Doug Spears
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Doug Spears

Orlando, Florida, United States | INDIE

Orlando, Florida, United States | INDIE
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter

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Fourth generation Floridian, Doug Spears, knows the traditions and customs of Florida as well as anyone and he shows it on his new CD, Welcome Home. From the swamps of North Florida to the beaches of Key West, Spears brings the sights, sounds, and even smells of Florida alive in these well written and performed songs. Doug is joined by a variety of musicians on Welcome Home which was exquisitely produced by Jason Thomas.

Moonshiners found the swampland to be a good place to hide their stills and the first cut, Yellow Butter Moon, celebrates their product. "Yellow butter moon shine down through me with a light so true. There's love and life in the burn and bite of that yellow butter moon." Lis Williamson plays a nifty clawhammer banjo along with Doug's guitar and Jason Thomas' fiddle. Rob Ickes' smooth slide kicks off Teppentine, a story about the men who distilled turpentine from the sap of pine trees. It was hot unpleasant work and much like the coal mines, the workers paid all their wages back to the company store. Spears is a storyteller of the first order. His descriptions are vivid and true.

There are so many first rate tracks on Welcome Home. Spears' songs are beautifully crafted with lush imagery and very singable melodies. Some of my favorites are A Mother's Tears about Florida native Lewis Powell who was hung as a co-conspirator with John Wilkes Booth and Banks of Old St Johns which features some very tasty acoustic guitar from Gabe Valla.

You don't have to be from Florida to enjoy and appreciate the excellent performances on Welcome Home. Stellar songwriting, perfect vocals, superb musicians and masterful production combine to create a rare album. This is not Margaritaville, it's a whole lot better. - Don Sechelski - The Muses Muse


By Chip Withrow - 11/19/05 - 08:15 PM EST

Doug Spears creates rustic tales, memorable characters, and vivid images, and he sets his lyrics to a warm, true folk sound. Many of his songs are about historical and rural Florida – not exactly the same state tourists picture.

His fine CD Truths and Lies is pure acoustic music. These homespun songs would work with just Spears’ guitar and vocals, so the players who join Spears are a bonus. The result is a disc that brings to mind a group of musician friends playing around a campfire or on the front porch of a farmhouse.

Spears’ songs might make the listener recall John Denver’s best work, but with one major difference – where Denver’s hits were often embellished by strings and other extras, Spears is ably backed by just acoustic string players. In particular, fiddler Alan Stowell shines throughout.

Truths and Lies kicks off with three songs about interesting people: “Mournful Eyes,” “Annie’s Chairs,” and “Banks of the Old St. John’s.” “St. John’s” and, later on, “A Mother’s Tears,” are the best of his character sketches.

Right away, “Mournful Eyes” showcases all that is good about this disc: Spears’ smooth, well-worn vocals backed by Stowell’s fiddle runs and Ally Smith’s harmonies in just the right places.

Spears steps out and rocks a bit on “Teppentine” and “Steam Train.” They are reminiscent of a bygone era both lyrically (“Teppentine” a field hand’s lament and “Steam Train” a ride on the rails circa 1901) and in their blend of blues and bluegrass.

The album includes some nice slow songs, too. “That Old Songwriter’s Gone” and “This Old House” are bittersweet, and “Thrift Shop” is fitting for a songwriter from a state full of them.

Truths and Lies is catchy the first time, particularly “Swimming Against the Tide” and “Mournful Eyes.” But because it has stories within the lyrics, and subtle yet stirring vocal and musical turns, Truth and Lies is an album that gets better with repeated listens

- The Muse's Muse


11/17/05

By Bob Whitby

Trial lawyer by day, folksinger/songwriter by night. You're excused if you see that as combination tha bodes for some bad music. But Orlando artist Doug Spears must really be chafing in the courtroom in that suit, because he's an accomplished songwriter, and his new disc, Truth & Lies, is burnished like an old hardwood floor. A fourth-generation Floridian, Spears writes about what he knows: Florida. "Teppintine" is a lament to the hardscrabble life of the turpentine harvesters; "A Mother's Tears" relates the tale of Lewis Powell, a Live Oak resident who was hanged for his part in the conspiracy to assissinate President Abraham Lincoln; "Banks of the Old St. John's" is about exactly what you think it is. With a voice reminiscent of John Denver and a full acoustic backup band, Spears has put out a folk/Americana disc that's as enjoyable for the local storytelling as it is for the musicianship.

- Bob Whitby - Orlando Weekly


Thursday, January 31, 2008

CD of the Year: ''Break Some Stones''

Ron Johnson

STRINGS & THINGS announces it's choice for Album/CD of the Year (2007): “Break Some Stones” by Doug Spears.

