Derral Gleason is coming home to where his Alaska music career started: The Howling Dog Saloon.
Gleason is the man behind the Derral Gleason Trio, an Austin, Texas-based group with a repertoire of music as big as both Alaska and Texas combined. He’s no stranger to Alaska, having toured here multiple times since his first visit in 2010, where he filled in last-minute on stage at the Howling Dog. Now, with his latest tour, Gleason is back and is incorporating a local musician into his midst, Diamond Fuller of Fairbanks.
The trio — Gleason on guitar, Ely Nunnenkamp on bass, mandolin and banjo, and Fuller on drums and saxophone — is taking the stage at the Howling Dog at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and bringing with them the diverse stylings they use to woo audiences.
“If you commit to coming this far, you have to have some time here,” Gleason said via phone from Anchorage, where he and the band were between performances. “The people here are great. There’s a love of original music.”
This summer, the band has played at Gold Rush Days in Valdez, Salmonfest in Ninilchik and at shows across Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska. They’re a little bit rock, rhythm and blues, Texas-style blues and maybe a touch of reggae, depending on what the audience craves. They don’t fit into one singular genre, and Gleason is OK with that.
“If you’re committed to playing it and working it, it pays off,” Gleason said.
Gleason first met Fuller in 2017 at Foodstock, a three-day music event The Howling Dog hosts each June that raises food and money for the Fairbanks Community Food Bank. Mutual friends introduced them and told Gleason that Fuller should play with him. This summer, as Gleason’s drummer couldn’t make the tour, Gleason recruited Fuller to join the trio for a summer of playing across the state.
“Whatever area we’re gonna tour in, we’ve met enough good drummers that we put up a call to see who can tour with us,” Gleason said. “Diamond was like, yeah, let’s do it.”
Fuller was an easy fit and slid right in.
“Touring with this group is like a lifetime dream I never want to wake up from,” he said. “It’s amazing to meet new people and also encourage others through music. It’s a deep and amazing feeling.”
Besides the stage, it was Gleason’s and Nunnenkamp’s love of Alaska and its recreational opportunities — namely fishing — that solidified the three. They even spent some last week fishing on the Russian River.
“The musical chemistry between these musicians is great,” Fuller said. “We get along, which is number one and great. We respect each other, and everyone’s response or suggestions within the group to helping the music grow is completely accepted, valued and appreciated. Can’t ask for a better group of musicians and great friendship for life.”
For now, Gleason plans to keep up his rigorous schedule of touring Texas and playing Austin, coming to Alaska in the summer, and even taking in some international gigs, like spending time in the Czech Republic. While Austin is home, he said, he’s met so many people in Alaska it’s like it is his second home.
“We have friends in Cantwell we stay with, and we get out and play on the porch,” Gleason said. “Things like that just endear you to being here. When your art gets embraced like that, that’s a big payoff.”
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.
If You Go
What: The Derral Gleason Trio
When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17
Where: Howling Dog Saloon, 2160 Old Steese Highway North
FYI: Ages 21 and older
Other performances: 49th State brewery in Healy on Friday, Aug. 16; The Marlin on Aug. 23; Cantwell on Aug. 24; Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Aug. 26; and returning to Howling Dog in Fox on Sept. 12, 13 and 14. You can find the band’s music online at www.facebook.com/MightyGlease.