Dillon Bustin is a folklorist, singer, songwriter, filmmaker and a playwright who is also Executive Director of the Emerson Umbrella for the Arts, home of the Concord Poetry Center. Dillon has had a lifelong passion for both music and Ralph Waldo Emerson's work. It is this love that enabled him to combine the two seamlessly in his CD entitled Willow of the Wilderness: Emersonian Songs, released in October 2003 by Emerson Umbrella in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Emerson's birth.
In June, '05, the Concord Poetry Center will present Bustin’s original process of re-casting the19th century lyrical writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson and others into song in a workshop setting and, in the evening of the same day, at a concert performance of some of the results of his achievement in a concert called "Songs From Walden Pond."
from "Dillon Bustin & Emerson: Two Bards, One Voice"
Bustin's vision for integrating history, the environment, and music has uniquely served the Emerson Umbrella's Musketaquid Program. ... The selection of both published and unpublished Emerson poems included in the Willow of the Wilderness album accomplishes dual purposes. It reawakens a sense of awe with which Concord River region dwellers can behold their local environs. More significantly it makes the formidable writing and person of Emerson uniquely accessible to the listening audience.
While Bustin, unassuming and often understated in person, would rather allow Emerson the sole acclaim for the brilliance of this album, it is Bustin's earthy soothing voice and merry musical arrangements that brings true life to this collection of writing. Bustin's folkloric talents allow him, time and time again, to add a rich vibrancy through his music. A modern-day bard, Dillon Bustin gives voice to Emerson, allowing us to hear and remember his prophetic call to steward the nature around us and treasure the life within.
in the Middlesex beat November 2003 (p. 15)
from "Transcendental Jamfest"
... A former folksinger in his native Indiana, Bustin uses his rich baritone to recast Emerson's formidable poems into intelligent lively tunes about nature, religion, and society. In Bustin's hands, songs like "Goodbye Proud World" and "Humble Bee" convey Emerson's injunction to appreciate life's deepest joys. An accomplished guitarist, he gives Emerson's complex philosophy a contemporary flair that should nudge stodgy souls from their doldrums. ...
Bringing rollicking instrumental skills and sheer energy to Emerson's complex language, Bustin and his colleagues bring off a musical first—a Transcendental jamfest. He praised musicians Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein, Michael Cicone, Denny Williams, and Ritt Henn, who accompanied him on the new album. ...
For Bustin, recording Emerson's poems while confronting his own mortality provided a much-needed sense of tranquility. "I came to see the message of Emerson's poems was humility. They're not about competing or striving to be among the elite," he said. "Emerson found value and worth in his immediate family and natural environment. I think his poems instill an appreciation for life and a path for finding God."
in MetroWest Daily News October 12, 2003 (pp. C1-C2)
from "CD sets Emerson's writings to music"
When Bustin came to Emerson Umbrella in the spring of 2001 he was exploring ways to introduce Emerson's writings into the community; as an experiment, he set a few of Emerson's rustic poems to music and presented them at Earth Day. The songs were an immediate hit. In fact, they were so well received that Bustin decided to produce an album for this year's Musketaquid program. Willow of the Wilderness is a mixture of poetic singings and readings, with an emphasis on clear lyrics, relaxing guitar and bass, and smooth sounding background vocals from Bustin's friends: Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein, and Michael Cicone.
Bustin hopes the songs will help people understand Emerson's approach to nature and to community. As Bustin points out, people tend to see Emerson as a "formidable intellect and a didactic, preachy person." In reality, he was a community and family-oriented person who was delightful to be around. This sense of Emerson is more evident in his poetry than it is in his essays.... This is a bit surprising because Emerson, who would have celebrated his 200th birthday this year, was known for his essays, not his poetry.
.....Benjamin Hartman in The Concord Journal
September 4, 2003 (pp. 35, 39)
Some Dillon Fan Mail
We've been listening to the Willow of the Wilderness songs-how very rich they are. Already we have favorites, and on each re-listening more details come into focus. The whole batch is tremendously varied. You sure are blessed to not only use your gifts so well, but also to have found such talented and complementary colleagues! Make each day a festival!
.....V. M., Worcester, Massachusetts
Willow of the Wilderness is a treasure. I especially like "My Brothers" and "Two Rivers." The melodies are haunting and lovely. Thank you.
.....M. V. A., Bloomington, Indiana
I loved the CD. What a wonderful project! ... My mother will love it--she always read Emerson. Your voice is so rich--like velvet. Beautiful! ... Each day is a festival!
.....J. D., Morgantown, Indiana
I am enjoying Willow of the Wilderness very much. I believe I about have it memorized now. What an outstanding collection of happy, encouraging, revolutionary songs! Thank you so much for doing this. Now I want to buy copies for all my family and friends. What do I do to buy more copies?
Gee whiz, I wish I lived in Concord! Emerson Umbrella sounds like such a cool place/happening/ concept. Again, thanks for making Willow of the Wilderness; it has really helped me access Emerson in a whole new amazing way.
.....C. M., Nashville, Indiana
I wanted to tell you how much I love the Willow of the Wilderness recording. I find the words of Emerson very moving; they nudge me to open my eyes to the world in new ways; the way you put them to music feels just right to me. I've listened to the CD many times, and each time I hear something new, in Emerson's thought, or in the way you present it. As is often the case, the music helps the words find a more direct channel into my head and heart.
I especially like the elegance and compactness of "Concord Hymn." It says so much about the power of a single idea or action to send ripples out into the world and through time. But at the same time it acknowledges the impermanence of everything and the frailty of our hold on life. And it says this with a focused concrete imagery that transports me to that time and place where originally he made this dedication. I'm not trying to make too much of it, but I just wanted to tell you how much those few lines you sang moved me. ... Thanks for the music.
.....J. B., Rockland, Maine
I've been listening a lot to the new CD and I really love it. It's so woody and close to the heart. It pulls you in and holds you close. This could be said of all your recordings; you are a master of this. We've been walking around singing the songs.
The tunes are very sing-able and the words as always make such clear and proper
sense. You might say, "These are not my words." But it takes real understanding of song-making to place the emphasis correctly and squarely where it must be. To do that you must own them in a certain way. This you have done perfectly. This collection is a treasure for us and future generations. Thanks again!! A fan.
.....B. L, Rushsylvania, Ohio
I just wanted to let you know how wonderful your new CD is! I've been playing it constantly the last few days—inspirational stuff! Mr. Emerson would be impressed...
.....R. S., Hudson, Massachusetts
I must have listened to your CD 15 times straight by now. Every time I hear more. Every time I find comfort and hope and my soul is soothed. How did we get so lucky to find you?
.....E. B., Concord, Massachusetts
I so enjoyed meeting you and hearing your song at the 200th birthday celebration in May. Thank you for this gift of music. I am ordering three more copies.
.....E. E., Concord, Massachusetts