Ron Israel
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Ron Israel

Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"Local Folk Artist a Hit"





Local folk artist is a hit in Dedham

By PETER HARTZEL
NEWS STAFF WRITER



STAFF PHOTO BY PETER HARTZEL
Ron Israel keeps the toes tapping at Mocha Java in Dedham during one of his Saturday night gigs.
DEDHAM — Ron Israel’s left foot has changed weekend nightlife in Dedham.

To be sure, his acoustic guitar, harmonica, and uncannily Neil Diamond-esque appearance have something to do with it, too. But all those things are guided and kept in rhythm by the foot, whose tapping on the floor of the Mocha Java coffee shop in Dedham Square can mean only one thing: It’s Saturday night.

Israel, a folk musician and singer-songwriter who lives in Milton, has become a familiar face on the Dedham scene, livening up the atmosphere downtown with performances at the Mocha Java coffee shop almost every week for more than a year.

" It’s just a nice town place to hang out and practice my art, " said Israel, a man with a pleasant demeanor and a twinkle in his eye.

Israel has never earned a living doing this—he has a day job that pays the bills—but he is serious about his music. He has been writing and performing songs for 20 years.

As a younger man, he took a stab at doing it full-time in the Los Angeles music scene. There, he was mentored and supported by legendary Columbia Records producer John Hammond, who discovered Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. " He liked my music and encouraged me, " said Israel.

In one of the highlights of his musical career, Israel’s efforts as a tunesmith bore fruit when well-known folk artist Richie Havens purchased two of his songs

But the working musician’s lifestyle and glitzy L.A. scene just weren’t his bag.

" For a short time, I tried to do something continuously with music. But I was turned off by the music scene, " he said.

" What I decided was, to make authentic music truly, for me, meant having a life. My songs are really derived from life, and I found that I really need to have a life outside of music to be able to create music. "

So Israel, a native of upstate New York, moved back east and kept a low profile for several years, continuing to write songs and play music, but not recording any of his material.

Then, a few years ago, he decided it was again time to " reach out " to others with his music. That renewed extroversion has included playing taverns and coffee shops, and a new CD, " Beauty of the World, " that he recorded locally. It is available at www.cdfreedom.com.

" This is the second stage of reaching out with my music, " he said.

Dedham’s Mocha Java has figured prominently is this comeback of sorts. While Israel has played throughout the area and on Cape Cod, it’s the popular independent coffeehouse in the square that is by far the venue where he performs most frequently.

Each Saturday night, Israel rolls into town shortly after 8 carting his own equipment: an old Guild acoustic guitar, a Fender amp and, for good measure, four harmonicas.

He’s usually joined by his wife of 27 years, Fern, and some friends.

" I fell in love with him because of his music, " said Fern Israel, a Milton Hospital stress reduction specialist and one of Ron Israel’s biggest fans.

Once he gets into his act, Israel plays pretty much nonstop until the joint closes at 10 p.m. He does break occasionally to banter with the crowd, which is mostly couples coming to enjoy a latte or cup of French roast or latte before or after catching a movie at the Dedham Community Theatre or a meal at Isabella, the restaurant next door.

Israel plays a style of classic folk music that seeks to involve the world beyond the singer’s voice. It engages—and is engaged by—its environment, as Israel uses his keen observational eye to comment on modern life, human emotion and the nature of love.

And sometimes it even weaves in a reference to Mocha Java.

In one song that wrestles with the challenges of life, he sings: " If you take it literally, you’ll lose it. If you take it seriously, then we’re screwed. I try to take it just the way coffee’s served in this cafe, the changing flavor of the day, the passing of a mood. "

But sometimes even Israel take it seriously. Other songs reflect a more darkly introspective vision, with references to being " imprisoned in a hell by forces you cannot name, thinking until all thinking is gone. "

At its best, the music leaves the impression that Israel is an artist whose talent deserve a much wider audience.

He throws himself into his music, grimacing as he rocks back and forth and aggressively strums his guitar to produce ringing chords. On slower numbers, he smiles and looks around the room contemplatively as he rocks back and forth, picking for insouciant notes to punctuate the lyrics of slower tunes.

Israel stirs up quite a bit of volume with only his amplified guitar, and this occasionally bothers coffee shop patrons attempting to have a quiet conversation. But it’s Saturday night, and for most people, the mood is right.

" It’s nice. It adds to the ambiance, " said Maryanne Callahan, a saleswoman from South Boston who was there meeting a friend from Canton.

" It makes you feel comfortable coming in here and sitting down, " said Jen Polito, a Curry College sophomore who was at Mocha Java hanging out with two friends.

On a night when downtown Dedham is bustling with more out-of-towners than probably any other night of the week, Israel seems to be helping the town remake its reputation.

" I think it’s great. The guy’s got a nice voice, " said Ruth Kingsley of Braintree. " I think Dedham’s becoming a more interesting place. "

Dedham reporter Peter Hartzel can be reached at 781-433-8368 or phartzel@cnc.com.

- Neponset Valley News


Discography

Ron Israel Discography

1-- Songs for a Developing World ---2007
2 -- Rock Buddha Rock ------ 2006
3 -- Songs for Children of All Ages and Stages ----2005
4 -- Beauty of the World ---- 2003
5 -- So Much More ---- 2001

Photos

Bio

Ron Israel is a quintessential American folk musician in the tradition of Dylan, Paul Simon, and Leonard Cohen. Ron's music has won accolades from the late John Hammond Senior (who discovered Billie Holiday, Dylan, Bruce Springsteen), Ritchie Havens, Barry McGuire, Susan Stamberg of National Public Radio, and the actor Peter Coyote.

Ron has deliberately eschewed the pursuit of a formal music career. As he says, “Early on I went to LA, and although there was a great deal of interest in my music there, I was turned off by the Hollywood scene. I recognized that I was a folk musician at heart, and that it was important for me to have a life in the real world outside of the music biz.”

And so Ron moved to Boston where he met his wife and raised a family. He took a job with a non-profit organization that works to improve education and health services in developing countries; and all the time he kept writing songs and playing his guitar.
Since the year 2004 Ron has been working with the Creative Works studio in Quincy, Massachusetts to record and market his songs. He also has been performing at various venues in and around the Boston area, and has a growing fan base. “I now have a significant body of work, and something to say about life based my own experience, the work I’ve done in the world, people I’ve known, and the places I’ve visited. So now I really want to get out there and share my music with others.