Dana Fuchs Returns to Ruf Records With a Bonafide Southern Rock Flagship
Updated: Apr 29, 2022
Dana's triumphant release of Borrowed Time marks a departure from a blues-centric repertoire into a stunning and hard-hitting rock masterpiece.
If you think you know Dana Fuchs you're in for a surprise introduction to a side of her rarely seen via her new album Borrowed Time.
This album will take you on an unexpected journey starting in the deep south where it all began for Dana, then circle the globe with stories of humanity, desperation, gun violence, and the undeniable connection we all have on this planet.
A Time To Rock
Almost everything is different about this album from where it was produced and how it was tracked to the Southern rock music that was made. Fuchs has been labeled a blues-rock star but she will not be put into a box.
“We just decided we were going to go in and make an unapologetic rock record. It's something I've always wanted to do. I wanted to draw from that Southern rock I grew up on like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Stones, and Led Zeppelin. They are the bands that led me to discover blues music so it was going to that early influence of mine and saying OK, I've done the soul thing and now I just really want to rock out.”
It makes perfect sense then that another distinctive feature of Borrowed Time is the undeniable presence of veteran guitar player Jon Diamond. He is a master of his instrument, shared a stage with artists like Debbie Davies, and Joan Osbourn, and can bang out a complex muddy riff without breaking a sweat. With Dana, he often takes a softer hand to maintain that delicate balance needed with such a powerful voice, but this time there was no need to tone down the guitar. It was just the opposite as they welcomed guitarist Kenny Tudrick from Detroit to join in and help push the music to another level. Their skill and talent on guitar is obvious as you hear the hard, in-your-face riff in “Double Down On Wrong”, or the gnarly Hendrixy harmonic bends in “Not Another Second On You", or “Hard Road” which, simply put, is just a great fucking rock song with an amazing intro.
Why the fuck can’t we all just get along?
Dana explains that in her last album, 2018’s Love Lives On, she closed a chapter for herself concerning a lot of personal loss and recovery from drug addiction. It was time to move on but she wasn’t certain what to write about. Then it came to her, she would take on the world’s issues. During the pandemic, she had finished her undergraduate degree and the global history courses she took shaped her writing in ways that her life experiences couldn’t.
When I asked if the overall message of her music had changed the answer was a resounding “no.”
“I feel like my message is going to constantly be the same kind of thing until I stop writing songs. Why the fuck can’t we all just get along? Why do we have to destroy each other? We all want the same thing, peace, and happiness.”
Her views and passions are unwavering. Gun violence, war, suicide, and oppression are some of her biggest concerns. When you listen to her songs she wants you to be able to put yourself in another person’s shoes.
“I wrote these songs very very quickly, probably quicker than any other album,” she shared. For her last album she gave herself a deadline but this time the deadline came from the label, Ruf Records, and was contingent on the availability of the producer. Jon had a lot of music ideas and things flowed very naturally between the two musicians who have been working together for nearly twenty-five years.
In Review: Living On Borrowed Time
“Borrowed Time”, the album's title track is a stark reminder cleverly concealed in a song. The message is simple. “We are all living on Borrowed Time. Maybe we haven't yet been given our expiration date, but no matter how long we live, this life is so very short.”
As the album starts we are greeted by a drum-driven high-energy rock song. “Double Down On Wrong” is a powerful ode to southern rock. From there is a seamless transition onto “Blue Mist Road” where Dana’s thunderous voice coupled with the slide guitar gives a feeling of a storm brewing. “Call My Name” is the album’s calm after the storm and a song about true love and letting go.
“Save Me” has some great bass work, it’s energetic and danceable. This one is a double edge sword as it has a contrast between the pleading lyrics and vibrant music. I felt called out with this one, perhaps everyone in The Loft at The City Winery did as Dana sang like she was delivering the message to each of us individually. These last few years have so many feeling like we need a savior and something to believe in. This song reminds us that we don't have to look any further than the mirror.
“Curtain Close” may be one of the more complex songs on the album speaking from an emotional standpoint. Jon Diamond breaks the silence as his guitar pierces through the speakers with an icy oscillating effect. He ushers Dana into the song and the two take it on like the team they have been since their paths crossed in 1998. She then masterfully weaves a story depicting the tragic death and entrance into the beyond of a close friend.
“Colin was a dear Buddhist friend to so many. He died last July leaving a birthday party for his mother. He got caught in a nasty storm on his beloved motorcycle, which was ironically the thing that brought him so much joy. My 5-year-old said ‘Colin rode his motorcycle to the pure land,’ the Buddhist term for heaven. We were in the middle of the service for Colin, both boys were on my lap and Aiden just put the pieces together. Those words were the inspiration for this song.” The lyrics 'did you hold on tight when you heard your last song' sends a chill up your spine as you imagine his last ride and is a perfect example of the artistry in the songwriting.
Musically, it’s a straight-up southern rock jam with its overdriven flanger-soaked guitar work from Jon and the addition of a subtle nod to Michigan strategically placed after Dana’s powerful and persuasive voice. Proof that when you are anywhere near the motor city there’s always room for a little bit of funk.
“Hard Road” is a song of life and humanity. No matter how someone's life looks on paper, we all have a hard road. Why not travel it together and help each other out?”
