Not just another Dylan

by Brianna Riplinger

Be careful with those Dylan comparisons. Not that local rocker-folkster Martin Devaney won’t welcome it a bit (“I could do worse,” he jokes). Devaney is “watching” himself these days. He’s making sure he doesn’t mention Dylan’s name too much or talk about how much he loves the sound of Blonde on Blonde.

It’s been historically dangerous for artists to be linked to Bob Dylan. Trying to measure up to such a cultural and musical icon puts ridiculous and ominous pressure on the musician-Devaney calls it the “New Dylan Curse.” Recent write-ups in the Pioneer Press and City Pages have both made references and specific comparisons to Dylan. Sure, there are the unavoidable similarities-in appearance: the pale skin, messy dark hair, blue eyes; and musically: the love for word-cramming and clever rhyming in songs. But, personality-wise, Devaney and Dylan are nothing alike. Devaney is friendly, accessible and conversationally coherent. He’s got a dry, agreeable sense of humor and displays a vast and passionate knowledge of music in a modest and unassuming way-often excitedly throwing in bits of music news or trivia into the conversation.

“Paul Westerberg’s solo album is coming out in April! It’s a double album! Did you know about this?” exclaims Devaney, interrupting himself while talking about his own new album.

Devaney, 21, is an ardent music fanatic. A big fan of the Replacements, Wilco and Lucinda Williams-he’s not ashamed to point out influences in certain songs or even admit specific emulation. (Devaney cites “New York Serenade”-era Bruce Springsteen and Wilco’s Being There as direct influences for his second album.)

Devaney began his own musical career in high school, playing saxophone for local hip-hop group Heiruspecs. After two and a half years with Heiruspecs, Devaney finally picked up a guitar and started writing his own songs at age 18, during his first year of college at the U of M.

“I was a saxophone player, but I always wanted to be in a rock band and sing, even though I’m not a singer-I didn’t know if I could do that or not,” says Devaney. “I got a guitar as a vehicle to write songs my first year of college, in the dorms. I was not fitting in socially, not liking it. I spent a lot of time by myself, learning to play guitar and writing songs.”

Those first months of playing guitar and writing made an impact on Devaney like nothing else had.

“That’s when I realized that it was for real. I get all these ideas and plans-some of them pan out, some of them don’t. Like, I tried to write a novel about a year ago. I got about forty pages into it and pssh-it was stupid,” says Devaney. “[Writing music] is something that became more and more intense for me. It went from being something that I wanted to do to something that I had to do.”

Devaney’s first album, Whatever That Is, was released in January 2001 and recorded for a mere $370. Devaney saved the money for the album from tips and wages at his part-time coffee shop job. The album was recorded with friends from Heiruspecs: Josh Peterson on lead guitar, Sean McPherson on bass and Kevin Hunt on drums. Since the first album, Devaney and his band have been performing regularly at venues like the Dinkytowner, the 400 Bar and various coffee shops in the Twin Cities and Wisconsin.

Devaney and the band just finished recording their new album (due out in March), titled Somebody, Somewhere. Some of the songs off the new album are just two months old, but most of them were written two years ago. Recorded with producer Tom Herbers in three 15-hour days at Third Ear Studios in Dinkytown, Devaney describes Somebody, Somewhere as “organic” and notes how performing for the past year has strengthened the band and energized the older songs on the album.

“The first album was [recorded in] two days; spit into a microphone and get out. This [album] was pretty much the same thing only more care taken with it,” says Devaney. “It’s simple and loose and I feel like there’s a lot more originality on this record-also I’m really proud of the performances by the band.”

Martin Devaney plays Friday at the 400 Bar (400 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., MN 55454. 612-332-2903). G. Ningroy and Toast & Jam open. 8 p.m. $5. 21+.