by John Lofy
According to his new album, A Little Pain Never Hurt, local singer-songwriter Dick Siegel wants to be remembered as a "real Renaissance man." He also wants "to be six thick strips of Canadian bacon."
How he'll manage the bacon part is a mystery but Siegel is a Renaissance man already. He's been a vibrant presence in the local music scene for some twenty-five years, playing quick-witted songs that would sound equally at home in a Chicago blues bar, a Nashville two-step joint, or a college-town coffeehouse. His style careens through folk, bluegrass, old-time country-western, Texas swing, and rockabilly sometimes melding all these influences in the same song.
To record A Little Pain Never Hurt, Siegel went to Nashville the home, he says, of the world's best stringed-instrument players. Thanks to the band he assembled, the new album twangs and chimes with mandolins, fiddles, steel guitars, even bouzoukis. The songs have a fresh, clean polish, and Siegel's tenor has never sounded clearer.
Siegel shows his greatest talent as a lyricist in his ability to spin tales from the parts of life the rest of us take for granted. He breathes new life into the ordinary and the clichéd. "Skin," a bouncy love song, celebrates the skin that "keeps us apart / and so close together." "Starlight Rodeo" is about the "rage and fear" of insomnia, when "your mortal heart will pound" like the hooves of bulls. The album's highlight may be "Joshua," a lovely song of maybe-requited love that draws from the story of the biblical hero who trumpeted down Jericho's walls.
Siegel has always been funny, and in this album the humor is often hooked to ebullient stories of love and lust. In "The Captain's Daughter" Siegel bursts with giddy pride as he recounts "singing and making love on top of the water" in a sailboat. And in "I Wanna Be" he proclaims his desire to be everything for his lover: an astronaut, a "no-good outlaw viper varmint," a Renaissance man, Cool Hand Luke, a "hip-shaking tongue" and Canadian bacon for her to eat.
There's a lot of love and lust and happiness brimming from this album. These sound like the songs of a happy man who wants to share his joy.
Dick Siegel unveils A Little Pain Never Hurts in a CD release show at the Ark on Monday, December 2.
You can find Dick Siegel on the web at dicksiegel.com.
[Originally published in December, 2002.]