Dean Wareham and one-man-band, Cheval Sombre (Chris Porpora) have joined forces to create the forthcoming album, Dean Wareham Vs. Cheval Sombre. Comprising ten tracks, the album is a walk through the 60s and 70s as the duo cover songs made famous by Marty Robbins, Bob Dylan, and Merle Haggard, among others. The LP includes their take on “If I Could Only Fly” which was written by the late Blaze Foley, the subject of a new Ethan Hawke biopic out September 14.
The genesis of Dean Wareham Vs. Cheval Sombre can be traced back to the early 2000s when Porpora began writing and recording songs in a studio apartment on the Hudson River, NY. After sending demos to Sonic Boom, recording sessions took place in 2006, supported by guest musicians Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips. His debut album Cheval Sombre was eventually released on Double Feature Records, Wareham’s label. Yet it wasn’t until a decade later when the two decided to take their collaborations one step further. Dean notes, “a few years ago, when Chris was recuperating from an illness, laid up in bed and under the influence of painkillers, I sent him a Youtube video of Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson singing “My Rifle, My Pony & Me” (in the film Rio Bravo). I think that was the seed of this idea — to make an album of western songs together.” Warham continues, “I’ve played on the Cheval Sombre records and I’ve recorded a couple of his songs myself. He has a strange and beautiful voice; like a stoner from another dimension, and when he interprets other people’s songs, he often turns them into something unrecognizable.”
In 2016, Dean and Chris checked into Palmetto Recording in downtown Los Angeles with producer Jason Quever (Papercuts, Beach House), backed by a band including Britta Phillips (Luna, Dean & Britta, Jem), Anthony LaMarca (the War on Drugs) and Will Halsey (Sugarcandy Mountain). The result is Dean Wareham Vs. Cheval Sombre on which Dean and Chris alternate lead vocals and song choices over the course of ten songs. Dean’s choices are largely drawn from Hollywood westerns while Chris chose songs by the likes of Blaze Foley, Bob Dylan and Stephen Merritt.
A resident of New York City for most of his life, Dean Wareham now lives in Echo Park, Los Angeles with his wife Britta Phillips. He is regarded as a seminal figure in indie rock, with Galaxie 500 recently appearing twice in Pitchfork’s list of top 20 dream pop albums. “Galaxie 500’s often quiet and always beautifully rendered music had a profound impact,” wrote Mark Richardson in Pitchfork.
Since his debut in 1988 with Galaxie 500’s Today album, he has recorded 18 albums, as Galaxie 500, as Luna (who are playing shows again after a ten-year hiatus), as Dean & Britta and as himself. His memoir Black Postcards is a Penguin paperback, and he and Britta have scored films by Andy Warhol and Noah Baumbach.
Following his debut, Cheval Sombre has gone on to release numerous singles and EPs, some of which are now collectors’ items. His second album, 2012’s Mad Love featured musical contributions from Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser of MGMT.
Dean Wareham Vs. Cheval Sombre Track Listing
- “The Bend in the River” originally by Marty Robbins 1962
- “Tomorrow is a Long Time” written by Bob Dylan and covered by Elvis Presley
- “Mountains of the Moon” (Michael Holland)
- “If I Could Only Fly” written by the late Blaze Foley (the subject of a new Ethan Hawke biopic), the song was a hit for Merle Haggard
- “Wayfaring Stranger” (traditional). This song has been done by everyone from Dusty Springfield to Neil Young
- “Alberta” (traditional)
- “Wand’rin’ Star” (Lerner/Loewe) – a UK hit for Lee Marvin in 1970, written by Lerner and Loewe for the 1950 musical Paint Your Wagon
- “Greensboro Woman” (Van Zandt)
- “My Rifle, My Pony and Me” (Tiomkin/Webster) originally sung by Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo
- “Grand Canyon” (Merritt) from the Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs