Dion Sets March 8 Release Of ‘Girl Friends’ Album

The past few years have been some of the most productive over the course of Dion’s storied career that spans multiple eras in music, culture and consciousness. Underscoring his renewed and ongoing creative thrust is the release this Friday of “Soul Force.” The song is a collaboration with Susan Tedeschi and the second advance track (following October’s release of “An American Hero” with Carlene Carter) that is part of Girl Friends. Slated for release on March 8, it’s his third consecutive album through Keeping The Blues Alive Records, following 2020’s Blues With Friends and 2021’s Stomping Ground. Those two albums, with liner notes by Bob Dylan and Pete Townshend, respectively, include musical contributions from, among others, Joe Bonamassa, Brian Setzer, the late Jeff Beck, John Hammond, Van Morrison, Joe Louis Walker, Jimmy Vivino, Billy Gibbons, Sonny Landreth, Paul Simon, Samantha Fish, Rory Block, Patti Scialfa, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, G. E. Smith, Keb’ Mo’, Marcia Ball, Mark Knopfler, Peter Frampton and Rickie Lee Jones.

Now Girl Friends finds Dion keeping musical company with a line-up of stellar female artists who are heard on the album’s 12 original tracks, 11 of which were composed by Dion and Mike Aquilina with one written by Dion and the late Scott Kempner (The Dictators, The Del Lords). Joining Tedeschi and Carter are Rory Block, Shemekia Copeland, Debbie Davis, Randi Fishenfeld, Sue Foley, Danielle Nicole, Christine Ohlman, Maggie Rose, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Valerie Tyson. The album was produced by Wayne Hood and Dion, who were also producing partners on Blues With Friends and Stomping Ground. Girl Friends includes liner notes by Darlene Love who commented, “I’ve been a huge fan since I was a young girl. In fact, when I sang ‘He’s a Rebel’ I was singing about outsiders like Dion. I’m a bigger fan today. I’m still trying to emulate his unique bluesy overtones. Now I’m thrilled again with these new collaborations — not just friends, but all girl friends — great women vocalist and musicians. This is just what the world needs now. These duets are riveting.”

Dion explains the album’s raison d’être in a commentary titled “The Feminine Genius” that is included with Girl Friends. “I write about my preoccupations, and I know no better preoccupation than the female of the species. A friend of mine is a philosopher, and he talks often about ‘the feminine genius’ — the undeniable difference that’s in women and the difference that they make in the world. I’m grateful to my friend for giving it a name, because the fact has always been plain to me, but I could never put it into words.” He goes on to explain his mother was his family’s breadwinner, and that he had two sisters. He’s been married for 60 years to the former Susan Butterfield, who is name checked in the album’s “Hey Suzy,” and they are the parents of three daughters who, in turn, produced four more girls. He writes, “I’ve always been surrounded by the feminine genius — always living off it. Even my music has kept a tight focus on the ladies: ‘Runaround Sue,’ ‘Donna the Prima Donna,’ ‘Little Diane,’ ‘Ruby Baby.’ All those women, real and imagined, have made all the difference in my life.” He chronicles his female musical collaborators including those who joined him on his previous two albums as well as Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector, Cher and Patty Smyth.

He observes, “I’ve noticed that men play a different tune when there are women in the room — and it’s a different kind of jam when women are in the mix. I don’t know why this is so, but it is. Maybe we men, at some primitive level, are competing for their attention. As I said, I don’t know why or how. I do know it makes better music and we’re all better for it.” He concludes with an encapsulation of vision for Girl Friends, “I wanted the best music possible. So, I wrote up a batch of duets for me and my ‘girl friends,’ the women who inhabit my headphones — the women who make me turn up the volume when they drop into my radio. I invited them to join me, one by one, and here they are, wailing on the guitar and into the microphone. You’ll hear the feminine genius in every groove of this record, and you won’t forget any of it”.

There’s more from Dion on the horizon. Last year, The Wanderer, a musical based on his life debuted at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ and is expected to arrive on Broadway next year. Directed by Kenneth Ferrone and based on Charles Messina’s book, the initial run was the subject of critical acclaim with Broadway World calling it “a moving, no-holds-barred new musical about the glow of the spotlight, the shadow of addiction, and the triumph of the human spirit against all odds, set to the iconic sound of an incomparable era in American music.” The New York Times review noted the show “succeeds on sheer sonic strength,” with reviewer Juan A. Ramírez adding, “I was continuously charmed by this throwback-y musical and its angel-voiced ensemble.”

Dion’s “Girl Friends” are:

Susan Tedeschi, the female focus of the Tedeschi-Trucks Band is a Grammy-winner, Americana Music Award winner and six-time Blues Music Award winner. She has released 14 albums both as a solo artist and with the Tedeschi-Trucks Band. Dion writes, “It’s amazing that someone so unassuming can play with such grit.”

