Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
Most folks do not associate the mecca that is Los Angeles, California with being some kind of urban hotbed overrun with incredible blues artists or bands.
While it remains debatable that perhaps it is or perhaps it is not, there is no denying that the City Of Angels has seen its fair share of acts influenced by or infused with the blues. Let’s take a look at an example of one, BURNING TREE, a trio that was formed in the mid-Eighties and had a brief run of activity creating and playing some killer rock music.
The three members of BURNING TREE – Marc Ford (guitar and vocals), Mark “Muddy“ Dutton (bass), and Doni Gray (drums) – have gone on to garner respectable successes since, but more on that in a moment. Formed by Ford and Gray in 1987, the band went through a half dozen bassists, including Bad Religion’s Jay Bentley, before settling in with Gray’s former The March bandmate, “Muddy” Dutton.
The trio went straight away to work writing music that was heavily inspired by classic Sixties era bands like Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Taste. In 1988, BURNING TREE began a residency at the Coconut Teaszer venue in Hollywood, playing live there regularly over the next year. Such constant exposure and availability helped them secure a recording contract with Epic Records by the end of 1989.
The following year, 1990, BURNING TREE released their eponymous début album, one that met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. Well embraced by critics and fans alike for its solid rocking and blues-infused contents, the album kick-started a year of touring from the band. Their one and only tour found BURNING TREE supporting The Black Crowes. When their guitarist Jeff Cease left the band in 1992, The Black Crowes asked Marc Ford to come aboard.
With Ford joining the highly popular (The) Black Crowes, it initiated an almost decade-long position with them that effectively prevented BURNING TREE from fulfilling their remaining contractual recording commitments. In short, a follow-up album was never recorded, thus resulting in the band’s acquiring a “one album wonder” designation over the passing years.
In them, all three members of BURNING TREE have resurfaced in a variety of bands and projects, including Doni Gray‘s time with Izzy Stradlin & The Ju Ju Hounds, God’s Hotel, and Chromosapien. He also was a member of L.A. Guns for a time, as was Mark “Muddy“ Dutton, who became a record producer and touring bassist for the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
Marc Ford has also enjoyed a multitude of experiences as both a musician and producer, playing with bands like The Magpie Salute, Gov’t. Mule, Booker T. Jones (Booker T & The MGs), Thee Hypnotics, and more. Ford’s producer credits include work on albums from Phantom Limb, Steepwater Band, PawnShop Kings, and Ryan Bingham.
BURNING TREE reunited in October 2006, playing three well attended live shows in L.A., ones that were recorded for a planned live release. While that never manifested, the live tracks – produced by the famed Tim Palmer (Ozzy Osbourne, U2, Pearl Jam) – were included as bonus material on the 2010 Rock Candy Records re-issue of the self-titled ‘Burning Tree‘ album.
The band had another reunion in 2014, once again playing a couple of select shows in Los Angeles (photo below from their live set at the Whisky-A-Go-Go). There was also a one-off show in 2016, with Ani Hesse performing vocals with two-thirds of BURNING TREE – this was somewhat of a launchpad show for a couple of teenage rock bands supported by Muddy Dutton to bring the local influence to a new generation of musicians.