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At the young age of sixteen, Dan Stevens' romantic streak was ignited by his first guitar teacher in small town central Pennsylvania who told him stories about the lives of traveling blues musicians like Mississippi John Hurt and Fred McDowell. After being inspired by Woody Guthrie’s book, “Bound for Glory”, the magnetic lure of the road captured his imagination and with a driving passion he hitchhiked and hopped freight trains guitar in hand across the United States five times, eventually covering over 100,000 miles.
Always seeking diverse experiences, he has worked as a teacher in Pennsylvania and Arizona, a rock-climbing instructor in New Mexico, broke his collarbone riding bulls in Colorado.and sailed schooners for a living on the Eastern seaboard. He lived full time on his own wooden sloop in Mystic CT for a couple of years while performing solo up and down the East Coast. A highlight of this period was sailing throughout Central and South America as mate aboard David Crosby’s (Crosby, Nash, and Young) sailboat, the Mayan.
Musically, Dan continued to hone his guitar skills taking lessons from renowned acoustic guitarist and W.C. Handy Award winner Paul Rishell, who taught him how to play slide. Later, he was blessed to study with Greenwich Village based folk/blues icon Dave Van Ronk during the last years of Van Ronk’s storied life. His repertoire reflects the influence of his revered teachers who actually knew and performed with many of the legendary blues masters. His tastes include delta blues “bottleneck slide” tunes, the more carefree piedmont style, and arrangements comprised of complex orchestration with plenty of chord changes up the neck in the spirit of Dave Van Ronk. His originals remain true to the traditional forces which powerfully shaped his early musical development and prompt listeners to praise the authenticity of his approach.
As a full time professional musician since 1991, Dan continues to tour incessantly along the East Coast, U.S. Virgin Islands, U.K., and Germany. He has appeared with such artists as James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Charlie Daniels, Livingston Taylor, Ronnie Earl, and others. An irrepressible guitar collector, Dan surrounds himself with vintage and custom instruments acquired in his many travels. Usually packing three guitars, any given performance may find him choosing to play a 1950’s Sears Silvertone, a 1931 National Steel, a retro lime green Resophonic, and more.
Dan’s most recent CD, “Broke Down and Hungry”, features “Sugar Ray” Norcia, of Sugar Ray & the Bluetones and Roomful of Blues, on harmonica. Original songs such as “Broke Down and Hungry”, “Driving Fool”, “Open Road”, and “Ramblin’” give a sense of what is was like for him to travel 165,000 miles in three years in an ’88 Chevy Van. Art Tipaldi, Senior Writer for the Blues Revue magazine, in his review of this CD, offered, “His stylish fingerpicking and warm vocals shade these tunes with fresh, penetrating nuances.” Several of his traditional offerings include Big Bill Broonzy’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her” and “Long Tall Mama”, as well as Reverend Gary Davis’ “Light of this World”. In live shows, Dan often pauses between songs, offering historical trivia or relating incidents from his personal experience.
Termed “Connecticut’s hardest working
bluesman” by the New York Times in 2002, he plays over 200 engagements
a year, including concerts, clubs, festivals, coffeehouses, community
and private events and educational programs. He has appeared at Long Island’s
Riverhead Blues Festival, the Berlin Blues Festival in Connecticut and
was the closer in the acoustic section of the Fleet Blues Festival in
Albany, New York. Dan won the 2004 Connecticut Acoustic Blues Challenge
and will represent the state at the International Blues Challenge on Beale
Street in Memphis TN in February, 2005. He lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut
with his wife Gail and daughter, Haley.
Visit Dan's website at
http://www.danstevens.net/main.htm for more information and
to hear some sound clips
©2006 Chelmsford Public Library