(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- If you were to spend several decades of your life playing the popular clubs, portable stages, purposeful rooms, public parks and private porches of the greater Asbury Park circuit, there’s a slight but significant chance that you could get famous. As James Dalton can vouch, there’s a much greater chance that you’ll get stories — the kind of awesome anecdotes and flipped-out folklore that a veteran performer (who also booked, managed, and worked at places that range from the world-renowned Stone Pony to the long-gone Moonrock and El Lobo Negro) can boast as a badge of authenticity. On the afternoon of Sunday, January 8, 2023, the self-proclaimed “story-teller guy, song man, front man, radio personality, poet, and actor” brings a special presentation, based on a near-lifetime of lived experience, to local lovers and makers of music for the first time.
Hosted at the in-house theatre space of the historic Stephen Crane House (508 Fourth Avenue in Asbury Park), the words-and-music program entitled “Asbury Park & Me” will be presented as a tie-in to the 2023 Light of Day Winterfest, the annual slate of musical happenings dedicated to the LOD Foundation’s ongoing effort to promote awareness of and research in Parkinson’s and other neuromuscular diseases.
The 3:00pm performance marks the actual U.S. premiere of a project that Dalton debuted at the 2022 edition of the Brighton Fringe Festival, the annual UK-based showcase of offbeat and often experimental works in multiple media. While the show found an appreciative audience across the pond, its creator was initially hesitant to perform it in front of a home-turf crowd, explaining in a recent radio interview that others who might have had similar experiences, or who were themselves witness to some of the events described in the show, might have had a much different take on things, or even heckled the performer to the effect that “it’s not how that went down, man!” That said, Dalton embraced the opportunity to workshop “Asbury Park & Me” as part of the Light of Day schedule, with an eye toward exploring additional venues and contexts in which to bring the “part coming of age, part insider tell-all” show to a jukebox jury of his peers.
Soundtracked with new originals and covers of songs associated with scene contemporaries, it’s a renewed commitment for the Ocean County-based artist who has described himself as “of the scene, but not part of it” — a troubador whose globetrotting escapades could just as easily have found him jamming in a Shanghai jazz club until 3:00am, or entertaining on a series of Baltic Sea cruises, as keeping the home fires burning in the saloons of Central Jersey (or representing the Shore at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN).
Along the way, Dalton has had the pleasure and privilege of working and sharing stages with partners that have ranged from legendary session drummer Bernard Purdie, to next-generation talents James McMurtry and Derek Trucks, to such Jersey-pride performers as Nicole Atkins, Vini Lopez, and Bon Jovi’s David Bryan. The author of several collections of poetry (whose previous songs/ stories project “Shanghai to Memphis” premiered at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival) has been visible of late at places that have ranged from SeaStreak Ferry excursions out of Highlands, to Waretown’s venerable Albert Music Hall, and a profile on a forthcoming episode of the New Jersey PBS series “Driving Jersey.”
On January 8, the vocalist-guitarist-harpist who co-founded the enduring jam band Secret Sound (and who penned the exuberant anthem “Come Back to the Jersey Shore”) will take the solo spotlight, at the onetime teen-years home of the future author of the classic novel “The Red Badge of Courage.” Whether delivering a highly personal, hyper-localized song like “Jersey Shore,” “The House My Grandfather Built,” or “Sweet Son of Mine” (dedicated to his now seven-year- old child) — or universally resonant material like “Sugar Mama” and “Everyman’s Blues” — the musical multi-tasker blasts away the stereotype of the mellow creature with the acoustic guitar; playing with the full intensity of a multi-piece combo, and lending his vocal range to “hillbilly werewolf” whoops, cool-cat scats, and illuminating choral fills that do the job of three or more backup singers. It’s a personal journey for which all are invited to tag along — and in which “setlists may change; stories may veer; the energy from the audience may inspire new directions.”
Doors open at 2:30pm for the 3:00pm performance of “Asbury Park & Me,” with limited-seating tickets ($15; proceeds benefit the Light of Day Foundation) available at aphistoricalsociety.org.
Visit James Dalton on Facebook for more information, including future presentations of the show and a possible second performance added for the Crane House.