Release Date: October 2002
Record label: Persistent Records
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Cultivating a Name for Themselves
by: steven jacobetz
The lack of mainstream recognition and success for Dan Israel and the Cultivators is a baffling mystery. I've been pleading his case in print consistently for the last three years ever since I first heard the last Cultivators album, Mama's Kitchen, which is spectacular. Although the surrounding band personnel has changed in the interim, the new album, Love Ain't A Cliché, holds up just as well.
Israel has an undeniable knack for writing catchy Americana rock with singable hooks, and a "killing me softly with his song" type of piercing lyrical insight. The proof is in the music, and Israel comes through triumphantly. Just hearing the first few bars of the opening track, "Some Time" with its straight-ahead rhythms and soaring organ, brings to mind the sensation of cruising down a highway in the heartland in a convertible with the top down. There's nothing for miles and miles but empty space; nothing but endless possibilities for escaping the barriers and limitations of the daily grind of our existence and finding something better.
The characters in Israel's songs face imposing barriers, both real and imagined (sometimes "The Knot" is indeed tied inside themselves), and these obstacles are as annoying as the sound of the alarm clock heard at the beginning of "Killing Time." There are always people telling them they can't and they are wrong; giving them all kinds of advice and pulling them in opposite directions at once. They wind up feeling depressed, frustrated, like they don't have a friend anywhere. But there's always an underlying feeling of belief and hope that they can overcome these things and find the direction that is right for them. They find a way to shake off the gloom and realize that the fear and doubts within them are never going to win if they don't allow them to.
Israel sings, "Just give me some time / To set things right." Somehow, you believe the people in these songs can do that.
These trials ultimately lead Israel back to friends and loved ones, because love is not a cliché. This appreciation can be heard on the gentle foot-tapper "Jump Through the Rings", or "Hey Kid," in which Israel declares, "Mostly I'm just happy you're alive." With "Wasn't Lost on Me", he provides that deft, touching, closing song which gives the album a definitive final statement in much the same way an artist like Bob Dylan always has been able to do. The song is a tribute to the people who matter most in life, a prodigal son type piece, similar to "Tears of Joy" on Israel's 2000 solo album, Dan Who?.
Someone with as much talent as Dan Israel just can't be held down forever. There have been several musicians to emerge on major labels just within the past 18 months or so--Ryan Adams, John Mayer, and Pete Yorn, to name a few--among whom Israel could easily find a niche. Where is his break? It is frustrating to realize how good his music would sound with top-notch, major league production. Even without those advantages, his music sounds darn good.
If you don't know who Dan Israel and the Cultivators are yet, you should. Come on, put your feet in the water and enjoy some good old American rock and roll. I believe sincerely that Dan Israel is someone whose time has arrived. Discover a good thing today.