Dwayne Haggins grew up in many places, but when he talks of "home" these days, he means Framingham, Massachusetts.
Since early 2017, Dwayne has been on a quest to make a living playing music, leaving his mark on dozens of bars, restaurants and clubs scattered across eastern and central Massachusetts. His distinctive sound, which delivers a brand new take on the traditional country-blues and soul that he loves, has generated a rare sense of excitement and possibility throughout the area's musical community.
Likewise, the exponential growth of his devoted audience likely signals that a move to larger venues is inevitable, and perhaps imminent. Which is no doubt one reason why Dwayne's recent shows in local venues have taken on a new intensity, a sense of immense potential chafing at the limits of its current constraints. These days, each performance feels like a special occasion, a chance perhaps to experience the end of the beginning, the last page of prologue to a brand new story that already has the makings of a modern classic.
Though always a lover of music and an appreciative listener, Dwayne himself didn't pick up a guitar until age 18. One evening he happened to turn on the Conan O'Brien show just in time to see Sturgill Simpson, a beacon of integrity in modern country music, perform his song "Living The Dream." Thanks to that well-timed moment of inspiration, the guitar soon became Dwayne's constant companion. By age 20 he was writing his own songs, and was well on the way to finding his own voice to sing them.
All that was missing was a group ready to grasp his unique musical vision and amplify it to a listening world hungry for new sounds. And Dwayne's band, together less than a year, has wasted no time doing just that -- they've already earned a reputation as one of the area's sharpest live acts.
Before joining the group, lead guitarist Baxter Hall, himself only 18 (!), was already well-known in his own right as one of the top blues and country pickers in New England, often sharing the stage with Duke Robillard and other stalwarts of Boston's ever-vital blues scene.
Meanwhile, bassist Will Woyda spent the past five years immersed in the study of sonic design, acoustics, and modern amplification theory -- all while gigging steadily as a much-in-demand bass player for funk, roots, hip-hop and jam bands throughout the area.
Drummer Jahnu has followed a much different path to the same destination. An ethnomusicologist at heart, he devotes much of his time to the study of world beats, classical Indian rhythms (he's an accomplished tabla player), pure improvisation across multiple genres, and electronic composition via loops and laptops.
Together, Woyda’s stylish bass lines and Larkin’s crafty rhythms intertwine with Haggins’s meticulously propulsive acoustic guitar to generate a smart and soulful groove that supports but never overwhelms the songs, obscures the lyrics, or competes with that amazingly agile voice at the center of the operation.
Haggins’ songs remain solidly rooted in the traditions of country blues, soul and gospel — the soil that grounds and nourishes his fast-blooming songwriting gift — without replowing territory that has already been thoroughly turned. They manage to feel fresh but familiar at the same time. His most recent songs in particular (many of which appear on Heavenly Rose) reflect this penchant for paradox: precisely crafted but emotionally direct, plain-spoken but beautifully sung, street-smart but still vulnerable, sad without being maudlin, funny without being cruel, able to confess pain without seeking pity, steely-eyed but ever tender. Even in Dwayne’s most serious moments, we sense that fun lurks impatiently just around the next musical bend.
And ultimately it is his uniquely expressive voice that not only allows these apparent contradictions to coexist, but in the process reveals them to be two inevitable sides of the same coin. The singing is exhilaratingly elastic but the emotions it expresses are not — the voice bends, but the heart breaks.
Stay tuned for the official release of “Heavenly Rose” on October 14, and in the meantime, keep in touch with Dwayne and the band on Facebook and Instagram. Sign up for the mailing list, and be sure to check back here often for updates, live performance dates, downloads, videos and more.