Dan Israel Dan Who?

Fans of Minneapolis's Cultivators will be pleased to take a sharp, left turn into the psyche of lead singer Dan Israel. Whereas the Cultivators play an alt-country hybrid that embraces pop in a way that marries Wilco to Springsteen, the solo Israel erupts inwardly with a dark grace that makes Nebraska look like a sunspot. Dan Who? instantly crystallises the heart of the Cultivators' appeal: well-crafted songs, smartly buffeted with hooks and showcased around high-calibre players. Yet Dan Who?, dependent upon the solo Israel, is hardly Cultivators unplugged. Israel lays himself bare and offers up his soul as sacrifice, yet these songs are all the better for their intimate setting, permitting him a chance to cast his voice in its best light with simple, yet accurate accompaniment. Think Peter Case and, at times, Paul Kelly as musical counterpoints. The clarity of Israel's vision, his insightful gift of observation, his wry sense of humour and the balance of optimism to melancholy lift this release above and beyond the typical, angst-ridden self-exorcism. Dan Who? is a strong work that remains highly memorable, long after it has played itself out. (Hayden's Ferry)