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About America


It was almost 40 years ago when high school chums in London decided to put together a band. Two of those old friends, Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, will be here, now on Saturday night.

America is back on tour supporting its latest album, “Here and Now,” and this time their highway leads straight through Charlottesville.

“We are very proud of the work we did on ‘Here and Now,’ and we get immense satisfaction from our live show, which spans music from our 39 years in the business,” said Bunnell, who has penned such hits as “A Horse with No Name” and “Ventura Highway.”

 It was that nameless horse that climbed the charts in 1972 and started America down a very successful highway. America began as a trio. Dan Peek was another of the sons of American servicemen who were stationed in England.

“We became friends while attending high school in London, England, in the mid-’60s,” Bunnell said. “After graduating in 1969, our high school band evolved into America ... a name that seemed to come naturally to us being young Americans abroad.”

But despite their early success, conflicts and constant travel began to take a toll, and Peek left the group in 1977. The Grammy Award-winners, however, continued as a duo, still touring and turning out hits like “You Can Do Magic.”

Over the years their list have included “Sister Golden Hair,” “Tin Man,” “I Need You,” “Don’t Cross the River” and, of course, my friend Amy’s favorite — “Muskrat Love.” “That was actually a song we ‘discovered’ on a relatively obscure album by the singer-songwriter Willis Allen Ramsey,” Bunnell said. “We decided to record it with our own arrangement in mind. “We have always written most of our own songs, and up until then we had only recorded one other outside song, ‘Head and Heart’, by our friend John Martyn.”

Many of those old favorites can be heard on America’s latest project. “Here and Now” is a twodisc release: a studio recording of all-new material and a live disc taped at XM Radio of songs from their greatest hits album, “History.”

“It was very much a trade-off between the band and the Sony/Burgundy team,” Bunnell said. “We were most interested in releasing new material, and if releasing a disc containing earlier hits as well was the only way to make that happen, we felt that was an acceptable compromise. “The idea is [to] remind newer listeners who we were while drawing our older listeners to the new material.”

The album also contains an impressive list of guest performers, including Ryan Adams and Ben Kweller. “As producers for the project, Adam Schlesinger and James Iha brought many ideas to the table, including reaching out to some of the guest artists, like Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller and members of Maplewood, Nada Surf and My Morning Jacket,” Bunnell said. “Pete Ganberg at Sony/Burgundy contributed suggestions about outside material as well. “Our pal Stephen Bishop and our drummer, Willie Leacox, also contributed to a few tracks.”

For a group that has been on the road averaging 100 shows per year for almost 40 years, it was good to get back in the studio. “We have worked in Gerry’s Human Nature Studio in recent years quite a bit, but it was a familiar and exciting feeling to be working on a new project in a new studio [Stratosphere Sound] with new producers and different artists,” Bunnell added. “It was the first time we have recorded in New York City, as well.” But it was the live shows that have led to America’s enduring success, and Bunnell said he is looking forward to coming to town. (Terri Allard’s trio will open Saturday’s show at the Pavilion.) “There is a very good chance we have played Charlottesville in the past, but I am honestly not sure,” he said. “Gerry may remember, but I guarantee we are looking forward to playing it this time.” Oh, and he offered a bit of advice for young bands starting out who want to make it a lasting career.

“Keep the focus on the songs,” he said, “and try to make decisions about band direction that are acceptable to all concerned.”

Multimedia: Videos, MP3s, etc.
Sister Golden Hair

America Daisy Jane Live in Chicago 2008

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