"It's not the way things gotta be
We can live a life less ordinary"
Aug. 5, 2003 -- Three Laramie men are taking these lyrics from one of their songs to heart as they head to New York City to finish their first album and to fulfill a longtime dream.
What gives freshness to their story is that it is uniquely propelled by University of Wyoming bonds.
Meet the "Den Dogs:" Bassist Dennis Feeney is a research scientist for the College of Agriculture's Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Guitarist David Eisenhauer is the editor of UWyo magazine and a colleague of Feeney's wife. Drummer Aric Hageman is a UW music education student.
While all three have been connected with music most of their lives, they have only been pickin', playin' and croonin' together in an Americana, roots-of-rock style for a couple of years.
The result is "Boots, Belts, Irons," an album that will debut Sept. 20 and feature such titles as Feeney's "Reliance," "When We Get Bored (We Get Dangerous)," "No News" and "Song of Hope" and Eisenhauer's "Feelin' Good Blues."
The band recorded at Colorado Sound Studios in the Denver area and fine tuned their music with mixing and mastering at the Cowboy Technical Services Studio in New York City with Eric Ambel, a UW student in the 1970s. He now plays the guitar professionally with artists such as Steve Earle and has created a successful career supporting new and established artists.
Associate professors Rod Garnett and Katrina Zook of the UW Department of Music have guided and advised the trio. Shane Wallace of the College of Engineering, a UW art graduate, is designing the graphics for the album.
Ambel will feature the Den Dogs and help launch their CD Aug. 11 at a gig at his own Lakeside Lounge club. "Going out to New York will be a real exciting trip for us," Feeney says, especially since most of their performances so far have been in small venues in Wyoming. The band is working with Ray Martin, UW project coordinator for physics and astronomy, to plan a CD-listening party, light show and reception at the UW Planetarium to mark the album's official September release.
Since theirs is an independent production, the trio wants to secure the kind of regional and national radio support it has received from Don Woods, coordinator of programming for Wyoming Public Radio at UW. Fans can order the CD and follow the band's progress and performance dates on their Web site at www.dendogs.com. The album also will be available on Internet music sites such as www.Amazon.com.
Vaulting the group from Laramie fame to American household-name status is a job Feeney finds overwhelming. He hopes that the moniker "Den Dogs," which comes from an old nickname that a friend used to call him, will be catchy enough.
"Coming up with a band name is a very difficult thing to do," Feeney notes. "We didn't want a name that sounded pretentious or goofy. We were looking for something between clever and stupid," he quips.
Feeney is closely attuned to selecting words carefully since he is the group's chief songwriter. His ideas, he explains, come from "all over the place." As he says in "Reliance" from the "Boots, Belts, Irons" offerings,
" ... There's a place
Unchained in my soul
Wild and restless
Unbreakable and outta control."
This spirit has translated into songs about relationships and also about his work in the field of environmental concerns. "I deal with issues involving open spaces and conservation. A lot of my research does spill off into my songwriting," Feeney says.
He describes "No News" as the "bleakest" song in the collection. "It's a commentary on everything that has been going on in the world." In contrast, "Song of Hope" swells with Feeney's strong faith and clings to the idea that positive solutions are within the world's grasp.
"I'm gonna sing a song of hope
I'm gonna fall to my knees and pray,
'May the morning sun open up our eyes to a brand new way'
I'm gonna sing a song of hope
To quell this sea of rage
And let all souls come to know
The peace we can see someday."
Feeney has been writing songs since he was in the sixth grade and he and his brother used to ride their bikes to hear a Laramie band called "The Dirty Dogs" rehearse. "They were kind enough to let us little punks hang around and listen to them," he jokes. Ambel, a member of that band, inspired Feeney to buy his first bass guitar.
"I am trying not to have too many delusions of grandeur," Feeney says, about following in Ambel's footsteps. "I'll just put it in God's hands and see what happens. I am going to look back on this with very fond memories," he adds.
"Too much time spent in your own head
Makes you think about the life you could've led."
Feeney's lyrics in "When We Get Bored (We Get Dangerous)" do not seem to apply to the Den Dogs as they take their first step toward musical celebrity. As he puts it in spoken words, "Why not chase a dream?"
Posted on Tuesday, August 05, 2003