By Matt Wickstrom
One of the world’s oldest instruments, the sitar, will combine sounds with a mix of electronica, guitar, and soothing vocals in a pairing that transcends time and space as Cincinnati’s Dawg Yawp takes center stage at Willie’s Locally Known in Lexington on Friday night for the first installment of a new monthly music series dubbed “Moonshiner’s Presents” put on by the team that organizes The Moonshiner’s Ball.
Dawg Yawp is a duo of musical talent and influences comprised of Tyler Randall on sitar and Rob Keenan on guitar and electronics. Rather than opting for a conventional guitar lead, Randall opted to instead spice things up with a sitar, which is popular in Indian classical musical and is a 7-string variation of the lute. The sitar’s signature sound features a slight reverb due to the strings not being played pulsating and carrying along the vibrations of the strings that are being plucked.
“I was listening to the Beatles’ ‘Within You Without You’ and I heard the sitar and thought it was some sort of electronic-y instrument — I didn’t think it was a real instrument,” Randall said. “I met Rob around that time and he told me it was a sitar and got me into Ravi Shankar. I ordered one soon after and now I’m here!”
Randall and Keenan are longtime friends, having attended high school and Berklee College in Boston for a time together before relocating to Nederland, Colorado, home of esteemed newgrass pioneers Yonder Mountain String Band, to explore an array of musical opportunities.
Randall and Keenan separated for a while when a position opened up for Randall to hop on tour with pop band Sonnymoon, a chance he couldn’t pass up. Randall knew eventually he’d reunite with Keenan to collaborate on a project.
“I ended up in upstate New York and Rob was still in Colorado,” Randall said. “Then I had the realization that I needed to make music with Rob again, so I went out to Colorado for a month and stayed at his place, and that’s where we ended up writing some of our first Dawg Yawp songs”.
The duo relocated back to the Cincinnati area soon thereafter, finding a cheap apartment in Newport overlooking the rolling hills and trees that surround the Ohio River valley.
Randall said Dawg Yawp are currently hard at work on a new EP and full length record, both scheduled for release later this year. Randall added that they also plan on jumping into Rob Fetters (of The Bears’s) intimate studio nestled along the river approximately 20 minutes from downtown Cincinnati. Dawg Yawp have already released two new singles in April, titled “Can’t Think” and “East Virginia Blues” respectively.
Dawg Yawp’s 2015 release of their “Two Hearted” EP received a wealth of positive feedback, helping the duo garner “New Artist of the Year” honors in January at the Citybeat Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, and being featured as WNKU’s Local Discovery of the Month for March.
Tickets for Dawg Yawp’s show at Willie’s Locally Known are $8 at the door. The show is an all ages show. Music begins promptly at 9 p.m., with Dawg Yawp performing two 45-minute sets on the evening. Leading up to Dawg Yawp’s show will be a free show up the road at Lexington Green from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. featuring Louisville’s 23 String Band and Jackson, Kentucky’s Halfway to Hazard.
*Photos in slideshow by Matt Wickstrom and taken at Dawg Yawp’s July 1 show at Willie’s Locally Known in Lexington, KY.