DOG DAYS, the much-anticipated first full-length album from Northeast Ohio singer/songwriter David Ullman, finally reached an eager audience in 2008. Most often cited for his poignant use of vocal dynamics and intimate portraits of love lost and (occasionally) found, Ullman delivered a debut that FREE TIMES music editor Jeff Niesel calls "exquisitely beautiful" and COOL CLEVELAND'S Peter Chakerian describes as "deep, dark and intensely rich." The 29-year-old Clevelander's initial creative outlet was filmmaking, though pre-adolescent re-makes of biopics like LA BAMBA and THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY sparked his interest in music as well. "I started playing guitar at age eight by learning Buddy Holly songs-most of which are the same four chords," he recalls. "Buddy Holly for me was what punk rock seems to have been for a lot of other musicians. You don't have to be Eric Clapton to play along with The Ramones. That's the way it was with me and Buddy Holly's music. My dad taught me to play his songs, and I used to make tapes in my bathroom-overdubbing my voice like I'd seen in the movies. I also drew covers for the tapes based on other album sleeves that I'd seen, and gave them to my family for birthday gifts and such." In his early twenties, Ullman and a handful of friends formed a short-lived folk-rock quintet called "Steve." Songs such as "Start Anew" and "Unspoken," both of which appear on DOG DAYS, were written during this time, and Ullman's long-time friend, collaborator, and former Steve member Matthew Jackson designed the disc's cover. Other carryovers from the group include Steve bassist Nick Robinson, who features on the final (unlisted) track of DOG DAYS, key contributors Sean Kammer (piano) and Logan Ramsier (drums), as well as the engineering expertise of (brother) Brian Ullman, who also plays lead and bass guitar on the record. Ullman's insistence upon the inclusion of these valued individuals turned the making of DOG DAYS into a three-year-process-during which time he refined the songs on stage, performing over 90 shows in 2007. "Why would I hastily make a plain ol' voice-and-guitar record when my brother is a terrific producer and electric guitar player? It wouldn't make any sense," he explains. "My friends and I may not be the best musicians ever; but for me, we were the right musicians to realize this material. In my mind, it had to be these people. Even down to the name of the label that I established to release the CD-Dreaming Out Loud Records. For ten years now, Dreaming Out Loud ventures have involved these people. It's about making dreams reality, and I was committed to waiting for these people and what they could contribute to these songs." Not only do the tracks on DOG DAYS invite listeners into Ullman's life and relationships, but also into the homes of his family and friends through intimate recording sessions that took place in bedrooms, bathrooms, and basements. Or perhaps, we as listeners invite him into our living rooms and lives-to play his guitar on our couches and hang out in our kitchens. Hearing Ullman's music feels less like listening to a recording or attending a concert and more like sitting down with an old friend on a Friday night to rehash the rough day at work or the latest lovers' quarrel. His honest and confessional style brings him a special kind of rapport with his audience. He gives voice to those universal fears that most of us prefer not to examine-fears that our relationships may not be the safe haven we once believed them to be. Still, the music of DOG DAYS goes beyond the traditional break-up record. A hopeful message persists and shines through the adversity, and there's a struggle to maintain and repair the relationship that hangs in the balance. Ullman's shift from smooth and gentle-at times pleading-lyrics, to the explosive and emotionally charged heights that characterize both his songwriting and live performances draw us into the conversation, assuring us all that we have friends with whom to share our everyday struggles, ambitions and disappointments. Currently maintaining a consistent concert schedule in and around Northeastern Ohio, Ullman is eager to travel to new cities. In the months ahead, look for him to branch out into new territories in support of his debut album and it's forthcoming second single, a radio remix of "Secondhand," which will be released along side several outtakes from DOG DAYS. -T.M.Göttl, Summer 2008.