Persistent / Hayden's Ferry Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/15/2001
When we last heard from Dan Israel, he was leading his band The Cultivators through an entertaining set on Mama's Kitchen. And while he still is fronting that band, something had to be possessing Israel to step out of the country-rock shell and to record an album of modern folk with just the slightest touch of country.
That album, Dan Who?, is a breakthrough for the Minnesota-based guitarist/vocalist, for this disc brings back memories of possibly Minnesota's most notable export... no, not Jesse Ventura. I'm talking about Bob Dylan - and Israel often strikes a Dylan-like note (with the exception that Israel can hit the notes fine, thank you very much).
While I do enjoy his work with The Cultivators, I have a personal message for Mr. Israel: you keep cranking out albums in this vein that are this good, and you're going to be single-handedly responsible for a rebirth of interest in folk music... and I'll be the first in line to shake your hand and say "thanks".
What Israel has done here reminds me of Kev'n Kinney's Macdougal Blues, his first project away from Drivin' 'n' Cryin'. Like Kinney, Israel seemed to be writing songs in a vein that just wouldn't have fit in the vein of The Cultivators's music. For that, we should all be thankful.
Oh, sure, you're thinking... could the music on this disc from an artist I've never heard of really be that good? The answer is yes, Bucky. From the opening track "Last Words," Israel strikes a nerve that makes you want to hear more... and you almost find yourself disappointed when the final track fades out. It's raw, it's emotional... it's damned good.
Tracks like "Lingering Questions," "All My Friends," "Looking Out For Me" and "Tears Of Joy" ring out with the sparse power of just Israel's vocals and his acoustic guitar. And while the subject matter occasionally drifts into the veins of sorrow and heartbreak (thus the country reference), he never lets the music become maudlin, and makes sure that while the listener pays attention to every word, they leave the song with smiles on their faces.
Israel just can't do any wrong on Dan Who?, except maybe not making this a double CD so people could have more tracks to rejoice in. Israel might not be a household name, but this CD has the power to change that. All it asks is that you - whether you're a consumer or radio programmer, club manager or label executive - give it a fair chance. Chances are once you do, you'll find you don't want to take it out of your CD player.
Dan Who? is a masterpiece, pure and simple, painted in the colors of bare necessity. Israel has cut an album he can be proud of... and I'm among the many critics hoping this disc becomes the skeleton key that will open all the doors in front of this talented musician.
2001 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault". All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Persistent / Hayden's Ferry Records, and is used for informational purposes only.