We’ve decided to review a few of our favorite CD’s from time to time, in between reports about the shows and festivals and the other musical stuff, so we thought we’d start off with a bang with our choice for Album or CD of the Year for 2007.

This was certainly a good year for CD’s; We saw new releases by Levon Helm, Lucinda Williams, as well as Amy Carol Webb, Bill & Eli Perras, and even the Peters Road Swamp Band released a new CD, which included their great campfire song “He’ll Never Jam In This County Again.”

And we deeply regret not having anymore recordings from the great Bobby Hicks, the master Florida songwriter, with his sad passing this year. “I’m Florida, Need I Say More?” remains the greatest Florida song ever recorded and his whole CD, recorded some years ago now, is a real treasure.

But after listening to a bunch of CD’s this year (including that awful new Eagles CD, ugh!) the choice for Album of the Year is an easy one. Without a doubt, the best CD was Doug Spears’ “Break Some Stones.”

The CD was recorded and mastered at Acoustic Music Productions in West Palm Beach, Fl. Produced by Doug Spears and Ron Litschauer, all the songs were written by Doug Spears.

The entire CD is just Doug on the guitar. It feels “live” as if Doug sat down next to you and started playing, as if you are the only one he’s singing to, and it works.

The title song has already won several awards including the Winner of American Songwriter Magazine Lyric’s contest (August 2007 issue). We predict it’ll win a lot more.

“Break Some Stones” works on many levels. Doug pulls you into the song with a nice bed of guitar-rhythm in D tuning, then he gets straight to the point:

“These tears I’ve held inside me/Tears I should have cried so long ago/

And my heart can grow so heavy when it’s hardened by the things I won’t let show/

And there’s stains around the edges of my memories that I just can’t let go…”

Then in the chorus, Doug offers a resolution for the pain, a chance at redemption:

“You gotta break some stones to get the water to flow/

Out of the river lyin’ deep below/

There ain’t nothing comes easy if it’s worth your time/

You’ve gonna damned sure regret it if you don’t even try.”

Doug’s words and music go straight to the heart and he doesn’t let up, from start to finish. There is a deep underlying sadness in these beautiful lyrics and the music seems to vibrate like some internal chord of the collective human experience. He revisits several themes over the course of the CD, including mistakes made, regret, grief and nostalgia.

Make no mistake, there is pain all over this CD. Not the cry in your beer pain but a humbleness that comes from living life. It's real and it shows.

The CD ends with two love songs: “Let’s Grow Old Together” and “How’d You Know,” passionate songs that suggests Love does conquer all. Doug seems to end the CD with the suggestion that the real answers we seek are in the relationships of the people around us, our family, our lovers, our friends, our spouses and our children.

And yes, even that occasional “connection” between two total strangers as in the story about the old guitar player on the streets of Memphis, the inspiration for “Sinner’s Song”.

Doug verbally introduces at least four songs on the CD, adding a personal touch to the songs and to the “live” feel you get from a single voice and a single guitar track.

I can’t help but wonder what this CD might sound like with a full band behind it, and believe me, several songs would rock. But that would be another CD altogether and this one is our choice for Album/CD of the year for 2007.

Doug Spears will be performing at the Will McLean Festival in Dunnellon, FL in April, the Gamble Rogers Festival in May and the Florida Folk Festival Memorial Day weekend at White Springs. His website and information on how to purchase this CD is at:

www.myspace.com/DougSpears


- Ron Johnson - Florida Times Union, Jacksonville, FL


CD REVIEW: Doug Spears - Truths & Lies
By JJ Biener - 03/22/06

Doug Spears
Truths & Lies

“They don’t write songs like that anymore.” The first time a person says that, it is a milestone, a rite of passage. It is an indication the wonder of youth has given way to the nostalgia that comes with adulthood. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am of such an age as to have that particular phrase in my lexicon. Every time I hear those words slip from my lips I suppress the urge to cringe. Well, I am happy to report I need never say those words again. Doug Spears writes songs like they used to, and better than that, they are really good songs.

Doug is as much storyteller as he is songwriter and performer. He is an artist who paints gentle portraits with words and music. His songs are like picture postcards from the past discovered in long-forgotten trunk on a Sunday afternoon. He draws from history and the heritage of his native Florida which gives this CD a regional flavor that is rarely seen in commercial music.

The opening track sets the tone for those to follow. Mournful Eyes is a portrait of an old man who has lived a difficult life which is now reflected in his eyes, He has found some things late in life which give him comfort: a fire in the cold, a late-night drink of whiskey, the dawn rising, but it is a simple sadness that pervades his life. In his simplicity he allows us to see our own lives reflected back at us.

