CD Release Party in Wibaux: a dream realized
by CHARLIE DENISON
In the two and a half years I was in Eastern Montana, one magical night stands out more than any other.
Sunday, Feb. 19 at the Beaver Creek Brewery.
It was a highly anticipated event that all began when I first visited the brewery in Wibaux in July 2009. Curious where I could play some live music, I brought a demo in for brewery co-owner Jim Devine, who traded me for one of his CDs. Instantly, we both liked each other’s music. The next week, Jim was putting together performers for the Beaver Creek Brewery’s second anniversary party and, when he stopped into the Ranger-Review to place an ad, he started singing one of my songs. “Open your eyes,” he sang. “Give me a try.” Next thing I knew, I was playing at the brewery for the second anniversary. My first performance in Eastern Montana. Not long after Jim and I became a duo, performing as “The Beave” at the brewery, the Yellowstone River Inn, Boots in Medora, N.D., as well as venues in Miles City, Livingston and Billings. Soon enough we started writing together, coming up with songs such as “Serves Her Right” and “Jesus Hangover.” When I told Jim I was heading to Nashville to record an album –something he’d done three times in the past – we got together again to write music. In two hours, he and I wrote two songs featured on the album. When I was at the airport in Billings on my way back from recording, I started thinking about a CD release party and called Jim about having it at his place. The timing couldn’t have been better, as the CD release party became one of the three winter concerts at the brewery. I put a band together for the event, recruiting guitar-playing virtuoso Mark Iwaniak, drummer Chad Levi, Huff on bass and Kim Stulc on background vocals. After a few practices, we were ready to go. Word got out as Jim and I made appearances on the radio and “Let’sTalk About It” with Dorothy Sturlaugson. Before we knew it, the show was sold out. We had an enticing deal – with one ticket, a concert-goer got a CD at the door. This was worrisome the Friday before the concert, as the CDs did not arrive until 4 p.m. Crunch time. That’s how I like to do it. With the CDs ready to go, I arrived at the brewery early that Sunday after playing bass with the Life After Work Band (L.A.W.) in Zahl, N.D. the night before, and excitement began to overwhelm me. Shortly before showtime, my friend Jessica Mullendore – who I grew up with in Indianapolis walked in the door. She hadn’t seen me play since the college days. It was good to see someone from back home, especially since my father couldn’t make it. He hoped to come, but Sundays are his days to preach at a Presbyterian church in the Fort Pierce, Fla. area. My father is a guitar player and songwriter himself. He has taught me more than I can even fathom. Although he was not at the Brewery on the 19th, I knew he’d be proud and in many ways it felt like he was in attendance. When Jim got done introducing “Charlie Denison and the CD Release Party Band,” I jumped into the first song on the album. The song gelled, and the standing-room-only crowd cheered loudly. It was like this the rest of the night. Screams, whistles, encores and standing ovations. We played two sets. One was the album in its entirety and another was a variety of covers as well as a Jim Devine song, “It Only Takes One.” We surprised the crowd with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On”, then played some Eastern Montana singsongs such as “Wagon Wheel,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” The encore that followed “Folsom” is the loudest I’ve heard the brewery. We couldn’t stop. I grabbed Chris’s bass and started “Roadhouse Blues.” After that, another encore broke out. I looked at Jim and he shook his head, mouthing “you’ve got to stop.” So I told the people in attendance – many friends, co-workers at the, Mayor Jerry Jimison and other people in the community who I admire – the show must end. “Don’t worry, you can take me home with you,” I told the crowd. “Enjoy the CD. Chad, put on the house music.” To close the night, Chad then hit the jazz demo button on the electronic drumset he was using and the night concluded. Following the concert, I have heard from many in attendance that it was a “magical night.” I’d like to thank everyone who attended. The show was beyond my expectations. This night also goes to show that you can go to Nashville and record with Nashville musicians, then you can come home to Eastern Montana and have a band that’s just as good. I believe that says a lot for Eastern Montana. For those interested in hearing the album – which features the Nashville cats – it is available on iTunes and http://www.cdbaby.com.