Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Dan Israel “See the Morning Light” Review

Published in Blog, City Pages. Tags: , , .

From a place of personal crisis comes See the Morning Light, the 10th solo album in roughly a decade from Dan Israel. Following 2007’s rousing Turning, an album recorded with an uplifting spirit guided by the help of countless friends, Israel hit an emotional low, one that left him in the grip of depression, from which it took him nearly a year to resurface. Evidence of that year is See the Morning Light, an album that not only acts as a personal record of Israel’s struggles, but one that sees the musician on the cusp of a new beginning.

Playing solo on most of the album, Israel gives himself the freedom to focus on themes of a more personal nature. Through “Think I Know” and “Right Here” Israel confronts the idea of looking inward for strength and acceptance rather than searching for those things in other people. He goes on to describe the effect his daughter has on him in “Think I Know”: “I think I’ve seen the face of God, in this little baby girl I got/Hopin’ her dreams all will come true, I guess sometimes, the ones that matter do.” While it’s not unthinkable that he would have released the same songs if he had recorded with a full band, the deliberate introspection shines through the whole album, something that might have been muffled had Israel gone the route of Turning.

Despite the consistent themes that persist throughout the album, See the Morning Light‘s songs avoid monotony. Rather, each track carries a unique sound and energy. In “Another Day,” Israel shakes up the time structure, offering a bubbling riff that contrasts greatly with “Hard Times Falling,” the gentle track that follows. Later, “Daybreak” adds a brief instrumental interlude before the album dips into the only track featuring guest players, “I Howled out Your Name,” on which Molly Maher adds vocals and Steve Murray bass as Israel juggles styles through a raggedy blues shuffle.

But the method by which the songs are performed is still overshadowed by the emotional internal battle that materializes within Israel’s lyrics. Reflecting on seasonal depression with “Hard Times Falling,” Israel spirals into defeat with “Demons.” “Believe I’ll Be Ready” follows, with a glimmer of hope that continues to gain momentum as Israel optimistically sings, “Anyone got a little hope today? All around are demons to slay.”

Music often leans on a period of time in someone’s life when they’ve fallen into a rut and become emotionally exhausted. That emotion’s at the core of some of the best pop music, as well as some of the most tragic. But rare are the songs that capture the story of someone who has lifted himself out of that state, having created a new hope out of the haunting memories. See the Morning Light is one such piece of music, and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, the next 10 years might be some of the best of Dan Israel’s life.

[This post was originally published by City Pages.]