Banks of the Old St John is the story of Vista Faire, a woman, part Seminole, who lives alone in a pinewood shack on the banks of the St John River. As with most of Doug’s characters she lives a quiet, simple life free from the complexity that now haunts our existence. One day she meets a traveling man who stays briefly, but ultimately leaves her with child. He never returns, but Vista Faire now has a child with which she can share beauty of the land that is her home. This song won the Will McLean Award in 1997.

That Old Songwriter’s Gone is a tribute to the late Mickey Newberry. Annie’s Chairs is about a woman who makes chairs from hardwood vines as an outlet for her loneliness. A Mothers Tears tells the story of Lewis Powell who conspired with John Wilkes Booth to murder Abraham Lincoln and died on the gallows for his crime.

Doug Spear’s Truths & Lies is not a collection of cheerful, empty songs. They a stories of complex people in often difficult circumstances. His approach is always subtle and artful. The musicianship and recording are uniformly well done. His voice is always clear and crisp. If you miss the folk and folk rock songs of 60’s and 70’s, Doug Spears’ songs will evoke a very pleasant feeling of nostalgia, and send you digging in your attic for your old record collection.

You can find more information about Doug Spears at www.dougspearsmusic.com. - Muse's Muse


Homegrown folk

It took a while for Truths & Lies, the new album by Orlando singer and songwriter Doug Spears, to make its way through the clutter on my desk.

I'm sorry now that it took so long, because these 12 songs are an impressive combination of economical wordplay and simple, evocative melodies.

Spears is accompanied by the fiddle and mandolin of Allan Stowell, whose resume includes work with Florida folk icons such as Gamble Rogers and Will McLean.

"Banks of the Old St. Johns,'' included on Truths & Lies, earned Spears the 1997 Will McLean Award for best new song about Florida's people, places or history.

You can hear him perform it at the "Lounging in the Library'' concert series on Jan. 25 at the South Creek branch of the Orlando Public Library, 1702 Deerfield Blvd. in Orlando.

Visit dougspearsmusic.com for other upcoming shows and information.

Jim Abbott can be reached at 407-420-6213.
jabbott@orlandosentinel.com - Jim Abbott - Orlando Sentinel


June 17, 2007
Who’s Next?: A Music Review e-zine
Los Angeles, CA
Reviewed by Greg Abate

Doug Spears
Visit Doug at website

I'm 25 years old; I live in L.A. ; I grew up listening to the sounds of Guns n' Roses, Tupac Shakur and Nirvana and I had some doubts as to whether or not I'd like Doug Spears. My doubts are gone. I love Doug Spears. Yes Doug Spears, the guy from little known Leesburg, Fl and yes, the guy who has garnered all the buzz in the folk music world with his sophmore album "Break Some Stones".

It was today while I was stuck in typical Southern California traffic, going absolutely no where along with 5 million other people when I realized that Doug Spears is destined for folk history.

Normally it's right around the first hour of the constant stopping and going, the horns, the idling and the 8 mile an hour progression when I begin to lose my mind but not today. No, I wasn't sucked into a fit of road rage like everyone else around me because today I listened to Doug Spears critically acclaimed album "Break Some Stones" the whole ride home and it transported me to the world of folk music where great story tellers can bring you so far into their music and the story that you forget the rat race - Doug Spears takes away the rat race away and replaces it with folk soul.
The lyrics I chose to share with you are:

You gotta break some stones to get the water to flow,
Out of that river runnin’ deep below,
Ain’t nothin’ comes easy if its worth your time,
You’re gonna damned sure regret it if you don’t even try.
As far as lyrics, I'm sorry - it just doesn't get any better than Doug Spears. He is a poet! I could put these lyrics onto my office wall and they would exist in their own right, even without the great music that supports them. Deep, powerful, emotional lyrics like that from his titled track "Break Some Stones" is why, when it comes to reaching the heart of a nation, Doug Spears will encounter no boundaries.

"Break Some Stones" is a perfect reflection of the entire 18 song album in that it shows off the brilliance that this gifted artist has as a singer and songwriter. He covers every emotional and universal landscape in a way that is still entertaining and easy to listen to. He masters the hook and chorus formula with tunes that stay with you long after you have heard them.

"Break Some Stones" cut right through me and had me thinking of my own missed opportunities in life and unraveled the deep rooted melancholy that is a part of all our pasts. In essence, Doug has managed to break the universal stone that opens our souls without shattering it. Instead, we just sigh. Best way to describe his songs - they are complete.

If I had one piece of advice, it would be to produce the songs. Doug does well with the straight-forward guitar playing and acoustic sounds, but a little production could go a long way in making these songs radio-ready.

