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Man’s Best Friends: Shiprock and Anchordog (Northampton Blog)

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Northampton’s Evan Curran Creates Unique Rock Opera for Kids

Shiprock and Anchordog: A Fun Musical Fantasy

Evan Curran, who created the “Shiprock and Anchordog” song cycle on which the musical is based, plays one of the songs for Lucia Cartmell-Toffoli, left, and Chloe Bucs. Photo Courtesy Kevin GuttingDogs have long been man’s best friend. Evan Curran knows this well. His parents always had them, and he valued their simpleminded love of life. The K-9 and the 25 year old singer/songwriter seemed to be kindred spirits, both being a fun combination of action-oriented and easily distracted. But Evan Curran is not distracted from his mission to share his playful music, having finished his album Shiprock and Anchordog. The album brings the listener along on an epic and yet lighthearted ride that follows two dogs in their search for food security after having left the desert. As they journey between the pleasures and obstacles of the world, we are endeared to both the puppies and to the singer alike. We grow to appreciate the small things in life that we learned long ago, such as sharing, and being able to depend on yourself to provide your own food sources; the music is oriented around a moral code without being preachy, but instead whimsical.

While his music is playful, Evan Curran takes his craft seriously. He dedicated most of his free time over the past year mastering his sound, searching feverishly for the best possible sound in his music. The journey of Shiprock and Anchordog began six years ago while he was studying at Umass Amherst. I was roommates with him then, and observed the appeal of his fairy tales as he shared them with his peers. Some might have found them corny, but would be proven wrong as his music has in the last year hit an excellent stride. His ability to reunite adults with their playful side merges with the strong case he makes as a moral teacher for children. This combination makes him seriously lovable.

Learning as a musician throughout the recording process, he has finally sculpted his dream land into a rock opera, birthed something solid from the cloudy realm of imagination. When the project first began I remember thinking that some of his song’s guitar lines felt repetitive and simple, but he has developed a keen sense of song structure since then, and has a solid band to back him up. Featured in the group is Andrea Snowy LaJoie on guitar and a number of other local musicians who hold down the explorative soundtrack to Shiprock and Anchordog’s moral journey. In between songs are skits, acted out by seven elementary school children which provide an adorable backdrop for the story’s narration. Evan’s skill at using children’s imagination is apparent. He is an elementary school teacher and knows how to use music and story to create a fun-loving atmosphere, which is meant to be inviting and all-inclusive. Anchordog is the girl and Shiprock is the boy, partners not in crime but problem-solving. In the background of each skit there is usually a soft melodic trance type of music which belies the peace of their friendship.

Evan plays local gigs, intent on serving his immediate community, a homebody who values keeping what he has always known and loved close to him. At his shows it is refreshing to see children dance with the pure lack of self-consciousness that makes them themselves. They truly represent the heart of rock and roll before it slides into the genre’s more experimental realms, which are nowadays nearly clichéd. Evan is not shy to be a good guy as his bright smile beams from the stage and he leans slightly forward as if to loudly share a secret. He sings his lyrics in a voice tinged with humor. For him, music is all about having fun in the moment, making the best out of every opportunity life offers him, an optimist to the extreme.

His music encourages personal exploration, and the pursuit of defining oneself by his/her own potential for greatness but more importantly goodness of heart. Early on in the CD the two dogs jump a train, which is driven by a female who was not dissuaded from her dream of being a train operator despite being a girl. In this song “The Engineer”, Curran sings with the defiant pride of someone who has stuck to their ambitions:

     When I was young all the people said you’re always playing with toy trains why don’t you go play with your dolls instead.

     I didn’t listen to them late at night I would crawl out of bed, making decisions and ordering instructions to the railroad crew that lived in my head.

     I’m glad that I did because my hard work payed off I didn’t listen to the people who would fuss laugh and scoff.

     I’m proud that the work that I do I keep my head a loft, my hard work paid off and I’m an engineer.

The album is full of insightful anecdotes such as this, focusing on the benefits of using one’s positive energy to create a better future, the type of message that builds the moral foundations of our youth. Evan learns as much from the kids as they do from him, and the reverie of the interaction is a beautiful thing to see as his students attend his concerts for a real family affair. Delighting parents, kids, and peers, he has convinced the Pioneer Valley that his musical fantasy has real merit. The music entertains the spirit of childhood while still appealing to an adult audience that remembers the joys of the innocent spirit.

His belief in peace as the only way forward is strong. At one point in the rock opera, Shiprock and Anchordog find a community that they like. But there is a problem as it is filled with monsters. Their solution to the problem comes to them easily: the only way to live with the monsters is to make friends with them and show them respect. This absurdly optimistic revelation is the epitome of what Evan Curran’s music stands for. He writes his tales through the rose-colored glasses of a fantasy land, one in which complicated problems are broken down to their simplest parts and provided with ideal solutions. Call him an idealist, but if dogs can do it, then we should be able to as well! Ultimately, the two dogs are just looking for food and friendship. The album is refreshing for its innocent theatrics and its honest to God desire for a simple living. Be a good dog and maybe you’ll be rewarded with one of his live shows soon!

Click here to check out his website for tour updates or to buy a copy of Shiprock and Anchordog.

Ezra Prior is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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