CD Reviews

MICHAEL J. DWYER: Borderlands

Michael J. Dwyer is a singer-songwriter with decades of experience. Forty years ago he toured the world with a Christian rock band. Since then he has made music as a solo performer as well as being a member of a few bands. He has recently released Borderlands, a collection of seven self-penned songs that Dwyer performs with a full band and that promises to be eagerly anticipated by his listening pubic.

A balladeer, it is impossible to miss the influence of Bob Dylan, both in Dwyer’s vocal approach and his songwriting. From early on, Dylan distinguished himself with his phrasing, which borrowed equally from the folk tradition he aligned himself with as well as other American song traditions, such as Tin Pan Alley. You can even hear the influence of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in Dylan’s phrasing.

Dwyer follows Dylan’s lead, singing a bit behind the beat from time to time. He also approaches notes like the Nobel Prize-winning inspiration to a generation, even doing the oh so Dylanesque technique of sliding around the notes as he sings his “Another Piece of Me.”

Dwyer’s songs are fully in the singer-songwriter tradition of self-revelation, meant to provoke some thought and give the listener something to relate to. His songs lack the cryptic quality that so many of Dylan’s songs have (leaving me to wonder, even decades later, what exactly Dylan meant by a phrase, line, or even an entire chorus). Dwyer’s songs are more lyrically straightforward. They nonetheless have a mysterious quality, aided obviously by Dwyer’s preference to putting his songs in minor keys. For example, the mid-tempo “I’m Standing” gives the listener the point of view of a man beleaguered and bewildered in a world not of his making. The lyrics still show strength, resolve, even hope, as Dwyer sings that he is, despite the troubles of the world, still standing.

The musicians Dwyer assembled for this project are total pros. The production quality is total pro, too. Dwyer’s fans will not be disappointed to add Borderlands to their recording collection.