they became husband and wife which soon led to the creation of Stump the Host, a twangy rock band that packed ‘em into Chicago clubs.
Then, In 1995, as the couple’s singing and songwriting found new depth and maturity, Stump the Host transformed into The Dolly Varden, a new band named after an elusive species of trout.
In August 2001 the band travelled to Nashville to record their follow-up album - only to arrive home in September to find their studio burgled and guitars, amps and recording equipment stolen.
But they pulled themselves together to hit the ground running. Forgiven Now was released to rave reviews. Then two of the band members became new dads, so they all agreed it was time for well-earned break. Over the next year and a half Diane and Steve made a limited edition CD (Duets) and did three overseas tours. Mark also made a solo record while Diane focused on painting (her artwork has been on four of five of Dolly Varden albums and her work was shown in New York, Chicago and Miami).
Eventually Mark’s brother, got everyone back in his studio in early 2004. The old chemistry was alive and well and soon the band were back to speed and monthly sessions in the studio soon became a regular feature.
But it is as a working touring band that The Dolly Varden is at its best.
They will be in Sheffield next Saturday, February 19, as part of their latest UK tour.
It promises to be an exceptional evening.
For also on the bill will be another US-based St Louis-based rock band, Magnolia Summer and, for good measure, Brit-country outfit Wynntown Marshals.
Chicago’s Dolly Varden have built a reputation for soulful songs trade-marked by Steve and Diane’s harmonies. It echoes the music of Gram Parsons or early 70s Van Morrison.
St Louis based Magnolia Summer have a sound that sometimes seems like a marriage between early REM and Crazy Horse era Neil Young.
They have three albums to their name and, over the years, have toured throughout the midwest, sharing the stage with Matthew Sweet and Counting Crows, among others.
The show is at The Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield, on February 19. Call 0114 2665599.
RAY Hearne, Toein’ In The Dark, The Rawmarsh Masher and Tina McKevitt and Matt Hegarty take part in a benefit gig in aid of Thornberry Animal Sanctuary tonight at the Bridge inn, Greasbrough Road, Rotherham.
THE fifth annual Pete Burnett Birthday Bash Charity Folk Festival will be held at Coal Aston Village Hall tomorrow, in aid of St Luke’s Hospice. Among those performing will be Bill Whaley and Dave Fletcher, Graham and Eileen Pratt. Tickets on 0114 2352344 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
TONIGHT’S guests at the Rock@Maltby, Wesley Centre, Blyth Road, Maltby re Damien Barber and Mike Wilson. Next Friday’s guest will be Allan Taylor.
ASHLEY Huitchings and Ken Nicoll join forces for an evening at the Chesterfield Folk Club, Club Chesterfield tonight.
Support is provided by Carol Fieldhouse and Lorna Cooper.