Chris Denny and the Natives
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Chris Denny and the Natives

Band Americana Country


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"Christopher Denny: 'Heart's On Fire'"

November 13, 2007 - With a worn but graceful voice, Christopher Denny sings as though he's lived through more than the average 23 year old. The Little Rock, Ark. musician spent some time in Dallas and Chicago, playing sidewalks and bars, while writing powerful songs that recall traditional folk and Americana. But his distinctive and strong voice sets him apart from most singer songwriters.

Denny's album, Age Old Hunger, is a refreshing take on Southern honky-tonk. While his songs express a rural setting, his voice and writing owe much to both Roy Orbison and Jeff Buckley. Denny's band, the Old Soles, supports his vocals with crisp, full-on gospel instrumentation. On the opening bars to "Gypsy into a Carpenter" Denny lures listeners with an incredibly captivating voice, while Marcus Lowe and Chris Atwood soon follow with solid drums and a warm organ tones. "Time" presents a simple melody and sincere lyrics about learning and moving on.

Denny's album, released on 00:02:59 Records, has caught the attention of a few major label executives. He recently met with Columbia Records executive Rick Rubin to talk about his music. But Denny is trying to stay grounded. He tells Little Rock magazine Localist, "You have to be a little skeptical with big labels now, because they're a little desperate."
- NPR / Second Stage

"Album Review: Christopher Denny "Age Old Hunger" 7.4"

Christopher Denny is off in a world of his own, which some might call Arkansas and others might call country. In promo photos, he sports a soul patch and overalls. On his debut album, Age Old Hunger, he writes songs about westbound trains and hearts on fire and feeling all burned up inside, which he sings in a voice pitched somewhere between the winnowy whine of Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the more forceful yodel of Slim Whitman. His is a distinctive instrument that would sound right at home on a low-signal Ozark radio station 40 or 50 years ago, but sounds out of time and out of place in the here and now-- such that his voice may prove an insurmountable hurtle for many listeners. Denny acknowledges these influences and others: He credits his teenage discovery of Lefty Frizzell and Hank Thompson with inspiring him to write songs, and on Age Old Hunger he covers popular, some might say obvious songs by Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash. To his credit, however, he never comes across as a nostalgia act, which for this genre would be excruciating. Rather, he is content to sound like he sounds.

That he can make all these elements work so well-- and on a debut, no less-- is a considerable accomplishment. It helps that his backing band, the Old Soles, aren't afraid to rough his songs up a little. With Denny leading on guitar and harmonica, the rhythm section of Chris Atwood and Marcus Lowe give these songs backbone, while Robbie Crowell adds flourishes of Hammond and barrelhouse piano. They can hold back on a ballad like "The Stars Above and My Heart in Your Hands" or cut loose on romps like the instrumental "Goin' Home" and the ecstatic "Time". They quicken the tempo on Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone", making it slightly more upbeat, but Denny's vocals still sell the misery and loneliness. They take fewer liberties with Kris Kristofferson's "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)": The Old Soles make the song sound like an unmade bed while Denny delivers a gently soulful performance that suggests an intuitive understanding of the lyrics as well as perhaps a very personal history with them.

Little Rock is far enough removed from any other scene-- Memphis is two boring hours down I-40, Dallas and Jackson even further-- that an artist like Denny can flourish in relative solitude, developing his own sounds and styles apart from everyone else. Granted, technology now allows the dissemination of all sorts of music to every corner of the country, including the foothills of the Ozarks, blurring the regional distinctions that once defined Denny's heroes. Nevertheless, he comes across as an industry outsider, not just in the way he sings but even in the way his songwriting makes virtues of southern simplicity and downhome directness.

Denny flirts with misogyny on the evil woman blues "Gypsy Into a Carpenter", whose accusations and condemnations sound jarrring on Age Old Hunger, especially for an album opener. But he quickly rights himself. On "All Burned Up" and "Heart's on Fire", he teases nuance from the pain of romantic uncertainty. "When am I gonna realize I realize I really, truly do care?" he sings on "When Am I Gonna Realize?" "When will I realize love is right here?" "Westbound Train" is a gospel-stoked love song in which Denny tenderly testifies to love's stabilizing power. When the westbound train he and his lover are riding stops near where he once lived, he remarks, "That place don't feel much like home anymore/ Darling, you feel much more like home to me." The song's Dylanesque cadence and straightforward sentiment, like the rest of Age Old Hunger, sound sincere and even daring.

