DICKIE is a contrast in design. To pair a mid-forties gray-mopped “hang-it-up-already” pop songwriter and a striking mid-twenties classically trained violinist is simply a formula for deserved obscurity. But in practice, the balance proves a brilliant alliance.
Veteran tunesmith Dick Prall has taken his wares and shared them with violinist Kristina Priceman to create a collection of dark, gorgeous, and oft-times moony sing-alongs. The self-titled record comes in like a bellowing newborn, but settles into a pace of dynamic ebb and flow as it ages and ends with a Roy Orbison-styled recount of hopeful love that never bleeds into the saccharine.
Dick has a long history of fashioning accessible, viral tunes and inserting them with lilting melodies. It started with his 1998 release Somewhere About Here, prompting No Depression to dub his debut “a track-by-track monster.” His follow-up record, Dressing Up the Failure, under the moniker ‘Starch Martins,’ brought performances with Jon Brion, Mike Doughty, and Justin Townes Earle. Fizzlebuzzie gained further national and international attention with features in such media outlets as NME.com and Performing Songwriter, who claimed the record “a box of chocolates for your ears.” The beautifully alarming and infectious Weightless with its single “The Cornflakes Song,” featuring Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, garnered radio spins across the country. It also landed a spot on Paste Magazine’s CD compilation for their 2007 year-end issue. Popmatters.com weighed in on the album adding “(he) crafts fault-free melodies that make the listener very eager to find out what’s around the corner.” On the self-produced Inc. EP, Prall fused lush vocals with straightforward guitars to assemble a quintet of oddly pop-fueled gems. His final “pre-DICKIE” venture was his studio collaboration with Pat Sansone (Wilco, Autumn Defense), producing three whip-smart singles that were golden online giveaways.
Around the time a twenty-five-year old Prall began teaching himself guitar, a five-year-old Priceman started her classical training on violin. Winning competitions and soloing with orchestras brought her to Peck School of the Arts in Milwaukee, WI where as a freshman she snuck off to begin a secret touring life as a rock musician. Nine years on the road has taken her around the world sharing stages and performing with the likes of Jackson Browne, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. What pulls her into the DICKIE pairing is that she’s not simply providing texture – she’s an integral lead instrument who fills the landscape with meticulously clever parts and ensures that every note resonates the author’s intent.
This solid effort is a matching of Prall’s personal experience with Priceman’s ability to emphasize the storylines with surgical beauty. He lived them, and she punctuates those truths. Her string arrangements – even her voice – wrap around his biographical narrative as endearing support to the misfortune he so attractively delivers.
The contrasts are certainly apparent on the surface of the DICKIE partnership, but underneath are where the strengths dwell and their first offering is a resounding testament to this compelling union.