Country singer Danny Harper has released a new CD that is sure to end up in the Christmas stockings of his many fans Down East.
“It’s Who I Am” is the culmination of a year’s work and follows on the heels of “For the Love of Country,” which Harper released at the end of last year.
For “It’s Who I Am,” Harper gathered some of the area’s best musicians and brought them together in the studio of Andrew Clifford of Main Street Music Studios in Bangor. It’s basically the same team that worked on “For the Love of Country.” As good as that CD was, the songwriting, arrangements and production values are even better on “It’s Who I Am,” Harper said in a recent interview.
“I think this is the next level up,” he said.
The release of the 11-song CD follows a year of what Harper said was his most prolific period as a songwriter.
“I have enough songs for three more CDs,” he said. “It’s nice to have that pool to draw from.”
“It’s Who I Am” kicks off with the autobiographical “An Alan Jackson Merle Haggard Wanna Be,” an up-tempo tune about leading a band, packing the local roadhouse with dedicated fans and “proving my point that I’m not over the hill.”
Harper began performing locally while a teenager and later became a mainstay of Maine country music, touring regionally and opening for a number of nationally known country stars. In the late 1980s, he recorded two albums in Nashville. Harper put his musical career on hold in 1993 following a family tragedy. He gave notice of his comeback with a 2004 CD, “One More Time.”
The themes the Tremont musician explores on “It’s Who I Am” are those of traditional country music: love, lost and found; patriotism and Jesus.
Both sides of romance are poignantly portrayed in “Would You Believe Me” and “When He Left This Time.” Both are duets with Kayla Wass, who also contributes background vocals on the CD. Wass, who left Maine for the Music City, flew in for the weekend for a recording session.
“She nailed them both,” Harper said of the duets. “She’s a talented girl.”
“Wreaths Across America” is a tribute to organizers of the annual convoy from Harrington to Arlington National Cemetery to lay wreaths on veteran’s graves “paying tribute to the fallen who sacrificed to keep us free.”
Harper’s travels to Lincoln and Millinocket, paper mill towns that have fallen on hard times, inspired the song “Mill Town USA.”
“That song came quickly; I wrote it in 10 minutes,” Harper said.
The song laments the closing of a mill and the rippling effects it has on the economy. Here, Harper points a finger at Washington D.C. and the NAFTA bill for “shipping our good jobs away.”
The strength in dealing with life’s challenges found through religion is the topic of “The Promise.” In a spoken word chorus reminiscent of 1950s country gospel tunes, Harper tells of an elderly couple awaiting their heavenly reward for their earthly travails as “written in the promise Jesus made.”
“It’s Who I Am” also includes a remake of Harper’s “Uncle Clyde,” a song from one of his Nashville albums.
“It’s my signature song,” Harper said.
The update of the song about Harper’s uncle, who some would consider a ne’er-do-well, sounds more spontaneous than the original, Harper said.
“I think we captured that live element,” he said.
Backing Harper on the CD are guitarist Kevin Overlock, bassists Buzz Overlock and Bob Roman, steel guitarists Dana Flood and Fred “Tommy” Thompson, drummer Decran Gulesian and pianist Chris Fyfe.
The CD is available at Gott’s Store and Carroll Drug Store in Southwest Harbor, Paradis True Value in Bar Harbor, Friends and Family Market in Ellsworth and Northern Kingdom Music in Bangor. Copies also can be purchased online at CD Baby or at dannyharper.com.
One listen to “It’s Who I Am” should have Harper’s fans agreeing with his assessment that he’s “not over the hill.”