Thug of Love was Dirk Hamilton‘s fourth and (so far) last major label album and it makes a great title for a blog entry. Thug… wasn’t Dirk’s last album by any means. There have been at least ten more and the count keeps rising. But now, as then, too few people know about Dirk Hamilton and that includes readers of this website. If you know me personally, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me mention his name or play some of his recordings, but if you know me only through this website, you could only have seen his name on my “Favorite Links” page or noticed the single quote or my visit to a venue I associate with Dirk. No Road Trip or Oddment has involved Dirk himself though I guess it would have been technically possible.
I’ve been a huge fan since hearing Dirk’s first album at a friend’s house around 1977 but I’ve hardly ever seen him. I don’t believe he’s played in Cincinnati to this day. Dirk recalls doing a show in Dayton but that may have been before my conversion or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. In any case, the first time I ever saw Dirk was in December of 2000. That was a decade after his self imposed exile from recording ended and two after his drive to stardom veered off course. It was in San Antonio, Texas. My girlfriend Chris and I had flown into Austin where we would see a second show two nights later. Dirk was accompanied at both of these shows by the excellent guitarist (and just generally nice guy) Bradley Kopp. That’s Dirk, Chris, Bradley, and me in the photo from that first show in San Antonio. I assure you that, despite looking disgustingly uptight in the picture, I was enjoying the hell out of meeting my idol after twenty some years.
So, theoretically, I could have documented that trip on this website. The site existed but contained only that first Route 66 trip and a day trip to Dayton. I’m pretty sure I still thought of it as something temporary.
If I had documented it, a highlight of the trip would certainly have been something that happened at the show in Austin. With Bradley producing, Dirk had just completed recording a new CD. I knew of it and was quite disappointed to learn that it wasn’t yet available and wouldn’t be released until the end of January. Bummer, I thought. Missed it by that much. I’m pretty foggy on whether it was before or after the show or during a break between sets but at some point Dirk sat down beside me and slipped something my way under the table. Holy crap, I thought when I realized it was a copy of the unreleased SEXspringEVERYTHING. The disk had a plain white stick-on paper label and was in a bare-bones clam-shell case. I imagine it was created by Dirk or Bradley earlier that day. We had nothing to play it on until reaching home two nights later. The hour was late but there was no way I could sleep without hearing the entire CD. Of course, Dirk had played several of the new songs live but it was still a thrill to hear the studio versions and there were others that were completely new to us. I tried playing the CD just now after scanning it for the picture but no luck. The ten year old CD-R has simply faded to blank. But it sure was cool to listen to it back in 2000 and it still means a lot to me. It may now be nothing but a mute piece of plastic but it’s a very cool piece of plastic and I’m hanging on to it.
I’ve seen Dirk live once since then. It was less than a year later when I was visiting a friend in Dallas and Dirk was opening for someone at a coffee shop sort of place nearby. I’ve kept my library up to date with the new CDs and a concert DVD and there have been a couple of near misses but that night in Dallas in 2001 was the last time I’ve actually seen Dirk. That’s about to be remedied. Next Saturday I’ll see Dirk perform at a house concert in Jessup, Maryland. I’ll be there as part of a Road (partially railroad) Trip and expect to have a panel or two from the concert as part of the trip report. Somehow that fact seemed to justify making a blog entry out of ten year old events.
The show I’m attending in Jessup is one of a handful Dirk is doing in the eastern US. Friday’s concert at Tupelo Music Hall in New Hampshire was simulcast over the Internet. I watched, of course, and got a screen capture of Dirk and long time sideman Don Evans. I’d love to see Don but he won’t make it to Maryland.
I used phrases like “self imposed exile” and spoke of veering “off course” without elaborating. Bits and pieces of the Saga of Dirk can be found around the web but a very good and recent version is here.