David Lannan and Sounds of Love
I met David Lannan in 1984, my sophomore year at The University of Oklahoma. He was singing and managing the entertainment at a little bar on Campus Corner in Norman called Another Roadside Attraction. I heard his voice pouring out of the door of the Attraction while I was walking down White Street one evening. When I stepped inside to listen, guitar and case in hand, he invited me up to play with him. Our friendship lasted until his death from lymphoma at age 71, in February of 2009.
Over those 25 years we spent a lot of time hanging out, playing music, and making each other laugh with a dark sense of humor we had in common. I have a wealth of memories from those days, but the hours I passed just sitting and listening to the man's voice and guitar bounce off the walls of my rental apartment and echo across the fields from the porch of his house in the country as he sang his “traveling songs” remain among the most powerful of my life.
David didn't really think of himself as a musician. A pure folksinger in the tradition of fellow Okie Woody Guthrie and pre-electrified Bob Dylan, music was simply his most effective vehicle for communicating a message. His songs are about true love lost, the reality of the spirit, the holiness of nature, empathy for those who suffer misfortune, and the wisdom of the Golden Rule. He makes you laugh at the folly of taking yourself, and himself, too seriously. Most importantly, upon listening to him sing I am confident that even the most hardened cynics will agree with the title of the 1970 Rolling Stone review of his Streetsinger album: “David Lannan Really Means It”.
In March of 2013, a very close friend of David's, Joseph Graham, emailed me, writing that he had a box of cassettes of David Lannan recordings that he wanted me to have. Throughout the 1980's, David had periodically recorded in small local studios in Norman, laying down guitar/vocal demos of songs he had penned over the years, along with a few covers of old songs he liked to sing. He planned to use them to restart a professional music career that he had abandoned when he traveled to India in 1971, a destination he felt drawn to as part of lifelong spiritual quest, instead of touring to support an album to be recorded in Nashville the same year. (Listen to the 1971 Nashville Demos below to get a taste) Copies of some of the demos that I had carried around with me and listened to over and over had disappeared in moves over the preceding two decades. Among Joe's cassettes, I hoped, would be those recordings, which I had assumed were lost for good.
After picking up the tapes from Joe, I bought a used cassette deck, plugged in some headphones and started to listen. The tracks I remembered were there, but there were many more that I had never heard, much of it beautifully recorded and preserved, one stunning performance followed by another. In total, there were 65 separate tracks, most of which neither I nor any more than a handful of people, I am certain, had ever listened to or had any knowledge of. “Sounds of Love” is a compilation of these “lost” recordings of this great folksinger, poet and friend.
Nashville Demos (1971)
In 1971, David recorded 8 demo tracks accompanied by A-list Music Row studio musicians, in preparation for an album to be recorded later that year. Norman Blake, Charlie Daniels, Pete Drake, Charlie McCoy, and Kenny Buttrey are among the musicians playing on these tracks. David remembered that for "Got a Little Place Down By the River" everyone in the building (they could all sing, this was Nashville after all!) was invited into the studio to sing the chorus, in the best early 70's Nashville tradition. You can listen to all eight tracks below. They always make me smile.
1. So Many Places 2. Got a Little Place Down By the River 3. American Family Song 4. Down in the Valley to Pray
5. Sisters of Mercy 6. Carolina In My Mind 7. Loose Hair Upon My Brow 8. No, No, No