Don Dixon

The Entire Combustible World in One Small Room

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In the liner notes to The Entire Combustible World in One Small Room, singer/songwriter and producer Don Dixon confesses "(a) few years ago I gave up on songwriting...I was a philosophical (and quite frankly an emotional) shell." This goes a long way toward explaining why this was Dixon's first album of new songs since 2000, and suggests why this work feels decidedly different than his best-known material from the 1980s and '90s. Anyone looking for smart, edgy pop songs sung with a soulful edge will be glad to know that Dixon can still deliver the goods with ease, but there's a sharper, more intellectual, and more introspective tone to The Entire Combustible World than on Romeo at Juilliard or Most of the Girls Like to Dance But Only Some of the Boys Like To. A loose concept album, The Entire Combustible World consists of ten songs, each of which tells a story that takes place in a single room -- "Roommate" is a energetic rocker about a co-ed who won't admit she's fallen in love with the male friend with whom she shares an apartment, "In Darkness Found" focuses on a man suffering a crisis of faith as he sits in church on Sunday morning, a crooked politician is gunned down in a cheap motel on "In a Politician's Bed," "ICU" tells the tale of a man teetering on the edge of life and death in a hospital emergency room, and "Kitchen" records the thoughts of an angry man as he eats his dinner. Dixon's singing is skillful and expressive on each track, while his skills as a producer and an instrumentalist are in great shape -- he plays most of the music himself through the magic of overdubbing, and the end product is clever without being pretentious, ambitious without overplaying its artier side. It's a good thing Dixon's daughter helped encourage him to write start writing again, because The Entire Combustible World in One Small Room shows he's only grown and improved with the passage of time; this is a striking and powerful work from a man who seemingly has more exciting things to say now than ever. (And let's give Dixon a big hand for the coda -- a superb cover of Let's Active's "Room with a View" sung with his wife, Marti Jones.)

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