Dwayne Shivers is a folk ensemble from East Atlanta, GA, fronted by the songwriter and co-founder Micah Dalton — a locally grown, stylistically incongruent, zany, southern, racially ambiguous, brown folk singer.
The story of Dwayne Shivers is a story about what it means to keep showing up, and it’s the creative mean of many fallings and risings. "Buffered & Blest," Dalton’s debut LP as Dwayne Shivers, is the result of a rotating door of collaborators, losing a manager, starting a family, and rooting in a city where industry exposure is sparse. A textured folk-rocking opus, "Buffered and Blest" represents the culmination of more than a decade spent refining an aesthetic and a voice amid unwelcoming circumstances. It is a reinvention.
Major music journalists and supervisors are already taking note. Jewly Hight, of NPR, The New York Times, and CMT Edge, wrote that Dwayne Shivers wrote "a batch of new-generation spirituals and fleecy, exquisite blues." And the band’s single “Waking Light,” a duet with Kyshona Armstrong) was featured in CBS’ “Criminal Minds,” ABC’s “Conviction,” and CBS’ “Salvation” — all before Buffered and Blest arrives later this year. Dalton’s reinvention as Dwayne Shivers comes after spending more than 10 years touring, releasing six albums, and co-writing with marquee names such as Nate Campany (LP, Carly Rae Jepsen). Though he found some acclaim — publications like Paste and Obscure Sound featured his work — Dalton struggled to find a creative identity that felt truly like home.
“I wasn’t having a good time with the solo songwriter thing as much anymore,” Dalton says. “I got so lost in the shadows of what I didn’t want to do, that it felt like I need to re-name the act in order to be myself. Micah Dalton, as an artist, meant something that I didn’t want to perpetuate anymore – Shivers is like a Trojan horse to get back into myself.” Dalton noticed that certain songs and sounds hidden in his recordings resonated both live and on tape with fans in a more acute way. More intentional lyricism along with warm, uncompromising sonic tones drew a more polarizing response from listeners that held the interest of both fans and Dalton as a creator. Dalton pursued these qualities and let go of that which no longer sustained this shared interest.
So, Dwayne Shivers was born. Dalton freed himself to explore more adventurous sounds and more intentional, nuanced lyrics. And he let go of everything that didn’t mold into this new vision, no matter how uncomfortable the process made him
In a loaded 2013, Dalton got married, moved to Brooklyn, and worked several jobs to supplement songwriting while facing a professional crossroads. He pushed through the uncertainty, writing a new batch of songs and putting them to tape in Athens, GA in late 2013. The debut Dwayne Shivers EP was released in late 2014 and, despite myriad obstacles — evolving personnel, a manager’s departure — Buffered and Blest arrives four years later, sounding and feeling precisely as Dalton intended it to. Though, on paper, the record could be considered Americana, it’s far better suited for a backyard barbeque than a coffee shop. It thrums with an everything-at-once-ness that won’t be heard in more conventional Nashville rooms.
Though Dalton has written and recorded across the country, the heart and soul of this work is grounded in Atlanta, and the immediacy of hip-hop flows through his songwriting. Creating music in a city that rarely acknowledges Americana allowed him freedom to ignore some of the more traditional elements of this music, even as he drew inspiration from such classics as Woody Guthrie and Dr. John. As a biracial man in his 30s, Dalton felt comfortable straddling diverse personal identities and musical genres. His growth as a songwriter in the South was influenced by a host of expectations and realities, not the least of which was his father’s career as a minister and activist with Dr. King’s SCLC, along with his mother’s golden ear. Each of these unique elements are unified in "Buffered & Blest."
The record is a testament to Dalton’s clear-eyed outlook on life and a willingness to try anything in the studio. Throughout the album, the production and writing incorporates elements of ‘70s psychedelia while utilizing modern production techniques in a bold effort to reassert the importance of folk in the internet age. While writing and recording Buffered & Blest, Dalton teamed up with Anthony Aparo (Improvement Movement) and the Brooklyn-based producer Jeremy McDonald (Kevin Garrett, Welcome Wagon), and he turned to Jason Kingsland (Belle & Sebastian, Deerhunter, Iron & Wine) for mixing. The record stands in contrast to Dalton’s previous work, creating a confrontational sonic universe for the songs to orbit within — not the other way around.
This authentic presentation sticks out in a wave of what has been characteristically a genre defined in white contexts - Americana. Conversely, the universe created in Buffered & Blest is soaked in an attitude less like Ryan Adams’ and more akin to Beck and Allen Toussiant’s. The use of sonics, arrangements, and lyrics display a potentially broader view of what is truly “Americana.”
“Buffered & Blest” will be released in early 2019.