Rory Block has been recognized for her focus on the country blues idiom and is winner of the Blues Foundation’s prestigious Koko Taylor Award for Traditional Female Blues Artist.

Danielle Nicole gained prominence in her native Kansas City as part of the group Trampled Under Foot. She has gone on to pursue a solo career and is a Grammy-nominee and winner of five Blues Music Awards, three of which are for Best Instrumentalist/Bass. Dion calls her “one of the greatest singers on the planet.”

Valerie Tyson has long been a fixture on the South Florida music scene recognized in her home state as its Queen of Soul. She fronts the Valerie Tyson Band and has been lauded for her “flamethrower vocals” by the Miami Herald. Dion commented, “I call her up when I have a tune that’s 100% fun. This kind of groove requires that kind of company and it’s why I got into this business in the first place.”

Christine Ohlman, nicknamed The Beehive Queen in recognition of her distinctive platinum hairstyle, fronts NY-based Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez. She is familiar to the national TV audience for her role as vocalist with the Saturday Night Live band for more than 30 years. Dion sees a kindred spirit in her, noting, “Christine Ohlman has Bronx soul. I have it too, so I know it when I see it . . . She’s steeped in blues and American roots music, and I’ve always loved her vibe.”

Debbie Davis is widely recognized as one of the leading guitarists, irrespective of gender, in the blues field. She has released 14 albums to date and Dion is an unabashed admirer; he calls her the “reigning queen of Chicago blues.”

Carlene Carter is the Nashville based singer/songwriter who is responsible for numerous hit songs, both recorded by other artists including Emmylou Harris, Robert Ellis Orrall, and on her own, including the Grammy-nominated “I Fell In Love,” “Come on Back” and “Every Little Thing.” She is a third-generation member of The Carter Family, and daughter of June Carter Cash and County Music Hall of Fame inductee Carl Smith. “Carlene’s voice can turn your head, and it can break your heart,” writes Dion.

Rory Block appeared with Dion on his Blues With Friends album. She is a seven-time Blues Music Award winner and has released albums through Stony Plain, Telarc, Chrysalis, Rounder and RCA. “She has a style that’s all her own,” writes Dion who adds, “She always manages to surprise me,” citing her “Greenwich Village attitude.”

Randi Fishenfeld is a classically trained violinist who performs with the Wildfire Band and has worked with numerous name artists including Bruce Springsteen, Air Supply, Foreigner, Journey, B.B. King and Larry Harlow. Dion calls her a “violinist full of fire, passion, expression, and improvisation,” and admits to being “in awe of what she can do.”

Maggie Rose has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry more than 50 times, though she is not wedded to the country format, exploring soul music and beyond. Dion calls her “A grand master of country, soul, and R&B,” and admits, “I had to have her on this album.”

Sue Foley has released 16 albums over the course of her career is a two-time Blues Music Award winner. The Canadian-born, Austin-based guitarist/singer appears annually at Antone’s in Austin as part of The Jungle Show that includes Billy Gibbons, Jimmie Vaughan, Chris Layton and Mike Flanigin. “It’s a dream come true to work with her,” writes Dion, adding, “I felt like I was one of the Everly Brothers.”

Shemekia Copeland is the most celebrated contemporary female blues artists, having won eight Blues Music Awards, releasing 10 albums and being named Blues Artist of the Year in the annual DownBeat Critics Poll. The daughter of Texas blues legend Johnny Clyde Copeland has been nominated for five Grammy Awards. Dion has long been smitten and notes, “One conversation with Shemekia Copeland you fall in love with her. And this girl can sing! Girl’s got the blues in her blood.”

Joanne Shaw Taylor is the English singer and guitarist who was “discovered” at the age of 16 by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart. She is a two-time Female Vocalist of the Year at the British Blues Awards. Two years ago, Taylor recorded The Blues Album, produced by Joe Bonamassa for for Keeping The Blues Alive Records. Dion calls her a “one-woman British Invasion” and wrote that he’s long been “a crazed fan” of hers.

Girl Friends track listing
1. Soul Force with Susan Tedeschi
2. I Aim To Please with Danielle Nicole
3. Stop Drop And Roll with Valerie Tyson
4. Do Ladies Get The Blues with Christine Ohlman and Debbie Davis
5. An American Hero with Carlene Carter
6. Don’t You Want A Man Like Me with Rory Block
7. Sugar Daddy with Christine Ohlman
8. Endless Highway with Randi Fishenfeld
9. I Got Wise with Maggie Rose
10. Hey Suzy with Sue Foley
11. Mama Said with Shemekia Copeland
12. Just Like That with Joanne Shaw Taylor

All songs written by Dion Dimucci and Mike Aquilina except #10 written by Dion Dimucci and Scott Kempner