Essay / Misc.

Lost Dogs Bark the Nicene Creed in San Bernardino

There’s a band called The Lost Dogs who just finished up a tour in support of their latest album, The Lost Cabin and the Mystery Trees, with a couple of shows in southern California. I caught their San Bernardino show on Saturday night at a Community Church. About 125 people showed up, many of them there to support the mission trip that this concert was serving as a fundraiser for. I couldn’t help wondering what some of the senior citizens were thinking about during the screaming guitar moments, but the Lost Dogs play such a wide range of music that I’m sure there was something there for everybody. And for those with ears to hear, we lucky few superfans in the audience, we got some of the best music being made these days from a group like no other.

The Lost Dogs are veteran musicians who each have their own bands and/or solo careers, but who come together to form a super-group with so much talent that it’s just sloshing around the stage. Never mind the hundreds of songs from their bands of origin, they’ve been working together as the Lost Dogs for so long now (since 1992) that they’ve got a deep catalog of classics to draw from. And on top of that, their music sounds ancient the minute it’s made: most of their work tends toward the deeply traditional sounds of Americana, folk, country, roots-rock, blues, and other forms so primal that they wheeze history and bleed heritage. There’s a river of music that runs through American history, and it occasionally splashes out into the pop consciousness in something like the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, or Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger sessions. But the Lost Dogs are permanent residents on the banks of that river, and they are doing their strongest work right now.

Terry Taylor (of the band Daniel Amos), Mike Roe (the 77s), and Derri Daugherty (The Choir) have spent the last few albums carefully calibrating their voices and styles into a heatbreakingly beautiful unified sound. Roe always kind of sang like his own guitar, and Daugherty’s apparently effortless singing voice is too sweet to be human. So when they start weaving their styles together, usually in a song written by Terry Taylor (THE GREATEST LIVING SINGER-SONGWRITER, A NATIONAL TREASURE, A LIVING LEGEND, A SUPERCREATIVE DYNAMO GENIUS and if you don’t appreciate his music you will only lower my opinion of you), something special is going on. A few lines into the first song, a little girl three seats down the pew asked aloud, “They all have the same voice?”

On this album and tour, they’ve added percussionist Steve Hindalong as the offical fourth dog. Hindalong brings a lot to the sound. His solid drumming is unobtrusive and conventional when it needs to be, but deviates nicely from the recorded versions on several songs. He raises the noise level on the rockers and adds a punch line to the funny songs, but he really shines in the sparse, atmospheric songs like “No Room for Us,” where he pulled out an assortment of bells and rattles to haunt the edges of the song, without seeming gimmicky. His well-placed background vocals (especially when harmonizing with Derri) add another layer behind the front-Dogs’ wall of sound, and then there’s his harmonica.

The guys in the Lost Dogs have managed to survive the weird evangelical underworld of Christian music for decades now without sacrificing artistic integrity, and their coping mechanisms have included campiness and ironic distancing. Terry Taylor and Mike Roe repeatedly lapsed into strangely hilarious schticks about “throne checks” and “rapture practice.” Terry recommended buying multiple copies of their CDs to use for witnessing during the tribulation, but quickly corrected himself when he realized that was the wrong theological rationale to use in a pre-trib church. In an attempt to get back on top of the gospel play-lists, the guys in the band are considering changing their names to more edifying alternatives: Terry Taylor to Terry Testament, Mike Roe to Mike Roemans, Derri Daugherty to Derri Deuteronomy, and Steve Hindalong to Steve Whore-of-Babylon (still working on that last one).

I can’t account for the ability that the Dogs have to make a smooth transition from those shenanigans to punch-in-the-gut spiritual songs that verge on mystical awareness. Much credit has to go to Terry Taylor’s lyrical craftsmanship, and the profound body of work he’s produced over the course of his career. But the Lost Dogs have everything working in their favor on this latest album, and it’s the seamless teamwork from strong individual talents that sets them apart from the pack.

Set List:

Wild Ride
If You Want To
A Certain Love
Broken Like Brooklyn
Devil’s Elbow
Rocky Mountain Mines
If You Loved Here, You’d Be Home By Now
Bad Indigestion
No Room For Us
Crushing Hand
Blessing in Disguise
That’s Where Jesus Is
Eleanor, It’s Raining Now
Imagine That
Ain’t Gonna Fight It

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