When Dan Israel’s 14th studio album dropped last month, the St. Louis Park singer-songwriter had just entered a new phase of his life. If his 2015 effort, “Dan,” was his “divorce album,” then this is the “I just quit my job and I’m a full-time musician album.” And it’s a phase that suits him.
“I’m Free” isn’t much different musically – he’s still playing rock and roll – but he said that feels a freedom that he didn’t have while working as a proofreader at the nonpartisan Revisor’s Office of the Minnesota State Legislature.
“It’s liberation. I don’t think the whole album holds together as one concept,” Israel said. “But it was a major change. This one sounds a little more joyous. I was pretty excited to quit the job.”
Israel’s opening lyrics on the album, from the melodically soothing “Gets You Through It,” seems to speak to past angst and present politics (“See, this ugly world and still I know, there’s some rainbow/See, the lies and hate, and still believe, there’s some reprieve.”) That track flows right into the upbeat title track, where you can really feel Israel’s joy at not being at a job that drags at his soul.
Israel talked to TC Jewfolk about not really fitting into a genre; he’s rock-and-roll to be sure, but is it rock/Americana? Rock/folk? Rock/country? He doesn’t know – he just likes making music that he likes to listen to. But this album easily ventures into all areas. “Back To You,” a not-at-all sappy love song – features a fiddle and a little country twang to go with the Jenny Russ’s excellent backing vocals. “Make This Life Mine” has a campy, folk feel with the percussion of co-producer/co-engineer David J. Russ.
The 11-track album paces nicely and comes in at 37 minutes. It’s definitely a very personal album, which draws from the experiences and challenges of the last several years. Israel’s lyrics clearly show frustration, rage at current politics, and the joy of being out from under untenable situations. After 14 albums spanning more than 20 years, Israel’s knack for thoughtful, contemplative music hasn’t waned — and it may even have improved with age.
Israel’s album release show is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the Cedar Cultural Center (416 Cedar Ave. S.). Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.