Songwriter and blues artist Doug Warner hears a lot of flattering remarks when he plays his music.
"Last time, someone told me I sounded like Leonard Cohen and Eric Clapton," he says. "I don't really listen to those musicians. I listen to really old blues and write my stuff based on that style."
Who: Doug Warner
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 21
Where: Inti Restaurant, 109 Talent Ave., Talent
As a songwriter, Warner doesn't stay within the blues profile. He drifts toward characteristics you might hear by John Hiatt or Lyle Lovett, he says.
"They don't really stay in one style. They move around between blues and country," Warner says. "When you write your own material, you just go where it leads you."
The Medford-based songwriter will present originals from his stockpile of tunes from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 21, at Inti Restaurant, 109 Talent Ave., Talent.
Warner says he writes phonetically, around words whose sounds he likes.
"I've always wanted to use the word dawdle in a song, so I wrote 'I'm Funny Thataway.' It's about me as the quirky person I am. 'While I dawdle on fiddle. Cuz, honey, I'm funny thataway.'
"I like to tweak the lyrics, too," he says. "The people I admire the most as wordsmiths, or songwriters, are Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. They use the English language in surprising ways. Some of their lyrics are archaic, but they conjure images for listeners."
Warner's second CD, "Sail Me Away," self-produced at Bluejay Productions in Medford, invokes impressions of the dark woods of Mississippi. One song, "On This Hallowed Ground," is his tribute to the tradition of American blues.
"I wrote it around the time I made a trip to the South," he says. "I felt like the Mississippi earth itself was hallowed. You can just feel the tradition. The songwriters who lived there wrote stories on their guitars and pianos that turned into early American roots music. Go back to any of that old-time blues, and 95 percent of those artists are the foundation of all American music. They're giants now."
"Hallowed Ground" starts with the lyrics, "On this long slow ride, keep on shifting with the tide, these burning memories will survive."
"To me, the lyrics allude to the African-American songwriters and their ancestors," Warner says. "When I travel and tell folks that I am from Oregon, they talk about the prolific blues scene here. Oregon blues artists like Kevin Selfe, Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones and Karen Lovely have taken those songs that originated in Mississippi around the world. The American tradition of music is truly a unique one. There are many great, young songwriters who express their experiences here in this country."
Warner learned to play guitar from his grandfather and has kept playing for almost 50 years.
"I started playing blues in the '70s," he says. "I had an R&B band, Doug Warner and the Night Train Express. It was relatively large, with a full horn section. There were a lot of places to play around that time."
Warner eventually began working as an actor and director, so he started playing solo shows and developed his own style.
"I went back to fingerpicking," he says. "It lets me have a lot of fun, slurring and slapping notes and chords or hitting pieces of chords. A lot of it comes from the tradition of Piedmont blues, a style that came from the East Coast and featured ragtime blues players like Blind Blake and Blind Willie McTell. They took mainstream ragtime and mixed it up with blues. If I could, I would love to play like Blake and write lyrics like Dylan's, with the freshness and originality of Mitchell's."
Warner played the 13 songs on "Sail Me Away" on a Johnson steel guitar, a Dobro made in 1936, a Taylor cutaway acoustic guitar and a blues harp. Mark Johnson, who works sound with Warner for Next Stage Repertory Co., engineered the tracks and added shakers, scratcher and tambourine to several of the songs.
The CD is available online at cdbaby.com or by emailing email@example.com. Find him on Facebook.