She points out in the song “Not Another Second On You”, that we as a society are not listening to each other. Whether it’s with harsh words or firearms, we need to stop and pay attention and not be so quick to react.
Dana Hears The Train Coming
For me, the song “Nothing You Own” is the most powerful piece on the album and that’s partly due to its inspiration. The subject matter is nothing short of gut-wrenching. Dana had just finished reading a play by the South African playwright Athon Fugard called, The Train Driver. The play is based on a 2000 news story about a mother who stood on the train tracks holding her three young children so she could end their suffering. Nearly 400 people die on the tracks near Cape Town every year. Many like this young woman and her children - their bodies are never claimed. They have no family, many have HIV and their children are starving before their eyes. The train tracks become their only salvation, but for the drivers who can’t stop the train, it’s a living hell. The story haunted Dana and robbed her of sleep, so she did what songwriters do, and “Nothing You Own” was born.
She understandably couldn’t dive that deep into the story with the song but the message she would like to get across in her lyrics is that “there is far too much wealth in the world for anyone to be this desperate so it is a call to those who have so much power, privilege and wealth, to help those less fortunate.”
The music for this one is where we are hit with Dana and Jon’s one, two punch. From the outset, as Jon fingerpicks the first chords you know this with be an emotionally charged song. What I wasn’t prepared for was the imagery brought about by the music after the line “when you hear the train coming your way.” Jon uses a volume knob technique to evoke a haunting cry from the instrument that fades into something like the faint sound of a train whistle. This is perhaps one of the most moving guitar leads I have heard due to its ability to elicit such fervor. This amazing composition and artistry from both of them had tears burning my cheeks before the song’s end.
“We just got a bunch of old-school rock and rollers in the studio and hammered it out, it was very loose.”
This album elevates Dana Fuchs to a new level. One where she is thought of simply as a rock star. She has the market cornered when it comes to the blues, her voice is like fire, warm and smokey, but this woman is without a doubt a classic rock star. This is the perfect addition to her discography as it highlights not only her skills as a writer but also lets her partner Jon Diamond shine and perfectly compliment her along the way as the two rock out southern style.
The album struggled, like most of us to make it through the pandemic. Fortunately for Dana and her fans, the three strikes and your out rule didn’t apply in this scenario. After a trifecta of delays, the “perfect storm” developed and the album was finally produced and recorded in snowy Croswell, Michigan over Thanksgiving weekend.
This was Dana’s first experience with producer Bobby Harlow, who has also worked with Samantha Fish. When they spoke over the phone she knew instantly he was her guy.
She describes her time in the studio as the most fun she has ever had making an album.
“We just got a bunch of old-school rock and rollers in the studio and hammered it out, it was very loose.” She contributes this largely to being able to just show up and sing and then feel comfortable in turning the production side of things over to the crew. Other than Jon, Dana has a “don't leave home without Jack policy”, referring to her bass player. The other musicians, Todd Glass on drums, Jordan Champion who plays keyboards, and Kenny Tudrick also on guitar were brought in by Bobby. “The band just started jamming, it was the first time we ever tracked with two guitars. It was great. I felt like I had The Stones backing me up.”
“I didn't have to schedule the musicians or do the budgeting. This is the first album that I didn't sit and listen to every bit. I was like cool, I’ll go hang out with the family, call me when you are done. It was nice.”
For The Love of Music
The album is dedicated to two very special people. Colin Chase for whom the song “Curtain Close” was written, and Eileen Stareshefsky, Jon’s aunt. Dana described her as a humanitarian and true intellectual. She shared that when she was new to the city, young, lost, and in need of a female role model, Eileen was always there for her. She was at her first show and rarely missed one in the city. She died a year ago at the height of the pandemic after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of ALS.
Borrowed Time will be released everywhere on Friday, April 29th, a music video is in the works for the last track on the album, “Star”, and touring will kick off on Friday, May 13th in Stanhope, New Jersey. From there the band hits Flagstaff Arizona for the Blues & Brews Festival in June. Next Dana is co-headlining The Dalane Blues-fest in Norway with Beth Hart and then the crew takes off for Romania, Switzerland and Spain for the summer.
Starting July 19, in Brezoi, Romania will be the fourth annual Open Air Blues Festival, a four-day four-night music marathon at the base of the Turtudan Mountain. Dana and Jon will be joined by Beth Hart, Popa Chubby, Eric Gales, Samantha Fish, and more.
The official US album launch will be an amazing weekend mid September starting at Sony Hall in NYC on the 16th followed by City Winery Philly on the 17th.
For additional information on tour dates and venues click here
For a deep dive into Dana's childhood in Florida, her move to New York, and her music career read the following article/interview.
All songs written by: Dana Fuchs and Jon Diamond
*"Double Down On Wrong" written by: Dana Fuchs, Jon Diamond & Kevin Mackall
**"Not Another Second On You" written by: Dana Fuchs, Jon Diamond & Kevin Mackall
***"Blue Mist Road" written by: Dana Fuchs, Kevin Mackall, Mark Narmore, Sandy Carroll & Jon Diamond
Lead vocals and tambourine: Dana Fuchs
Electric and acoustic guitar, backing vocals, harmonica: Jon Diamond
Electric and acoustic guitar: Kenny Tudrick
Keyboards: Jordan Champion
Bass: Jack Daley
Drums: Todd Glass