Dan Israel’s not your average rock star. Or maybe he’s a little too average. Or maybe he’s not really a rock star at all. A lot of people just know him as that kid from St. Louis Park, Minnesota, who grew up to be a husband, parent of two, and state worker. He rarely goes out, doesn’t keep up on the latest trends, barely knows how to burn a CD on a computer, and is hardly on the cutting edge of anything.
And yet, the dude can flat-out write a song. They certainly thought so in Austin, Texas, where he was named one of that music mecca’s Top 15 songwriters (along with heavyweights like Alejandro Escovedo) in 1995 during Israel’s brief tenure there. They certainly think so in his home state of Minnesota, where he was named Songwriter of the Year in the 2006 Minnesota Music Awards.
With musical roots in his family (his Mom grew up on the Iron Range and hung out with a young Robert Zimmerman a time or two, and her mother was a concert pianist of note in Chicago, while his Dad’s father played accordion in a band in the Catskills, the famed “Borscht Belt”), Israel was destined to make something of himself. Not to mention the fact his hometown, St. Louis Park, has given the world the Coen Brothers, Al Franken, NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, and musicians like Dan and Matt Wilson (Trip Shakespeare/Semisonic), Marc Perlman (Jayhawks), and Peter Himmelman. Something in the water, indeed.
Following a relatively happy and “normal” childhood and adolescence in the inner-ring Minneapolis suburb, Israel majored in film at Northwestern University, but soon found himself writing tunes and playing clubs in Chicago with his first band, One Town Horse. Instant fame was not to be, though, and he teamed with a college buddy and headed for Austin, where he formed Potter’s Field, released his first disc (1993’s “Esperanto”) and made his mark in the Austin scene. Potter’s Field soon split up though, and life took a turn for the less-certain. Israel packed up and headed back home to seek greener pastures in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Backed by his new band the Cultivators, Israel released a string of critically-acclaimed albums in the late ‘90s and ‘00’s, with 2000’s painfully-honest solo acoustic outing “Dan Who?” stirring up serious buzz after St. Paul Pioneer Press music critic Jim Walsh raved “Somebody buy a billboard, hire a blimp and give this guy his due already. His name is Dan Israel, one of the mad ones, one of the strugglers, and he just made the record of his life.”
Drawing comparisons to Freedy Johnston, Tom Petty, Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, and Wilco, the songs and discs kept coming, and so did the praise, if not the sales. Lauded by national publications like No Depression, Paste, and Performing Songwriter, and even receiving a 4-star review in the UK’s Uncut, Israel continued to cement his reputation, as he garnered opening spots for the likes of Morrissey, the Tragically Hip, Loudon Wainwright III, Iris Dement, Todd Snider, Marshall Crenshaw, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and yes, Foghat, Rick Springfield, and Blue Oyster Cult (true!).
He has fans all over the world, gets airplay in 32 sovereign countries recognized by the United Nations, has toured the UK and all over the U.S. of A., has showcased numerous times at SXSW and other industry conferences, has members of the Jayhawks, Son Volt, the Honeydogs, and many other notable bands play on his albums, and yet Dan Israel is just, well, an ordinary guy. Sort of.
But now this “ordinary guy” returns with his 11th album, “Crosstown Traveler,” which demonstrates once again why Dan Israel is anything but ordinary. The songs virtually bleed over with pain, joy, frustration, wonder, and heartache, all backed by shimmering roots-pop production and set to indelible melodies that set up shop in your subconscious and resist attempts at eviction. Featuring ten songs that range from joyous odes to his young daughter (“I’d Never Make it Through” and “Second to None”) to staring-through-the-looking-glass takes on depression and mortality (“Up to You” and “No Closer to Home”), “Crosstown Traveler” is alternately downbeat and uplifting, soaring and crashing, and finding Dan Israel to be, at the ripe old age of 40, just now finding his stride.
