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.