CD Review of Crossing Dragon Bridge by Steve Wynn
Recommended if you like
Mark Lannegan, Walkabouts, American Music Club
Rock Ridge
Steve Wynn:
Crossing Dragon Bridge

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

teve Wynn’s never been a slacker. Since founding L.A.’s neo-psychedelic Dream Syndicate in the early ‘80s and subsequently establishing himself as one of the godfathers of the so-called “Paisley Underground,” he’s been consistently prolific throughout the three decades since. A solo career initiated in 1990 has proved especially intriguing, and while Wynn’s occasionally shifted his stance, he’s rarely repeated himself in the process.

That said, Crossing Dragon Bridgemay be his most distinctive set yet…and for good reason. Recorded in Slovenia with co-producer Chris Eckman, erstwhile leader of Seattle’s Walkabouts, it finds him capturing the romantic atmosphere and ambiance of those eastern European environs. In his liner notes, Wynn refers to it as “a snapshot, a dream, an acid flashback, a tourist guide, a midnight snack, a morning cup of coffee…,” and while that may seem a bit over the top and over-arched, it does reflect the fact that the album’s a travelogue of sorts, one that’s wrapped in the guise of seductive soundscapes, dreams and desire.

Still, there’s more to this record than reflection and observation. Wynn imbues several songs with autobiographical details that are remarkably revealing. “Manhattan Fault Line” begins with dire predictions of California’s eventual demise, then shifts the scene to New York City and its own seismographic hazards, before describing his decision to relocate to Manhattan in the mid ‘90s. “Bring the Magic” evokes his relationship to the radio and how it would bring him inspiration (“50,000 watts from the back of my Impala, Wolfman Jack is on the line tonight… “). Yet, more than merely looking back on his past, these songs describe an unrelenting loneliness, an isolation that’s referenced repeatedly throughout. Other titles say it all – “Love Me Anyway,” “I Don’t Deserve This,” and “God Doesn’t Like It” being the most obvious. However, the most telling tune may be “Annie & Me,” an infectious narrative about a past lover which starts with a kinetic acoustic strum and then wanders into darker terrain before shaking off the shadows to reprise its rocking refrain. The effect is haunting and hallucinatory, as if Wynn’s woken from a dream and struggling to discern reality from his nocturnal encounter.

Indeed, the twilight haze that envelopes this material creates a striking impression; lush, richly textured and often ominous, it’s cast in dark shadows. Strings, Mellotron and acoustic instrumentation create a vivid pastiche, with Wynn’s deep, melodious vocals hinting at an imagined, if unlikely, collaboration between Lou Reed and the Moody Blues. It’s an album that evokes a distinct though distant reality, one that revels in the aura of Old World history and architecture, unhurried intimate encounters, and a rich cultural experience that Wynn wholly embraces. With Crossing Dragon Bridge, he effectively connects that imagery with his audience, and makes it all the more profound in the process.

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