Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters // All Damn Day
Southern Indiana musician Nick Dittmeier finds a needed reprieve from the looming presence of loss in his life with his new record All Damn Day (due October 26th). Fronting Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters, the singer-songwriter lingers on the omniscient Grim Reaper in a way that’s hopeful and uplifting as it is forlorn, harkening to the works of such literary giants as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Roald Dahl and Mark Twain.
“I look at this record as a continuation of a lot of storytelling by these writers. Their themes touch on a lot of forgotten people, working class people and characters that have impossible situations in front of them,” says Dittmeier, who also draws heavily upon the work of Frank Bill, Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonnegut and Daniel Woodrall. His perceptiveness in his craft is refreshing and has so far earned him stage slots with the likes of Cody Jinks, John Prine, Turnpike Troubadours, Justin Townes Earle, The Mavericks and several others.
Suffice it to say, he needed this cathartic musical release to come to terms with a handful of challenging life events. “I went through a lot of deaths when I was starting to record this album,” he says. “So, a lot of the songs touch on people dying, something I normally wouldn’t have done.” His mother-in-law succumbed to an aggressive form of cancer, and he honors her life and homestead on the exceptional “Two Faded Carnations,” written during a lonesome drive from Salem to Scottsburg, Indiana, nestled deep within Scott County. The stretch of blacktop carves its way through ten miles of soy and corn fields, as so much of the Heartland does. The breathtaking beauty of the drive served to reinvigorate Dittmeier and his songwriting.
Dittmeier often looks to his roots and turns tragic circumstances into poetic replenishment. “We were young and wild / Rolling with the times / We put a gun upside your head so we could be partners in crime,” he sings, the flowering and savory-sweet production a deceiving tilt against the underlying misfortune. “Roulette caught up with us / Robbery that went wrong / Well, I might misheard my brother / Most likely our luck ran gone…”
On the same day his mother-in-law was told she would no longer treated for cancer, his great grandmother passed away, and his beloved dog died inexplicably in its sleep. Channeling the pain of these events, Dittmeier pours his all into the album’s 10 songs as he finds the strength to move ahead, mature and endure. This approach hammers like nails into freshly-cut lumber and lends itself well to his roots-rock style of songwriting.
Tucked away in a rural Indiana farmhouse alongside Indianapolis-based producers Jason McCulley (Josh Kaufman, Milbranch String Theory) and Ryan Koch (The New Etiquette, J. Elliott, Kate Lamont), Dittmeier was able to focus his energy while writing and recording these tunes with minimal distraction. Surrounded by nothing but sunny cornfields, he broke “down the flow of sentences and certain kinds of prose,” he says. “There are some unconventional song forms within the record.”
All Damn Day was shaped over the course of nine months and gushes with bigger, brighter sounds and aspirations for radio play. That’s not to say Dittmeier abandons his previous work’s touches; his lyrics remain firmly planted in employing such literary devices as imagery, metaphors/similes and tone to coax the listener into his little corner of the world. “Walking on Water” ricochets from the past to the present, as he recounts a hometown man who once fell into the Ohio River in the dead of winter. “Water commerce is still very present. My hometown has had the same barge company for almost 200 years. In my early 20s, I briefly worked as a longshoreman. While on the barge, there’s a three-foot walking space of ice. This worker fell in the river…and he lived.”
Truth be told, Dittmeier thrives on keeping the legacy of his family intact on the banks of the Ohio in a town called Jeffersonville, Indiana, where five generations have settled to raise families and make a living. He straddles the line between classic and contemporary, a leveling-up that only makes sense for a full-time working musician itching for what’s next.
As with most artists, Dittmeier played in various bands over the years but embarked on a solo endeavor four or five years ago, along with two EPs, 2013’s Extra Better and 2014’s Light of Day. Pulling in numerous players, the “& the Sawdusters” was tacked on for the band’s debut full-length, 2016’s Midwest Heart / Southern Blues. A bit of lineup reconfiguring then took place, furthering the frontman’s commitment to developing the kind of sound, feel and authenticity the band needed.
With All Damn Day, Dittmeier embraces the role of a storyteller with this collection of ten deeply introspective character sketches. He takes on each mantle so convincingly, it is often difficult to separate Dittmeier the person and Dittmeier the artist. But that’s the allotment most singer-songwriters of his caliber bear. From “Head to Rest” to “I Can’t Go Home” to “City of God,” a meditation on the 1937 flood of the Ohio River, the album has a remarkable presence that commands multiple listens.
“Heartland rock riffage meets classic country storytelling.” – Wide Open Country
“A backwoods howl akin to John Fogerty and a supercharged Skynyrd rock boogie.” – Glide Magazine
“Themes touch on a lot of forgotten people, working-class people and characters that have impossible situations in front of them.” Americana UK
“One artist that has consistently been releasing good music.” – Never Nervous
“An enjoyable southern country rock romp, offering a varied selection of lively toe-tapping songs and melodic, reflective pieces.” Americana UK