Tristan Israel
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Tristan Israel

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"December 2006 CD review"

Room Full of Dreams
16-song CD
This is a self-released effort by Martha’s Vineyard singer/ guitarist Tristan Israel. When I first listened to this disc, I was quite surprised to hear songs of this caliber on a demo (Note: read into these folkies: recorded at a real studio and written by someone that sounds like he knows what he’s doing). Tristan is able to tell a story similar to the way an author can, transforming you into the story, and make you feel like it’s unfolding around you. Not only is he a good writer, wait until you hear the guitar playing, and the delivery of the vocals on this CD. His mastery of the guitar, along with his ability to transform his limited vocal range into a very dynamic instrument augments his wonderfully crafted story lines. Imagine songs structured by John Prine and Bob Dylan, arranged by Jim Croce and John Hartford, with Jorma Kaukonen or Jerry Reed on guitar, with Mojo Nixon throwing in the occasional one liner. All the songwriting and performing is top notch with “Country Suburban Music,” “Right Wing Radio Talk Show Host,” and “Marilyn B.” with its tale of teenage lust, and ultimate doom being among the standout tracks. (John Hess)

- The Noise: Rock Around Boston

"Music Review"

Dreams of substance
Posted March 2, 2006

By Julian Wise

Tristan Israel is known as an amiable local figure with an easy, weathered smile. Beneath the genial appearance is a formidable singer/songwriter talent whose songs traverse the musical landscape from whimsical shanties to introspective ruminations. "Room Full of Dreams," his new CD that was recorded on Martha's Vineyard, is a spare yet substantive collection of original songs.

The disc's opening song, "Room Full of Dreams #2" introduces the twin trademarks of Mr. Israel's sound. First is the deft acoustic guitar playing, which makes nimble use of the higher end of the fret board. Second is his voice, an instrument that is flavorfed like well-aged oak in a wood stove. Mr. Israel's voice harkens to the dry folk tones of early Bob Dylan without sounding derivative. The song describes aimless late night wanderings in Internet chat rooms as Mr. Israel asks a phantom cyber figure, "are you just a hustle in the night/for lonely souls who have no life?"

Tristan Israel, a man of many talents.

"Goin' Down Southland" is a study in boxcar blues, while "Marilyn B." issues forth a potent blues shuffle. Most songs are stripped down to Mr. Israel's voice and guitar, with the exception of "Whimsey," a moody ballad featuring Nancy Jephcote on violin, and "Honeymoon Overture," a folk-country number with twangy electric guitar notes contributed by John O'Toole. "Right Wing Talk Show Host" recalls David Lee Roth's vocal growl on the introduction to "Ice Cream Man" as Mr. Israel sings, "I'm a right-wing talk show host, bashing liberals from coast to coast."

"Tularemia" stands out as a swinging ode to the mysterious rabbit-borne disease, as Mr. Israel sings "with massive antibiotics, maybe you won't die." With its melodic chorus of "tula, tular-emia," epidemiology has never sounded so good.

Under the guidance of engineer and co-producer Charlie Esposito, the disc achieves a sound that is simultaneously sparse and rich. For those who enjoy thoughtful, skillfully composed acoustic folk, Mr. Israel's "Room Full of Dreams" won't disappoint.

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.
- The Martha's Vineyard Times


CD Room Full of Dreams 2005 on



Troubadour, Tristan Israel, started performing his original music in and around the New York City area in the mid sixties. By the early seventies he joined forces with his brother Ron Israel when they both moved to Cambridge Massachusetts. They delighted New England coffee houses and bars as “The Penciltappers”, with their original songs and unique style. Tristan returned to the Vineyard where he started a landscape business, got married and adopted a son. His journey has come full circle as he is now back writing and performing on and off of Martha’s Vineyard. His CD, “Room Full of Dreams” reflects the full range and versatility of his talent. From the very personal sentiments expressed in the song “Virginia” to the humor and wit of “Tularemia” and “Marilyn B.” the listener is taken on a journey of many moods and styles. The title song “Room Full of Dreams #2” is about the off kilt, sometimes all consuming world of Internet Chat Rooms. “Right Wing Talk Show Host” is a biting comment on the stereotypical political jock heard on many talk radio stations. Tristan’s guitar work is varied and unique. From Appalachian style finger picking to down home blues, he draws from his deep love of traditional American Folk Music. He has opened for the likes of Patty Larkin, Cheryl Wheeler and Ellen McILwaine as well as other noted performers.“Room Full of Dreams” is an innovative album and Tristan Israel is one of New England’s best.