Tribute: Review of Brother Dege’s “Aurora”

In Lafayette during the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the alt-rock scene was bubbling. It had somehow cross-pollinated with the skater community, lending support to local band Santeria who were the bees bringing the buzz. The moody, melodic five-piece used Lafayette as a launchpad, going on to trapse the continental U.S. One member would spread this creative wave further into movies, television, and authorship. Dege Legg was a multi-instrumentalist, author, artist, pedagogue, and observer of raw life that reported his findings through emotional serenades, verses, and visual artistry. His impact was deeply felt by many across multiple generations; myself included. The likes of which will never be seen again.

I first saw Brother Dege in Baton Rouge in 2008. His creativity resonated with me, then and now. And his kindness and depth would help me out of the gutter many a time. To have been able to call him a friend is something that blessed me more than anyone will ever know. So, it is bittersweet that I review his new and final album. Light the fire and gather around, journey with me into the wilderness of souls and audio landscapes that is “Aurora”.

“Like the delta slide guitar stinging like a scorpion tail, the roar of the cicadas over a bayou dream. Like a cab ride out of purgatory, a psychedelic philosophy of hitchhikers’ dreams.”

We cross this bridge together, with Aurora’s opening self-titled song. With a warm, reverb-soaked slide guitar, Dege conjures up images of Louisiana swamps and deserted highways. Tribal, crisp serenity envelopes the listener in time, as syncopated strums are positioned around the resonating slide. They gradually increase their presence, and the full band joins lulling us all away to the next musical destination.

I first heard track two, “Where the Black Flowers Grow”, on Brother Dege’s WWOZ live-in-studio performance late last year. I found it to be a melancholy and beautifully sorrow-ridden song of joy and heartbreak. I got to talk with Dege about the manifestation of this song, and was really impressed how much was involved. The chorus has a powerful hook that delivers a sonic punch of chord progression, picking, and building, leading you from the darkness into the clearing of self-exploration.

“Climbing Ivy (Sleep Beside You)” is the third track on Aurora. Immediately, we are given a wild west feeling accompanied by a southern groove-styled percussion and a rich, smooth grand piano. Dege is in full swing here, showcasing his storyteller vibe with a line like “sleep beside you till the morning takes our tears away”. Journeyman vocals and open-tuning chord progression pair beautifully in this. 

The next song is titled “A Man Needs a Mommy”. Dege Legg always had this uncanny ability to show his Acadiana roots and love for music of all genres, all the while with a tint of darkness among the softness of touch. I can’t help but wonder if this song drew from his own experiences growing up, or perhaps from his experiences as a father. One thing that is present here is the fight to pick up when you’re down.

More than halfway through the journey of Aurora, we stoke the fire and raise our glasses. Because the next song, “Turn of the Screw”, kicks the tempo up and diverts the mood with a southern Cajun-rock ensemble of working-class lyrics. Motivational messages front as listeners are harkened to the sound of a south Louisiana fiddle.

“Ouroboros” gives us a hauntingly beautiful Celtic-influenced fiddle melody, followed by the Brother Dege Brethren full band sound. A crunchy electric guitar protrudes with distortion. Cymbals swoon to-and-fro. The soundscape organizes into a brief declaration of primitive, rustic rhythm and ends almost too soon. Dege always told me Dublin was like New Orleans in many ways and I can picture the Irish countryside when listening to this song. An ode to mourning, this one is an instrumental composition that had me wanting it to last forever.

The seventh song on Aurora is the Americana ballad “The Devil You Know”. A lap steel guitar twangs initially in this song. A piano soon accompanies as Brother Dege’s sandy voice walks us through his intentions and fears. And suddenly, I am transported    from the shores of Ireland to a smokey honkytonk in Tennessee. The bridge is commanded by a beautiful phrasing of piano while the band lines the free space.

“Losers Blues” is that rock and swag sound that can only be cultivated from the deep south, celebrated in true blues fashion. It isn’t about what we have, but what we do not. He speaks of the rat race and the loss of a loser, and how he couldn’t make it stop.

We come to our final track, appropriately titled, “The Longing”. A classic Dege resonator slide song structured with a catchy Lennon, McCartney and Tom York influenced piano progression. As I am listening to this song, I am flooded with emotion, chills, memories, tears, joy, and questions. But that is what we experience when someone is taken from us too soon. Rather than convolute this beautiful song with my own emotions, I choose to acknowledge what it means to me. It is a final goodbye. I will just quote a few of his lyrics for “The Longing”, direct from Dege himself. “I might not belong here, here, anywhere, caught in the way. I am so lost in the longing, such a sad, little day. All the time you’re away for so long.”

This review is in a lot of ways my version of A Love Song for Bobby Long, for it is a swan song letter to my friend. Writing this was an incredibly painful and long process. For doing so meant I finally had to say goodbye to Dege, my musical brother in life and incredible friend. For weeks, I was selfishly not ready to let go. But within this process I found myself excited to share this album experience. Much like David Bowie and Jim Morrison’s final albums, you just have to really think inside and say, what a fucking brilliant note to go out on! All of these songs have Brother Dege’s personal flavor. But they also leave pages open to apply to anyone’s struggles, hopes, dreams, and losses. We can make these songs our own. Much like the perspectives many great painters, the art is for your lens. I hope this review encourages you to seek out Dege’s discography and multi-media catalog. He always loved the folk tradition of passing on songs and stories. There is no doubt in my mind he will be celebrated throughout history. You can find out more about Brother Dege’s life and works at

Author: Ryan M. McKern

Editor: David Trahan