2011- Crosstown Traveler
2009 - See the Morning Light
2007 - Turning
2005 - Dan Israel (self-titled)
2004 - Time I Get Home
2003 - Love Ain't a Cliche
2002 - Cedar Lake
2000 - Dan Who?
1999 - Mama's Kitchen
1997 - Before We Met
1993 - Potter's Field - Esperanto
No Closer To Home
See You Grow
Never Go Away
Brings You Back
On Our Way
Counting On You
Up To You
I'll Get Along
I'd Never Make It Through
Dan Israel - 4-star review in Uncut, plus more foreign press
[+ Show ]
Dan Israel, Turning - 4 Stars Ninth outing for self-effacing Minnesota rocker Seven years ago, M...Dan Israel, Turning - 4 Stars
Ninth outing for self-effacing Minnesota rocker
Seven years ago, Midwestern rocker Dan Israel took stock of his relative obscurity, stripped his sound down to a lone guitar, and released Dan Who?, a withering examination of the troubadour's life in a hollow age. The world-weariest songs on Turning - the bluesy "Just Don't Know," the title cut - continue to prick at the emotions and insecurities of the strive-a-day life with a graceful, eloquent brand of everyman's poetry, but when Israel blends those concerns with an innate pop sense worthy of Petty or Westerberg, as on "News to Me" or the driving chug of "Counting on You," he dazzles.
Crosstown Traveler press on NoDepression.com
[+ Show ]
Dan Israel Crosstown Traveler (independent) Dan Israel blurs that fine line between folk a...Dan Israel
Dan Israel blurs that fine line between folk and Americana, and pulls it off with an admirable aplomb. With his woozy vocals and affirmative stance, he offers an upbeat sound that easily ingratiates itself and keeps its listeners coming back for more. Crosstown Traveler is certainly no exception, and on offerings such as “I’ll Never Make It Through,” “Up To You” and “”Never To Be Found,” Israel conveys a clear theme of optimism and encouragement, lessons in self-help instilled in song. Fortunately, the melodies keep pace with the message, and the outpouring of exuberance and enthusiasm makes a powerful first impression. The rousing “When the Day Is Done” is an obvious standout, but even the more subdued set-ups – be it the gritty delivery of “Only See Red” or the subtle, string-laden gaze of “This Love’s Gonna Stay” – resonate with a powerful tug on emotion. Israel is an exceptional singer/songwriter, and deserves ample attention. For those intrigued, Crosstown Traveler makes for a damn good place to start.
Dan Israel show preview from "Secrets of the City"
[+ Show ]
"Writing and performing great songs for the last 15 years, Dan Israel is easily one of the Twin Citi..."Writing and performing great songs for the last 15 years, Dan Israel is easily one of the Twin Cities’ un-anointed poet laureates, steadfastly making his way into the ranks of local singer/songwriter legends like Paul Westerberg. Whether it’s with a full band or as a solo act, his work contains elements of intimacy and, as he again demonstrates on his new release, “Crosstown Traveler,” an engaging simplicity that makes his deep music accessible to any audience. His performances showcase these same qualities."
No Depression review for "Time I Get Home"
[+ Show ]
Dan Israel Time I Get Home (Eclectone) By Luke Torn Dan Israel’s sixth album reflects the plig...Dan Israel
Time I Get Home (Eclectone)
By Luke Torn
Dan Israel’s sixth album reflects the plight of the lone ranger singer-songwriter these days. A homemade basement job cut with just a smidge of outside keyboard and percussion help, it’s insular, ardently wistful, and in its own way, bitterly uncompromising.
Flitting from downcast soul-searching balladry to mercurial folk-rock, it’s less a radical departure than a fitful melding of Israel’s power-pop tendencies (see 2003’s Love Ain’t A Cliché) to the acidic, starkly personal material best represented by 2000’s great (and largely unnoticed) Dan Who?
