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There are 99 ways to reach out to lobbying clients in Washington, D.C. Here is the 100th: Grab D.C. singer Janine Wilson’s CD, “The Blue Album,” and send it to most every one in your Rolodex. Or when clients come to the District to work out the details of a lobbying campaign or talk to regulators, round them up at the end of the day and take them to Blues Alley to hear Wilson do her thing. She might be singing a tune appropriate to the occasion, like Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Smell Trouble,” or — for that special congressional appropriator in your life — Helen Humes’ “It’s Better to Give Than to Receive.” The giveaway is part of the plan for Robert Dawson, the former head of the Army Corps of Engineers and associate director of the Office of Management and Budget who now runs his own Washington, D.C.-based lobby shop, Dawson & Associates. “When her CD came out, I sent it to every client,” says Dawson. “Not just the CEO, but everybody at the client with whom we deal. It’s good for the client relationship and great for Janine.” Dawson has a special reason to give Wilson a hand. She’s been working at his side for eight years, as his executive assistant at the lobbying powerhouse Cassidy & Associates and now at Dawson & Associates. By day, she’s setting up Dawson’s appointments at the Hill or the agencies as he works energy and environmental issues for a variety of companies. By night, she’s earning her place as one of the most popular blues singers in the District. Late last month at the walk-in-closet-sized Velvet Lounge on U Street, N.W., it was easy to see why. A charming band leader, Wilson also is a powerful and nuanced singer, constantly flicking her long red locks away from her eyes as she digs deep into material from across the blues and roots spectrum. After guitarist (and high school student) Robert Frahm took a particularly incendiary solo — “He’s not even jailbait yet!” noted Wilson — she polished off her set with a stirring version of one of the best cuts from her CD, a driving rock anthem called “What Passes for Love,” by former Joe Ely and John Mellencamp sideman David Grissom. Last month, Wilson was once again a nominee for the Washington Area MusicAssociation’s “Wammies” — this year for Best Blues Singer and for fronting the Best Blues Band. She’s been nominated for more than a dozen Wammies over the years. Wilson is far from the only person in the political arena with music on her mind. Dawson himself is the leader of the Dawson Singers, a country outfit that plays pro bono gigs throughout the region. Sitting with Wilson in his office by Franklin Square, Dawson explains that he plays “the retirement home circuit,” schools, and homeless shelters, and has performed at Virginia’s Lorton Prison and Alexandria City Jail. “Anywhere where there’s a captive audience,” jokes Wilson. Listening to Dawson reveals why he’s probably both a good lobbyist and a good singer. His baritone voice and molasses-slow delivery, enriched by a deep Alabama accent, might lull anyone into adding a harmless little earmark to a bill. David Shilton, a bassist in the Dawson Singers and a trial attorney at the Department of Justice’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division, says, “Bob has a real incredible talent for reaching out and communicating with all sorts of different audiences.” While Dawson’s musical venture is not anywhere near as serious as Wilson’s, the curious need not be locked down to hear him live. He will be performing one of his every-now-and-then solo gigs at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Alexandria on March 17. Wilson, as is usually the case, has bigger plans. She and her band will be at Blues Alley on March 26. She will reunite with the other members of Les Tomates Chaudes, a vocal trio also featuring local favorite Mary Shaver and former local favorite Cindy Cain, at the 219 in Old Town Alexandria on April 5 and 6. Wilson will also take her traditional place at the Baltimore Blues Festival in May, and every year returns like a migrating bird to Baltimore’s unique Night of 100 Elvises, though she performs as a non-Elvis. Cain, one of Wilson’s fellow Tomates, has her own tangled tale of politics and the blues. When Cain lived in the District, she was the press secretary for Democratic Rep. Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma. “He gave me some of my first gigs,” says Cain, recalling a party at the Cannon Building for the House Legislative Assistants Association where her then-band, C.C. and the Rhythm Toys, first met the public. But her plans to use politics to launch her musical career — she was saving money to go full time into music — suffered when the Republican sweep in 1994 helped knock McCurdy off the Hill. “The great voter revolt put my retirement plan into action a lot earlier than I had anticipated,” she laments. But, as the party out of power often seems to do, Cain and McCurdy both landed on their feet. He is now president of the Electronic Industries Alliance, and she is gigging around her Tulsa, Okla., home while taking a big role in the family business. But Tulsa ain’t D.C., and Cain is looking forward to the return of the Tomates. “Janine has a wonderful sense of humor, and that comes through in her stage presence. And her singing is top-notch,” says Cain. “I’ve been able to see her come up with the derring-do to delve into jazz, and that seems to me to be the direction she’s moving, into more of a pop sensibility.” Though pegged as a blues singer, Wilson’s musical horizons are fairly broad. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio, listening to the usual array of radio sounds, and says that one artist who really caught her attention was Bette Midler. Wilson didn’t start performing until she moved to the District, beginning her journey past stage fright with a gig at the now-defunct 15 Minutes on 15th and L streets, N.W. She still gets the jitters when hitting a big stage at Blues Alley or the Kennedy Center, but sitting in with Delbert McClinton at the State Theater last year and assembling a growing list of major gigs has helped ease her mind. On “The Blue Album,” Wilson selected tunes from blues and jazz stalwarts like Humes and Bland, but also performed a crystalline, mesmerizing version of Elvis Costello’s ballad, “Almost Blue.” “I like so many different styles of music,” says Wilson. “If the spirit of the song or the lyrics call out to me, it doesn’t matter what style it is.” After years with Dawson, Wilson has warmed up — a bit — to the lobbying world. “I’ve met a lot of great people through this. I’ve learned more about the world of politics — maybe I’ve learned more than I really wanted to about the world of lobbying,” she says. “But Mr. Dawson is also into the music, so that has made for a really good thing in common between us.” Wilson is gearing up for her second recording now, selecting tunes and figuring out which of the talented locals she wants on board. Inevitably, when the new record hits, it won’t just be deejays and D.C. club-goers who get the word. Dawson will make sure the lobbying crowd hears the sounds as well. “That has a great way of humanizing our firm,” says Dawson. “Clients don’t look at us as government relations automatons and robots, but people with real stories. When Janine is singing the blues, that resonates with people deep inside.”

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