When I finally reached my drive-way, ironically the last track on the album, "How'd You Know" was playing. Normally when I reach my drive-way after sitting in two hours in LA traffic I jump out of my car like an action star and I'm sprinting to my door like an Olympian just to get the car and the day off my skin, but today was different. I just sat there and let the sounds of Doug Spears usher me home.

Rating = 5
Outstanding - Who’s Next?: A Music Review e-zine


Discography

"Truths & Lies" - October 2005

"Break Some Stones" - July 2007

"Welcome Home" - January 2010 - Cypress Moss Records

Photos

Bio

Doug Spears Floridas Native Troubadour

With sand in his boots and orange blossom honey in his throat Doug Spears fourth generation native Florida roots flow through his music revealing the history, values and perspectives that define him. The finest blend of storyteller and musician, Dougs songs reach out like long-forgotten picture postcards discovered on a rainy afternoon, subtly and artfully telling universal stories of complex characters in often difficult circumstances that go straight to the heart of audiences of all ages and dont let up, from start to finish. A seasoned performer and touring troubadour, often draws comparisons to some of the best known and well established artists of the genre Doug has carved a special niche for himself in folk and Americana music.

Doug was born in Leesburg, Florida and his best childhood memories tie back to the farm house his grandfather built in Lake County in the 1920's. He took up the guitar at age 12, learning on an old Gibson J-45 loaned to him by a family friend, and soon began writing his own songs heavily influenced by the wealth of songwriter poets of the time. Doug's song craft matured into a skillful weaving of lyric portraits. Of his Florida homeland, he sings of the unsung and often undiscovered heart of Florida, before Disney World and Margaritaville, the Florida that so few know and appreciate.

In 2005 Spears released his debut CD, Truths & Lies, widely praised for its song craft and musicianship. In 2007 he followed with Break Some Stones, a live in the studio solo recording. Chosen by Florida Times Union columnist Ron Johnson as his 2007 CD Release of the Year, Break Some Stones showcases Doug just as youd hear him at a live show. Released internationally in January 2010 to folk, acoustic and Americana radio, Doug's latest recording, Welcome Home, showcases the very best of Dougs regional Florida material produced for a national audience. Produced by long time friend Jason Thomas and promoted to folk, acoustic and Americana radio by Kari Estrin Management & Consulting in Nashville, Welcome Home, features a stellar, internationally known cast of supporting musicians including Claire Lynch, Missy Raines, Rob Ickes, Jim Hurst, Mark Schatz, Kenny Malone and Jason Thomas, as well as some of the very best of Floridas wealth of musical talent.

Welcome Home brought Doug a lot of attention in 2010. The album immediately broke to the top of the International Folk DJ Radio Charts at #3 in January and is maintaining position to finish in the top 100 albums of the year. It was also included on the Preliminary Grammy Ballot in three categories after passing through the committee's submission review process. The opening track of the album, "Yellow Butter Moon," was named runner-up in 2010 as the best new country / bluegrass song by the Interantional Acoustic Music Awards and "A Mother's Tears" was included in a select sampler produced by Poetman Records for distribution worldwide to Americana Radio.

Now, in 2014, Doug has joined the artist roster at Gatorbone Records based in Keystone Heights, FL and is looking forward to his first release on this great independent label.

Sample Recognition and Awards

2010 International Acoustic Music Awards - Runner-up, Country / Bluegrass "Yellow Butter Moon"

Winner of the American Songwriter Magazine Lyrics Contest July / August 2007 - "Break Some Stones" and Honorable Mention Sept / Oct - "Sinner's Song"

Will McLean Award 1997 Banks of the Old St. Johns,
2008 State of Dreams

Florida Times Union CD of the Year 2007 Break Some Stones

Quotes

"Stellar songwriting, perfect vocals, superb musicians and masterful production combine to create a rare album. This is not Margaritaville, it's a whole lot better."

- Don Sechelski - 01/24/2010 - The Muses Muse

...a master storyteller. ...three-dimensional characters, flesh-and-bone people with life stories that ring true, sung with a joy that comes from a true artist. ... this CD is a real treasure!
- Steve Jerrett,KOPN's Sunday Morning Coffeehouse
Columbia, MO - A Sing Out! Radio Partner

This guy can pen a lyric and his songs are universal . . ."
- Craig Huegel - WSLR Radio, Sarasota, FL

" His performances reveal a genuine person, tempered by time and leavened with humor. Thank you, Doug, for the time, intellect, intensity and energy you bring to your craft."

- Jim Davis, Woodview Coffee House, Lecanto, FL

Band Members