California-based singer/songwriter and instrumentalist Danny Sandock is a “one-man band” who plays 12-string guitar, harmonica and sings vocals. On his newest disc, Breakin’ New Ground, he also picks up the bass guitar (on the lead-in). With a signature sound that includes Americana, blues and folk-rock, Sandock takes listeners on a musical mental road trip stopping occasionally to explore other themes.
This new Aardvark Records release includes twelve original songs written by Sandock. The album opener is the titular “Breaking New Ground”. This sets the stage for the work and features Nick Kirgo (slide and lead guitar) and co-engineer Barry Simon (drums).
It is followed by “Headin’ North to South Bend (Full Band Version)”. This is a parenthetical piece in which he is joined by a full band. It features Glenn Rexach on electric guitar. Kirgo handles dobro and bass and Simon is back on drums.
The song-stories continue with “Bottle Droppin’ Baby”. Sandock said: I wrote (this) about the baby upstairs a year ago when she was 1 and dropping her bottle in the middle of the night on wood floors and waking us up. (It) turned into a fun bar song.” Co-engineer Matt Simon is featured on drums along with Kirgo now playing both lead guitar and bass.
Then it’s back on the road as we head to “The Four Corners”. This one somehow seems vaguely reminiscent of early Bill Mumy. Tim Quarry is introduced on dobro and Rexach and Barry Simon return.
He detours again with “MLK, Inspired By Nelson Mandela” which is the perfect song for inclusion on a MLK Day music mix, (He even throws in a quick tip of his hat to the late John Lennon.) It’s one of the more basic folk tracks and includes Barry Simon on bongos, ‘egg” and tambourine.
The sixth selection is “Livin’ On Borrowed Time”. Not to be confused with the 2007 Puddle of Mudd song, this like all the rest is an original composition. They seem to have a lot of fun playing this one. It features Phil Ajjarapu on bass. Rexach and Matt Simon encore.
It’s time to turn in at the local truck stop with “Truck Drivers of America”. Sandock may have found an untapped audience with this one. How long has it been since you’ve heard a hit song about truckers? (Yeah, some of you weren’t even born yet when “Convoy” came out, huh? Google it.) Sandock is joined only by Paul Hilton on pedal steel guitar.
“When the Circus Came to Town” is another fun little song-story. Again Sandock is almost solo backed only by Kirgo on banjo. He goes solo on “Stay Together” which gives the track a real coffeehouse feel.
“Splitsville, U.S. of A.” has a retro feel to it. Rexach injects the track with a nice guitar solo and also contributes bass work. Matt Simon returns on drums.
As the album begins to wind down Sandock includes “Headin' North to South Bend (Bluegrass Version)” which in truth sounds as if it was the original version of the song. Kirgo encores on dobro and bass on this bluegrass take of a previous piece.
The closing cut. “Oldest Wannabe", is quite apropos to Sandock’s artistic efforts and in universal sense as well. It’s really a musical message to anyone who won’t give up on a dream. Sandock even sneaks in a sliver of Shakespeare. Quarry, Rexach and Barry Simon are all back to help wrap the record.
With a running time of over 39 minutes, Danny Sandock’s Breakin' New Ground offers a taste of this traveling troubadour’s tuneful tales. It’s a must for anyone who loves the underdog or just feels like the “Oldest Wannabe.”
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.