Israel’s best at the kind of internal conversations that torment every starving artist: “Where you ever gonna go, when will you reach the bottom,” ponders one song; “I never meant to be a bully, still it’s pretty hard these days to stay alive,” goes the title cut.
While the hangdog acoustic songs are affecting, they can start to blur; when Israel provides a bit more musical color, as on the withering “All The Phonies” and the barbed sentiments on loneliness and existentialism of the driving rocker “Somebody Better”, the record springs to life and escapes its monochromatic setting.
Time I Get Home is no stylistic or thematic groundbreaker, but Israel remains a true believer, a dedicated craftsman giving voice to the kind of universal sentiments most of us keep under our hats.
No Depression review for "Dan Who?"
[+ Show ]
Dan Israel Dan Who? Review by Dan Moser OK, so this takes a little nerve: Dan Israel, leader of...Dan Israel
Review by Dan Moser
OK, so this takes a little nerve: Dan Israel, leader of the Minneapolis-based Cultivators, who have put out a couple of fine but hardly artistically or commercially groundbreaking records, decides to issue one of those just-a-guy-and-his-acoustic-guitar solo albums full of songs that are, you know, too “personal” for a full-band approach. Like he’s Bruce Springsteen or somethin’.
And then you listen and think, “Damn, what a record!” — in fact, perhaps the most surprising, and welcome, singer-songwriter find since Tim Easton’s Special 20. Particularly in its first half or so, Dan Who? has an unremittingly weary tone, the song titles saying it all: “Last Words”, “Worn Down By The Chase”, “Lingering Questions”, “Waiting So Long” and “Overloaded” among them. “You’re heading north with your luck heading south,” from “Lingering Questions”, pretty much sums things up.
Not that Israel is all sad sack. “Overloaded” is full of gallows humor: “Take me in your arms, I’ll put down the knife/I can’t write a love song to save my life/If I considered suicide/I’d probably be outvoted/I’m feeling just a little overloaded.”
Israel’s mood lightens slightly as the album wears on, which is probably a good thing. On “Looking Out For Me”, he waxes sentimental about a big brother, and the even more starkly personal “Tears Of Joy” is, of all things, an apology to his parents for being such a pain in the ass.
Big Takeover Magazine review of Crosstown Traveler
[+ Show ]
dan israel crosstown traveler (Dan Israel) Minneapolis singer/songwriter Israel has ... dan israel
Minneapolis singer/songwriter Israel has toiled under the radar for 20 years and 11 LPs. Hard to say if Crosstown will change anything, but success isn’t the point. Israel’s melodic, plainspoken roots rock deals honestly with real people’s problems—stardom isn’t remotely important. “No Closer to Home” finds the protagonist pondering the turns his life took as he endures a long commute. The bluesy “Only See Red” finds the daily frustrations threatening to boil over. “I’d Never Make It Through” pays tribute to the unconditional love of a child, and the catchy “Up to You” reminds us who rules our destinies. No pessimism or optimism here, really; just life as it’s lived, charged by the certainty that it’s enough. (danisraelmusic.com)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.
|Dec 7, 2011 Wednesday||9:30 PM||331 Club||Minneapolis, MN, US|
|Dec 3, 2011 Saturday||9:30 PM||Republic at Seven Corners||Minneapolis, MN, US|
|Nov 10, 2011 Thursday||5:00 PM||Amsterdam Bar and Hall||St. Paul, MN, US|
|Nov 9, 2011 Wednesday||9:00 PM||Aster Cafe||Minneapolis, MN, US|
|Oct 26, 2011 Wednesday||6:00 PM||Hells Kitchen||Minneapolis, MN, US|
|Oct 21, 2011 Friday||10:00 PM||Fitger's Brewhouse||Duluth, MN, US|
|Oct 14, 2011 Friday||9:30 PM||Republic at Seven Corners||Minneapolis, MN, US|
|Oct 10, 2011 Monday||10:00 PM||Barbette||Minneapolis, MN, US|