It is a common occurence for modern entertainers to be compared to great names that have already carved their way in history. As in country music, it seems the public will not be content until the next Woody Guthrie, Pete Seger or Bob Dylan blow us all away with their insight, their compassion and their sheer gift of music. I don't think this will happen until the public realizes that ideas don't just jump out of the speakers and into one's ears--you need to listen to what is being said. That's why I'm glad that circumstances caused me to first read the lyrics of DARKNESS AND LIGHT before I actually got to listen to the recording. This, folks, is poetry at it's finest. These words come from the depths of the soul. They travel upward and onward, forever forward. They describe the heartache of true despair, the promise of hope and the joy of contentment. To read these lyrics are to walk in the shoes of a man who has seen the bottom. To listen to this recording is to take hold of that man's hand and let him lead you to a better place, or at least let you know that you do not travel alone. With the help of an exceptional collection of musician's, this is a CD that will not gather dust in your collection. Thanks to Tim Lauer on keyboards and Allison Moorer, Anthony Crawford and Jimmy Hall providing harmony vocals, Bunzow's thoughts and music come to life in a wonderful manner. The rhythm section, Larry Mars on bass, Chad Cromwell and John Gardner on drums provide a solid sound that is greatly enhanced by Dan Dugmore's pedal steel guitar and Ray Kennedy's slide. I also thought that adding shakers on "Choices Come Easy" was a nice touch. The violin on "Straight Into The Sun" by Tammy Rogers is also superb. This a CD that country music lovers will love, but is sure to make an impression on anyone you play it for. Or, if you're just feeling down and need some soothing reassurance for yourself, this is group therapy---country style.
Southbound Beat Magazine
Darkness and Light
The swampy roots-country groove of the leading track "Love is the Only Rescue" suggests more than a live basement studio recording from a Portland, Oregon native with a kick ass band. It cuts through to the soul to suggest that there is one heck of a great record to follow. And it does deliver the goods! Darkness and Light expresses solid songwriting through an organic and vibrant direct to tape performance. Bunzow's songs easily sway from rich country rumblers and ballads to blues-infused stingers. Imagine Buddy Miller with hints of Robbie Fulks in his easier moments. Years of performance experience (he's slung guitar for Chris Knight and Allison Moorer) and noteworthy critical praise as a Nashville songwriter are quite evident here. An unlucky label dissolve in '96 put one potential release back in the can, but we're sure that Darkness and Light will bring John Bunzow the success he deserves. (Sideburn Records)
- Miles of Music
Nashville-by-way-Portland singer/songwriter John Bunzow's Darkness and Light is a blues-infused roots-rock record, a well-produced collection of eleven songs rooted in tradition; yet stylistically and lyrically, it offers up more than your average roots-rock record. The dusty country grooves alongside this burning rock n' roll fever catapulted by Bunzow's love for blues and R&B, make this a rich, lively album to sink yourself into as Bunzow wins you over song after song.
From free-for-all rock 'n' roll jaunts to tender, laid back numbers, Bunzow covers the gamut, opening up himself to you through the music. Meanwhile, he keeps things cohesive enough that you know its him, but diverse enough to ensure you don't grow tired or weary of the album. The result is a fine-tuned, strong piece of roots-rock that will put a smile on your face and give you at least one reason to believe that Nashville hasn't killed the soul of roots music. I'll give it an A-.
In Music We Trust/Issue Fifty-Two/September 2002
...Both musically and lyrically, Bunzow has an impressive grasp of his craft and such a strong and unique voice, and his songs are defined both by their diversity and the distinct sense of unity running through them. Themes of disillusionment, new found hope, distrust and making a new start are more than common in folk music, and it's a sign of Bunzow's talents that he tackles these subjects respectfully and in a refreshing manner....on the whole Bunzow has made a stunningly passionate and refreshingly contemporary country album.
