Dan Walters, “Speak of Love” and “Invisible”
Open Sesame Music
Four out of five stars.
Like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, rocker Dan Walters can’t decide which muse to chase after: that arty, prog-rock goddess muse, or the earthy, tarty, roots-rock muse with the grit under her fingernails.
Walters, a DeLand resident who sings and plays guitar, bass and keys, pursues both muses over the course of 22 songs on his two new, simultaneously released CDs, “Speak of Love” and “Invisible.”
Fortunately, Walters never solves his dilemma. One minute he’s dancing with the prog babe and spilling out jazzy, outre rock that will make Steely Dan fans salivate like Pavlov’s dog (likewise those followers of R.E.M. who stuck with the Athens boys after they went semi-weird ‘n’ post-modern around the turn of the last millennium).
The next minute Walters is pimp-slapped back to earth by that roots rock wench, and the two strap on muscular guitars and ride that Americana horse across frontiers traveled only by Wilco, young Neil Young and a few other “mainstream” rockers.
Which is not to say that Walters’ musical psyche suffers from a schizoid personality disorder, or that one of his new albums is the “arty” one and the other is the “rootsy” one.
Walters is too naturalistic a composer (if occasionally eccentric) and too clever a musician to ever resort to everything-and-the-kitchen-sink gimmicks.
When “How You Dream” (from “Speak of Love”) falls from a rootsy chug into a … well, dreamy, lovely fade out in which Walter’s delicate, jazzy piano dances with smooth organ, it’s an unexpected but wholly organic shift.
“Earplugs and Brandy” (also on “Speak”) is a druggy, doomsday blues in which Walters caterwauls about a “fetid wind,” “dozens of horses racing through my head” and “spirits in the haze,” while guest musician Michael Galloway summons demonic harmonica.
But then Walters’ arty muse teases him into grafting a Traffic-esque bridge onto the song, replete with tippy-toe, meandering piano that conjures an even stronger image of a lost soul — and the song’s psychedelic vibe is drop-kicked into Timothy Leary space-time.
“I need two lives,” Walters sings breathlessly on “Invisible’s” “Two Lives,” while his guitars do a prog-rock pixie step around Dan Jordan’s sax solo. Then the album glides from the Steely Dan-ish, white boy funk of “Indiana” to the Randy Newman-esque “Again” — the latter an existential jazz poem built with sparse piano and spacey horns.
Two lives, two muses — the fascination comes from hearing Walters embrace, choke, torment and dance with both sides of his musical psyche.
Review written by Rick de Yampert of the Daytona Beach News Journal
***Both CDs can be purchased directly through the Open Sesame Music Shop