Dorney Thompson has the answer. . . . He's Louisville's singing
It's the kind of
song you might hear in a smoky bar or a caffeinated coffeehouse.
|Dorney Thompson has written and
recorded a 15-song CD called "Personality Adaptations:
Lighthearted and Lyrical." He also uses the songs when
counseling clients who seem open to the idea. |
Photo by MICHAEL
"My daddy, he had him an unconscious plan/To control me and
mold me into his kind of man/'Be who I want you to be and not who
you are/'My way or the highway' -- So I stole his car!"
"Playfully Resisting" could have been written by Jimmy Buffett or
John Prine, well-traveled barroom philosophers with keen insights
into the human condition. It's so catchy that you find yourself
humming it almost immediately.
"A song would pop into my head," said the actual songwriter,
Dorney Thompson. "It would simmer overnight, then by the next
morning, it would have practically written itself."
Normally, when an artist says something like this, you dismiss it
as false humility. But after spending a few minutes with Thompson,
you realize it's the real deal.
Because, like any self-respecting singer/songwriter of his
generation, Thompson just wants to help us bridge our troubled
waters and find our way home through the fire and rain.
The only difference is that he's got science on his side. We've
all heard of, and maybe even bought a few, self-help books.
Thompson, 50, is a pioneer of what you could call the self-help
It's got a hefty name -- "Personality Adaptations: Lighthearted
and Lyrical" -- but Thompson's new CD is anything but cumbersome. A
series of songs aimed at helping us recognize the traits that often
get us down and hold us back, it's Thompson's quirky attempt to take
his work down a new path.
For 27 years, Thompson has been helping people work through their
psychological and behavioral issues as a Louisville therapist.
But the whole time he was
probing his clients' psyches and listening to their inner children,
Thompson was suppressing a bug that bit him several decades back.
|If you go . . .
Dorney Thompson will
perform selections from "Personality Adaptations: Lighthearted
and Lyrical" at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hawley-Cooke Booksellers
in Gardiner Lane Shopping Center. It's free.
The CD is available for $15 on Thompson's Web site (http://www.psychsongs.com/)
and at Hawley-Cooke, ear X-tacy and Celebrations on Brownsboro
"I started playing guitar when I was 12 -- I heard the first
Beatles album and I fell in love that day," he said. "I started what
you would call a garage band, called The Baroques. We had the
matching outfits, the Beatle-boots, and everything."
That led him to Paul Simon, Cat Stevens and James Taylor -- the
so-called "sensitive" singer/songwriters who blossomed in the late
'60s and early '70s.
The guitar was put away when Thompson got his master's degree
from the University of Louisville's Kent School of Social Work. He
embarked on a career as a licensed marriage and family therapist.
"I had to make a living," he said.
But the guitar was always there in the corner. Thompson had toyed
with using music as part of his therapy for some time, but it wasn't
until about seven years ago that he found a catalyst.
Thompson had begun studying the techniques of Vann Joines, a
psychologist noted for his groundbreaking work in the study of
personality traits. Building on the work of others, Joines
identified six basic "personality adaptations" that could describe
just about everyone.
Therapists from all over, including Thompson, flocked to Joines'
Chapel Hill, N.C., office to study his theory. It was during his
late-night car rides to Joines' seminars that Thompson, to pass the
time, started concocting songs like "Don't Worry 'Bout Me."
"Don't worry 'bout me/I'll just go to my room/Stick my thumb
in my mouth/In my own little womb."
Sung in a style reminiscent of Leon Redbone, "Don't Worry 'Bout
Me" describes those of us whom Joines has dubbed the
creative-daydreamer. You know who you are -- head always in the
clouds, kind of shy, lots of artistic energy, nonconfrontational.
Then there is "Don't Make Fun of a Paranoid," a bouncy
German-style cabaret song with a sinister edge. Thompson sings this
in an unhinged, frenzied style that adds to the unease.
"He's brilliant in his logic/He's a marvel and he's tough/But
don't you try to get too close/Arm's length is close enough."
"Don't Make Fun of a Paranoid" is a gentle jibe at the so-called
brilliant-skeptic, someone who is bright and interesting yet
determined to find the cloud in the silver lining.
"One of the things that had me migrating toward the therapy
business, I think, was listening to old Paul Simon tunes," he said.
" 'I am a rock/I am an island.' Think about what he's saying there.
And I've got hundreds of those songs floating around my head."
In Thompson's opinion, guys like Simon are really just amateur
psychologists. They've been singing about the dreamers, the loners,
the fighters and the charmers a lot longer than Thompson has.
Thompson makes no attempt to hide such influences. "Playfully
Resisting," for example, was written with the aforementioned John
Prine, that smirking but lovable singing rebel, specifically in
"John Prine is the classic playful resister," he said. "He's
talented, but falling off the bar stool drunk."
At first, Thompson used the songs when counseling clients who
seemed open to the idea. Each trait has a plus side and a negative
side, hence a "playful resister" denotes somebody who has a great
sense of fun yet resists following the rules, to their own
"In doing therapy, if I can teach you something with a laugh,
with some levity or warmth, you're more likely to remember it," said
Thompson, who lives in St. Regis Park with his wife, Libby, and
their three children. "As opposed to me just droning on and droning
He quickly added that this is not for everyone.
"I don't want people to think that I sit around all day in
psychotherapy singing to people," he said wryly. "I don't spring
this on everyone. There are people who don't need humor woven into
their therapy. I've got clients who have never heard any of this."
Recording the songs didn't immediately occur to Thompson. He had
been singing them for clients and fellow therapists, who began to
ask why he hadn't thought to put them on a CD. Sometime in 2000, he
approached his friend and guitar teacher, Craig Wagner, about going
into the studio.
Wagner, a member of the popular jazz combo The Java Men,
recruited several other local singers and musicians from his own
band and the bluegrass group Hog Operation, and they laid down
It quickly became apparent to Wagner that this was more than some
vanity project from a guy going through a midlife crisis.
"Dorney is a really good songwriter," Wagner said. "He writes in
a whole lot of different styles, and he can write these simple,
sweet tunes without getting schmaltzy."
The songs sat for over a year -- Thompson said that's the
creative day-dreamer in him -- before he decided to send them off to
a company in New Jersey that prints CDs. "Personality Adaptations:
Lighthearted and Lyrical" went on sale this month.
All told there are 15 songs on the album -- six tunes about the
specific personality types, six that delve into ways to deal with
them and three that explain the overall idea behind the record.
There are also several spoken tracks that help guide the listener
from song to song, but the songs are good enough to stand on their
Thompson plans to promote the album through public appearances,
which he will somehow wedge between his busy therapy schedule, his
youth soccer coaching duties and his family obligations, which, as
someone who ought to know, he takes fairly seriously.
He's not anticipating a big moneymaker (if he sells all 3,000
copies, he says he will break even), although musical self-help
could be the start of something.
"Given the choice between that and flipping on the TV set -- or
going out and getting stoned or drunk -- what the hell?" he said. "A
little self-help can't hurt."
Nord can be contacted at email@example.com
or at (502) 582-4628.
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