Americana Singer Songwriter Hope Dunbar to Release 'Three Black Crows' in October
Nebraska-based Americana-country-folk singer-songwriter Hope Dunbar is set to release her new album, Three Black Crows, on October 6, 2017. Produced by Emily White, the album was recorded at Little School Street Studio in Chicago, with Rachael Moore assuming mixing duties in Nashville. The album is a masterful overlay of gentle acoustic textures, emotional turbulence, and philosophical insight. Dunbar is a pioneer of the New American Prairie Style - the incarnation of Americana and country-folk that is staking claim under a big sky, shouting at the north wind, and digging in and refusing to leave.
"These songs are more honest than what I've done in the past," Dunbar says. "They're based on real-life people I see every day. In a small town, you get real close to your neighbors. You hear about moms and dads who lost a son you didn't even know they had because you weren't there when they died. Their loss will never go away but they're living with it. They keep going because they have to. If anybody needs a song, it's these people."
Dunbar's songs live on two planes simultaneously. One describes the everyday routines to which we all eventually surrender. The other zooms in on the people who move through their habitual rituals. Her target is the sorrow from which they've learned to hide but can never escape. ("The victim didn't know what hit him..." "She keeps going 'cause she has to..." "We can't keep these clocks from ticking..." "Jenny don't drink a drop but her husband does...") And -- perhaps her greatest achievement -- she reconciles the two, time and again, with resignation (on "Better Than Ever," which also features vocals from Darrell Scott) or fury (on "Revolver") or even empathy for the well-intentioned but alarmingly clueless lover (on "Jeneane").
Sometimes a few words spin a narrative suddenly into unexpected directions. With just the phrase, "I sighed," "Living After Losing" veers from unspeakable tragedy to the necessity of moving on. After describing a horrific murder in "The Shooter," she contemplates the fate of the victim and horror of the witness. And then she whispers, "I'm more like the shooter." Taken together, these songs and the others from her new album, Three Black Crows, confirm that Dunbar is a singer-songwriter like none other.
Growing up in Mission Viejo, California, she shied away from the beach culture that predominated. Her parents enjoyed hosting foreign exchange students; their languages, accents, and songs whetted Dunbar's curiosity about unfamiliar cultures. Six months spent in Paraguay during high school stimulated her interest in writing as she journaled about her experiences, while Dunbar's fascination with travel led her to enroll at Valparaiso University, halfway across the country. She met and married her husband there and moved with him to a small town in Iowa, where he had been appointed to minister at a Lutheran church. She started singing folk songs with a new friend, at public libraries, farmer's markets and fairs.
The wildfire need to write hit her, and she began penning her own songs, and the prairie of her current hometown of Utica, Nebraska (population 800) is perfect for her writing process. "I really enjoy the empty space," she says. "There's no noise where I live in Utica that can get in the way of what my brain wants to write about."
Drawing from Simon & Garfunkel, Indigo Girls, Patty Griffin, Nanci Griffith, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Lori McKenna, and other inspirations, she developed a distinctive perspective, musically and lyrically. Her debut solo EP, Woman Like Me, came out in 2013. In 2014, as a participant in the "RealWomenRealSongs" project, she wrote 52 songs, one per week. The following year, Dunbar recorded an EP, The End Of Wanting, and was a finalist at the Kerrville New Folk Festival. She took second place in American Songwriter magazine's lyrics contest early in 2017 with her song "We Want." She also performs in the ukulele trio, Star Belle.
Dunbar is planning to play live in support of her new album. In the past, she has shared stages with Darrell Scott, Richard Shindell, and Tom Paxton, among others. Confirmed tour dates are listed below and more will be announced soon.
Hope Dunbar Tour Schedule:
August 23 - Utica Senior Center, Utica, NE (solo show)
August 26 - Red Path Gallery, Seward, NE (solo show)
September 1 - Crescent Moon Coffee, Lincoln, NE (solo show)
September 8 - Swallow Hill Music, Denver, CO (Star Belle show w/Brewer and Shipley)
September 9 - Pioneer Days, Bayard, NE (Star Belle show)