Deering and Down

Lahna Deering and Rev. Neil Down rock the Fishes. – Dimitra Lavrakas

Rockin’ CD for our times

“Prophets of Doom
Is there any room for some good news?
I’m tired of hearing
How we’re rapidly nearing the end.”
- Rev. Neil Down, from Deering & Down © 2001 Burn Barrel Records

By JEFF BRADY
Sixteen years ago, when Skagway’s Rev. Neil Down was penning those words, he had no idea how the song would play out. The lyrics sat in a drawer until young Lahna Deering came to town with her magical voice.
It is now a signature tune on a CD that the Deering and Down duo launched during a gig at the Fish Company on Sept. 27, sixteen days after the terrorist attacks.
“The timing is interesting,” Down said of the song’s release. “I thought it would be a great tune for her to do. It’s timely.”
The track hit home. Down’s wife, Lara, who designed the graphic arts for the CD, lost an uncle in the World Trade Center attacks, he said. The song cries out for hope in a world that seems spiraling toward a bad end.
Great music can erase a lot of fears, and if the local response is an indication, the Deering and Down duo are off to a great beginning.
The Rev.’s guitar playing and blues are well known in these parts – from his bar gigs over the past decade with various Revettes, to the 1999 release of his critically acclaimed “American Friend” CD.
This new CD showcases the vocal talents of Deering, who shares the pulpit with Rev. Down and delivers her own brand of fire and brimstone.
Deering, whom many are surprised to know is just 19, grew up in a musical family in Port Townsend, Wash. She played guitar and sang with her father and brother, and later hung out and sang with her brother’s band, she said.
In 1998, she followed her mother to Skagway. Joan Deeering had been a chef on a cruise liner, but didn’t like it and jumped ship in Skagway to cook for the Skagway Inn, her daughter said.
Down, a part-time carpenter, was making easels for the Inn’s menus, and they started talking about music. Joan mentioned that she had a daughter coming up for the summer who sang and played guitar.
A few weeks later, Lahna Deering showed up, joining the Days of ‘98 Show as a singer/dancer. She also looked up Down and his band.
“Here’s this beautiful young girl, and she plays guitar too!” Down said. “I heard her play and sing and, as they say, the proof’s in the pudding, and the pudding was rich.”
Deering, then just 16, said she persisted in hanging out with the band, and with her mother accompanying her, was allowed to jam with the band at the Bonanza that summer.
“Everybody said we sounded pretty good together and we could feel it too,” Down said. “It was a good recipe.”
Deering performed with the band over the next two summers, and they started thinking about recording. In the liner notes, Deering calls Down her “Cosmic Comrade.” Like Down, Deering had some songs that she had written over the years that were ready for this opporunity. Four of the nine tunes on the album are hers, and they have mature themes.
“She may be 19, but she’s an old soul,” Down said.
For example, Deering’s “Room 101” takes on domestic violence, and how an abused woman can’t get help or won’t help herself:

“Sunday morning she walks out the door
to tell those lies she’s told before
People wonder but they don’t want to know
Knows what she must do but has nowhere to go.”
- Lahna Deering, from Deering & Down © 2001 Burn Barrel Records

Deering and Down hit the studio last winter. The first song, Deering’s “I Need a Change” was recorded a year ago at Rainbow Studios in Whitehorse, Yukon. Even with a cold, she nailed it in two takes. Her voice is a tad raspier than on the other tracks, but it works for the song, she said.
After that initial session, Deering lost her cheechako status, making about 30 trips up the highway over the winter to record. The Yukon musical community was very accomodating, especially Lauri Malo, who runs the studio, Down said. Malo brought in some of the Yukon’s best.
“There’s some world class musicians up there,” Down said. People think they have to go to L.A. or Europe to make a record, but the scene is where you make it.”
The album features Bruce Bergmann and Boris Rainshoe on bass, Jay Burr on horns, Andrea McColeman on keyboards, and Lonnie Powell, Delmar Washington and Malo on drums.
Lara Labesky’s graphics, created on a computer at home, include favorite drawings and snapshots of Deering’s, and a hilarious cover photo of the duo in a chicken coop, hence the moniker “Coupe de Villa.”
Down’s record label, Burn Barrel, also has found a logo with the likeness of Tenakee’s Arnie Borger. Borger was trying to snap a picture of a deer in his backyard, and turned the camera the wrong way. Down fixated on the mistaken self-portrait on a visit to his friend, and asked to use it, he said. (It also graces the label of ‘98 Show pianist Buck Evans new CD, “Nize Baby,” which was just released – watch for story in a future issue).
Local support for the band has been great, say Deering and Down. D&D fans got rowdy and were dancing on the bar at the Fish Company at the end of September, and they might be dancing in other towns soon. Down says they have contacted a publicist and promoter to start setting up some more northern gigs.
Radio play in the past couple weeks also has “generated some excitement about it,” Down said, adding that he’d like to see every public radio station in Alaska feature an hour of regional music a week, similar to how CBC treats its home-grown Canadian artists.
And the creative juices are flowing for Deering and Down. They get together and play every day, and are starting to come up with new material.
“Getting this CD out was a big anvil off our backs, and we’re ready to lift off again,” Down said.
“We’re pushing each other, but it’s an easy push... we’re honing the stone.”

For more information about this CD, visit: www.burnbarrelrecords.com