Dana Fuchs has never dealt in nostalgia. For this questing artist, it’s not about the rear-view but the road ahead. The next song. The next session. Tonight’s show and tomorrow’s bus ride. But as Dana sheds her musical skin with triumphant fourth album Love Lives On, it seems a fitting juncture to rewind the reels and thumb a backstory as compelling as any in rock ‘n’ roll. This life and times doesn’t always make for easy reading. The triumphs are laced by tragedy, ugliness, injustice. But whatever the obstacles, music and love have been the beacons that guide her on.
As one of New York City’s favourite daughters, it’s tempting to imagine that Dana’s career began amidst the subterranean throb in the clubs on the Lower East Side. It’s true: that city was her birthplace and springboard to fame. But to truly grasp her artistic motivations, you’d have to follow the family’s car towards Florida, and rattle along the dirt tracks until you hit Wildwood: a backwoods town, population two-thousand, where black and white were split along battlelines and distrust simmered in the air. “Back in the ’70s, it was a sorta small, racist town,” remembers Dana, who dropped a social hand-grenade by dating a black friend. “We were a big family from New York, Irish-Catholic, there was no-one like us in the area. I tended to gravitate more towards the African-American community. I felt more accepted by them.”
Drawn by the pair’s original songs and incendiary performances, those crowds were soon stretching round the block, at mythologised hot-spots like Arlene’s Grocery, The Mercury Lounge, The Stephen Talkhouse and B.B. King’s Blues Club. In the studio, meanwhile, Dana and Jon planted their flag with 2003’s Lonely For A Lifetime: an opening gambit that fizzed with potential, splicing a ’60s Stax/Volt vibe with the driving grit of the Stones, and fusing the dark wit and wisdom of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams. “They’re about addiction and religious hypocrisy,” she noted of tunes like Strung Out and Bible Baby, “and like all the tracks on the album, deal with subjects that I have a deep personal experience with.
Out of darkness comes light. And out of that fascinating early career emerges an older, wiser Dana Fuchs, armed with the album of her life. New label. New city. New sound. New possibilities for an artist who has so far only hinted at her potential. “I sure hope those who’ve been with me all along will feel as passionately as I do about it,” she concludes. “And that those who have yet to hear me will now come on board. Love Lives On is almost like a second child to me. It’s who I am at this moment in time, captured on tape…”