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Dido's favorite drummer ... and singer

November 18, 2008 | 10:59 am

When I sat down with Dido last month to talk about her new album, "Safe Trip Home," I found myself surprised more than once. I wrote about some of those surprises in this feature, but a couple didn't make it in, and they're too delicious to not share.

They have to do with Dido's newfound love of drumming.

Turns out the artist's favorite thing to do these days is to play along with her iPod. And in so doing, she's found a favorite drummer. It's not, as one may guess, Questlove, or Jim Keltner, or Mick Fleetwood, or Matt Chamberlain, though she was was happy to have all of them play on "Safe Trip Home."

Here's what she said about drumming and her top stickman:

Drumming makes me listen to music differently. Especially when I started playing along with things. I would do this thing of playing along with my iPod. It's just fun, it's like a game. And if you're absolutely terrible, you can't hear yourself anyway.

I would keep calling Jon [Brion, her producer on "Safe Trip Home"] and saying, who did the drums on all these old Al Green records? And who did the drums on "Green Onions," or on this particular Bill Withers track? Actually, spanning quite a long era. And Jon just started laughing, because every time I called it was the same guy! It was this drummer Al Jackson Jr. I can safely say he's an inspiration.

Jackson died under mysterious circumstances in 1975, so he couldn't play on "Safe Trip Home." Dido was lucky enough to enlist James Gadson for a few sessions. Gadson also played with Dido's idol, Withers. "He's it for me," she said of the laid-back soul man, citing the clip below as a perfect example of his talent. It shows Gadson on drums as Withers sings during the BBC's famed program "The Old Grey Whistle Test."

Dido on Withers:

"Ain't No Sunshine" -- it will never get boring. And it's just the simplest thing, It's the funkiest thing you've ever heard in this slow, understated way.

It's possible to think of all of Dido's music, including "Safe Trip Home," as emanating from that one song.

Give the drummer some!

-- Ann Powers

Photo: Jennifer S. Atlman / For The Times