Never heard of this Bunzow character before, but after this CD I'll be damned if I forget him. Starting off with a loping, guitar-busy Dave Edmunds-sounding track (Love is the Only Rescue) turned on it's side by his Robbie Fulks-like vocals, Bunzow begins his disc in fine stead. You might not believe me when I say it gets better from there, shit, I'm not sure I believe it myself, but it does. It doesn't hurt that Bunzow has drafted such talents as Dan Dugmore (session vet and player on Linda Ronstadt's best tracks from the 70's) on pedal steel and Allison Moorer on harmony vocals. Despite Bunzow being a flash guitar player wiht plenty of tasty licks, his vocals and find songs are what carry the day and the guitar solos never once take away from the fact that this is a country record. Sure,its got a Southern rock vibe happening but this is one country boy who's unashamed of his roots. A damn fine, damn fine CD.
Freight Train Boogie
"...we should keep an eye on John Bunzow, and I, for one, will go out of my way to see him live."
John's CD is among the best I've heard these last months! Consider me a fan.
Paul van Gelder
GEEN TIJD/Varas Radio 1
It's the kind of record that belongs in the upper regions of the Americana/Roots charts.
This is how roots music is supposed to be. John Bunzow is the best hidden talent I know.
Portland Oregon native John Bunzow has been called one of the finest roots writers/musicians on the current music scene. Producer Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam, Meat Puppets, Steve Forbert) said he is "...without doubt the best artist I've heard in recent times." Chicago Tribune columnist Jack Hurst cited Bunzow for mixing "roots with revolutionary."
Bunzow's new CD, Darkness and Light (Sideburn Records), was recorded live in a friend's basement studio. "I was itching to get back to my roots music," Bunzow says. "That's the vibe I wanted - all one-take vocal and guitar parts - just as they came down in the clubs." The result is an eleven-song guitar-driven alternative roots revival. (Co-produced by Bunzow and Brian Willis, mixed by Ray Kennedy)
Bunzow started playing professionally while attending the University of Oregon at Eugene. Following college, he spent 15 years playing clubs throughout the Northwest United States. In the process, his fusion of roots rock and blues garnered an extensive fan following. "I loved all styles of music while I was growing up," Bunzow says. "I listened to a lot of blues and R&B, a lot of rock, Dylan and the Beatles. So I ended up playing everything from country rock to reggae."
The end result is that Bunzow's eclectic music is a melting pot of influences ranging from Dylan to Elvis Costello to Merle Haggard and Tom Waits. As a guitarist, he admired Albert King, Michael Bloomield, Carlos Santana and country super picker Jerry Reed. During his developmental years, Bunzow performed the solo songwriter venues, band projects, and a country music tour of truck stops and county fairs. The artist also found himself bouncing around various music scenes: San Francisco, Seattle, L.A., and Nashville, whre he found a songwriter Mecca. "I considered myself fortunate to work in venues where original material was appreciated," he says. "My focus was always as a songwriter and that is what brought me to Nashville - twice.
His second Nashville sojourn resulted in a songwriting deal with EMI and a recording contract with Liberty Records. His critically-acclaimed Pete Anderson-produced debut CD, Stories of the Years, was released to press and radio, along with a single and video. Unfortunately, just at the time the album was climbing the charts, the label folded, ultimately becoming Capitol Nashville. Moreover, while the CD was never released to the public, music journalists had heard enough to proclaim him one of the brightest new talents on music's horizons. Bunzow is stoic about the unforeseen development. "That's showbiz," he laughs. "It was disappointing at the time, but it caused me to re-focus. Music by its very nature is progressive. It takes you where you need to go, and I found myself heading in a new direction.
Following the label breakdown, Bunzow divided his time between playing guitar for Decca alternative artist Chris Knight, MCA's Allison Moorer, writing for Famous Music (cuts by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, artist Jack Ingram produced by Steve Earle/Ray Kennedy, a song included in a major motion picture, as well as the song "Pieces on the Ground" included in Patty Loveless's 2000 release, Strong Heart) and touring in Europe (where Stories of the Years continues to get airplay solely from advance copies) and the Northwest club circuit. Darkness and Light is the result of his odyssey. "I feel lucky to have always made a living as a musician. I love to play."
Check out the artist's website:
1. Love Is The Only Rescue
2. Long Gone Leavin' Train
3. Straight Into The Sun
4. Muddy Water Under The Bridge
5. Pieces On The Ground
6. Desolation Road
7. Corner Of Darkness And Light
8. I'm Just Tryin' To Get By
9. Ghost Of A Man
10. Choices Come Easy
11. Chasin' Trains