by Meredith Cristiano,The Kent County Daily Times,2/17/97 |
The car bumps along a sleepy dirt road and comes to a stop just outside a cedar cabin. Inside, you marvel at the shiny beams of wood and brass trimmed fireplace, Native American blankets and remarkable still photographs.
A sliding door to the deck renders a delicate, Currier and Ives view Big River, just at Coventry's southern edge. With J. Dustin Sommers, you quickly learn to anticipate and relish the unexpected. A young, self-proclaimed "Swamp Yankee" with proclivity for some mean delta blues, a native Conventry son who happens to be friends with some very prominent southerners-namely, the Allman Brothers Band.
Sommers has done a lot of living and has a barrelful of stories to prove it.
To be welcomed into his home is to enter a completely different world, one hard to leave. The odyssey began decades ago, when Sommers was just a kid hanging around his dad's bar, the Riverside, long since burned down. On Sunday mornings, "Dusty" (as he likes to be known) played instruments left there from previous nights, serenading hungover patrons with a ten-year-olds romp on the pedel steel guitar that sounded more like "cats in heat on the back fence on a hot July night," he chuckles.
Sommers took up guitar at the age of 7, but found it boring. And then he saw Ringo. "He was sitting down, and he didn't have to learn any chords," Sommers remembers of the Beatles drummer. "I said That's for me!"
So Dusty played in the High School marching band and the string of teenage garage bands that seems almost prerequisite these days. We'd play old Rhode Island Auditorium, he says, "opening for Iron Butterfly and Ultimate Spinach".
Then the avid surfer ("I was a real hot dog, not scared of anything") found his way backstage at the Newport Blues Festival in the 1965, meeting B.B. King , Lightning Hopkins, and one of his heroes, Son House. These began a lifelong affair with the blues. "To me, blues is not so much a style as much as a philosophy, a way of life." Sommers muses. A chance encounter with the Allman Brothers at the Boston Tea Party in 1969, led him to strong bonds of friendship with the band and even more powerful desire to play music his way. "Just to be playing old blues at 3 in the morning in a hotel room with Gregg...." He trails off, lost in the memory.
He plans a CD/Autobiography release through the internet this spring (He can be reached at JDustinSommers@email.msn.com ) and his Idlewild East production company was elected to membership in ASCAP. Sommers regularly hosts weekend jams with his friends in Coventry"s Regular Joe as well as local stars Paul Geremia, Dan Morretti, and John"Crawlin Snake" Mac, "adding the spice" with his dobro and harmonica to the mixture of blues, rock, and jazz in his new CD to be released in the late Spring of 2001.
In the meantime, Dusty Sommers is content to watch snow fall on the river, playing his guitars to birds and his beloved dogs. In his soulful, passionate music he has found both a means and an end. "On the road of life, there are rest stops." he says, closing his eyes while the eerie sound of a slide somehow seems to harmonize perfectly with the natural beauty outside. Once in this world its almost impossible to walk away.