Indiana Music: Catching up with Frank Dean

Want some attitude with your country rock? Indianapolis-based (well, Franklin, to be correct) songwriter, bandleader and longtime Hoosier Americana roots musician Frank Dean has led that pack of candidates for nearly 30 years.

He plays from the gut and heart as well as any musician, and has proven he will do what he wants, much in the way a Waylon or Merle or Hank Sr. might. Roots rock spun with snarly attitude. His influential bands Blue DeVille and Hillbilly Central gave way to Sindacato, and the most popular section of his career.

Ten years as the leader of that brilliant bluegrass/country/roots rock band supplied Dean the highs (album of the Year for Logan County from both the Indianapolis Star and NUVO; touring with his peer/heroes like Dwight Yoakam, Ralph Stanley, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury and Sam Bush), and the lows (the breakup of the same band after parting ways with longtime friend Gary Wasson; some critics who incorrectly thought the West Virginia-born Dean was a rocker selling out to play bluegrass)

His new band, The Snakehandlers, shifts Dean into a blues-based rock band. Their debut album, released earlier this year, was produced by Eric Lee Johnson at Indianapolis’ The Pop Machine studios. Rock Plus Roll, according to Marc Allen’s review from April in NUVO “leaves you feeling like you stumbled into a roadside bar and discovered an authentic, gritty blues band. You can taste the beer, smell the cigarettes, picture the packed dance floor.”

ROB: How’s the Indianapolis music scene these days for guy like you?
Frank Dean: I don’t have much good to say about the Indy Music Scene. Not that I ever have and that’s always hurt me financially, but it’s the truth. Clubs want free music with no effort or cost to them. They think putting you on their website page is promotion. And even if you have a bar that really digs you, they can’t book you because they signed a contract with a booking agent that only books the people they have on roster. We’ve had clubs tell us how much they dig us but they’re under contract with “you know who”. The Booking Nazis. It’s Miracle Whip on white toast. They’ll go too far with that crap someday. Everything has consequences. Luckily, I’m at the place in my life where ass kissing is not gonna happen. Not that I was ever much for that.

ROB: Any new music in your future?
FD: Always writing, it’s still my number one thing. I’ll have an acoustic solo recording coming out in fall. It’s called “Antique Finish. A very quiet and personal record.

ROB: What do you have planned that excites you after so many years of playing music?
FD: This spring and summer is pretty dedicated to The Snakehandlers and promoting our new CD. Music is always exciting to me. And in the Snakehandlers, the audience has a lot of fun and of course, girls dance. Which is what rock and roll has always really been about.

ROB: What have you been listening to recently?
FD: I really like a lot of what I hear from young writers & singers. But I have to search them out because I’m betting you don’t hear them on the radio. How long can you listen to the freakin’ Eagles anyway?

ROB: When you record, how do you do it?
FD: Studio always. You can’t make the recording at home that you can in a studio. And you need other points of views from folks. A producer’s first and most important job (and I’ve produced dozens) is to save an artist from themselves.

ROB: What’s the next year hold for Frank Dean?
FD: I can’t sit still – never could. I’ve got a few production gigs coming. And I’m talking to Andra Faye about producing a CD for her. Let Alligator Records realize what they let slip through their hands. They had the closest thing to Etta James under contract and did nothing. If this happens, it’ll be killer.

ROB:Anything we forgot?
FD: Music is the best thing this world has going for it so we should stop prostituting it with this Idol/X Factor crap. It’s vulgar and one more step in the dumbing down of America.

May 21 Acoustic Snakes at Jefferson St. Pub in Franklin – 7pm
June 10 Slippery Noodle Inn 9:45pm
June 24 Cool Creek Music Concert – 7:00 p.m.
see performance schedule

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