Northwest singer/songwriter Dennis Driscoll combines the past -- the plain-spoken earthiness of Woody Guthrie, the innocent exuberance of Buddy Holly -- with the present -- the confessional intimacy of Cat Power, the quirky complexity of Neutral Milk Hotel -- to create a whimsical brand of folk-pop that transcends easy labels and categorizations. Driscoll, who was born in the late 1970s, grew up in the in the scenic coastal towns of Ilwaco, WA and Astoria, OR, where he began singing and playing his original material -- drawing cartoons, too -- and had a radio show on Astoria's community station, KMUN.
There he was exposed to many of the artists (Pete Seeger, Nick Drake, Jad Fair, Yo La Tengo, etc.) who would have an effect on his unique sound and approach. In the late '90s, Driscoll began playing and recording in earnest. An appearance at a Knw-Yr-Own showcase in Olympia, WA in 1998 led to his debut release, Is It Love?, which was recorded over the next few months in Ilwaco and Astoria and at Olympia's Dub Narcotic Studio by the Microphones Phil Elvrum. The full-length cassette was released in July of that year by Anacortes' Knw-Yr-Own, and featured Elvrum, Joseph Bradshaw, Aerick Mackintosh, Rachael Douglas, and Josiah Todd. The label had trouble keeping the tape in stock as word got out about this talented, charismatic artist. A few years later (in the wake of his third full-length), Little Pad would reissue the material on CD with extra tracks. In 1999, Talent Show released his second full-length, the 70-minute, 31-song Hello Dennis Driscoll. This time, he and Phan Nguyen handled the production duties. The cornucopia of delightfully catchy pop songs were recorded from August 1998 to June 1999 in Olympia -- where Driscoll was now attending college -- and featured a large cast of local musical luminaries including Bradshaw, engineer Brooks Martin, and Dub Narcotic Sound System's Heather Dunn, and Chris Sutton (also one half of funk-oriented duo, C.O.C.O). Along with the expected bass/drum/guitar lineup, Hello featured melodica, trumpet, ukulele, violin, and cello. That same year, Driscoll's "I Like It" was featured on Yo Yo Recordings' Projector compilation. The following year, "Valentine" popped up on Love Tape Love's Hootenholler compilation cassette. He also played out with a number of local artists, including Little Wings (aka Kyle Field) and Laura Veirs. From 2001 to 2002, Driscoll's songs continued to show up on a variety of independently released compilations: Knw-Yr-Own's Remote Wing ("Silly Girl"), Eighty North Records' Lullaby Lullaby ("Saturday Morning," "Lullaby, Lullaby"), Talent Show's Olympia ("Secret Admirer," "Maureen Halloween"), Red Square Recording's Invited to Dinner ("Fall in Love"), Heavenly Pop Hits' Hit Music Only ("Tell Me Why"), Cody Records' Not Songs, But Anthems ("Daisy May"), and Little Pad's Secret Home Party 7" ("Maureen Farrell"). He also sang on the Microphones' "I Can't Believe You Actually Died" (Coming in Second) and went on tour with DNSS and Mecca Normal. Later that year, Driscoll's third full-length, the wistful Voices in the Fog, was released by Olympia's K Records (and produced by the label's Calvin Johnson, also a member of DNSS). As with its predecessor, a variety of Olympia stalwarts showed up to lend their support, including Mirah, DJ K.O. from IQU, and DNSS's Dunn and Sutton. The striking black-and-white cover illustration was drawn by Driscoll's friend, comic artist/musician, Dame Darcy (Meatcake). That summer, Driscoll went on tour around the country and abroad in support of his K debut and, as if he weren't already busy enough, obtained his bachelor's degree from Evergreen and started a label called You Can Have It All. ~ Kathleen C. Fennessy