— Stephen M. Deusner, October 5, 2007
- Pitchfork Media

"The Real Thing"

At 23, Little Rock’s Christopher Denny has had a harder life than most. His childhood was unbelievably trying (he’s asked us not to print the details). A former addict, he spent time in jail. The one-time busker—who worked sidewalks in Dallas and Chicago—is unequivocally the real article, a guy who’s been broken, one who stands on shaky emotional ground wholly in awe of music, the inner peace it’s given him and its potential to better people’s lives. All that said, what will strike you the most is the sweet country warble in which he sings. Most immediately recalling Jimmie Dale Gilmore, it leaves Denny sounding plucked from another era, when Johnny Cash was still high on pills and America wasn’t one big strip mall. With any justice, his debut, Age Old Hunger (00:02:59 Records), will rock juxeboxes from the Lower East Side to Little Rock for generations to come. Says Denny: “Ya know, I had a pretty weird childhood, but music made me realize that I have some worth. It’s given me some hope in this world." - Relix

"The 10 Best Bands We Discovered at CMJ 2009"

We’ve been hearing about Chris Denny for a long while now, but it took seeing him live for his warbling country crooning to take hold. His voice sounds like something that should have first been recorded on a slate record, but the vintage sound pairs beautifully with unadulterated electric guitar and organ. - Josh Jackson - Paste Magazine


"Age Old Hunger" released 2007



You can hear the ancient tug of gospel music in Christopher Denny's tunes: the ascending melodies, the swaying tempos, and the occasional bit of old-school organ. After all, he first learned to sing in church. Yet this is hardly holy music: Infused with a world-weariness that somehow never curdles into cynicism, Denny's songs work like dispatches from the dark side.

While there's no question that Age Old Hunger, his 11-song debut, showcases a strong new songwriting talent, there's something you'll notice even before Denny's way with words: his voice. Singing in a high, trembling and almost pained tone, his voice has a timeless quality that sounds as if he could have been transplanted from another era.
"My singing voice is different from my speaking voice," Denny admits, but that's because singing serves a different function than speaking. In "The Stars Above And My Heart In Your Hands," one of the album's most stripped-down numbers, Denny illuminates the difference, using sound to reveal what words cannot.

Denny picked up his first guitar in church at age 14 and began writing songs. A revelation came at age 17, when he visited his great uncle. "I found this closet full of vinyl albums from guys like Lefty Frizzel and Hank Thompson. This stuff just blew me away; the emotion these guys would convey just by their voice was incredible." Soon afterwards, he wrote "Time" and felt he'd found his calling. After hearing a few of Denny's songs, his grandfather (also a musician) gave him a guitar, a hug and told him, "Son, you got a voice like I ain't never heard before."

The young singer-songwriter from Little Rock, Arkansas has experienced confusion, sorrow and heartbreak. He's battled addiction, served time in jail and faced abandonment at an early age. "I sometimes wonder if I draw drama to myself just to have something to write about it," he laughs.

But as he'll be the first to tell you, these trials and tribulations don't necessarily distinguish Denny as someone worthy of attention. What sets Denny apart is what he makes out of those troubles-namely, the gorgeously haunting songs on Age Old Hunger.

In the album, Denny brings the listener to a place where danger and melancholy run as hard and as fast as the old locomotive he describes in "Westbound Train." Denny has never been big on the idea of writing from the perspectives of different characters-he says these accounts come from his own life. This assertion is easy to trust in tunes like "All Burned Up," where Denny describes in vivid detail "the love that we used to share," or "Time," a young man's version of an old man's blues.

Following up on his 2007 release, “Age Old Hunger”, Denny and new band "the Natives" have recorded their follow up for Partisan Records and are ready to bring their mix of southern roots and gospel cries to any stage, barroom, patio or backyard that will entertain them.

These are songs and subjects that have been touched on before, yet Denny is able to evoke the subject manner in a way that is as unique as his voice. It’s honest, it’s real, and it’s what he has lived through in his 25 years and his only outlet of release and reprieve is to put these experiences out of his mind through song. These are worn tales which seem to come from a weary-eyed miner; tired and hungry, cold and dejected, but still full of hope.