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MP3 Howlin' Dan - Ishmael
Great stories, lyrics, and catchy tunes command this album which takes a powerful voice and a guitar (or appalacian dulcimer) madly off in the directions of world beat and blues to create a diversely styled collection of songwriting gems.
Howlin’ Dan is part freight train, part poet, part musical storm.
Dan is a blacksmith by trade, heating and pounding steel into items of use and beauty for Kootenay Forge in the mountains of south-eastern B.C., Canada. Evenings and weekends find him playing music and acrylic painting. His other interests include philosophy, reading, and hiking.
He spent his teen years listening to 50’s and 60’s pop (in the mid 1980’s) and developed an interest in folk and later world beat music through Paul Simon. In 1988 he saw Canadian folk trio Pied Pumpkin at the Vancouver Folk Fest with Rick Scott on the Appalachian dulcimer, and soon after that Dan had his first dulcimer and started writing songs and performing at open stages in Edmonton, Alberta where he was born and raised. The soft delicate tones of the dulcimer didn’t stop Dan from rockin’ out and using this very traditional instrument in VERY creative ways.
In the early 90’s he learned guitar playing music for old folks in small town northern Alberta, where he worked in radio as an ‘on air personality’ (okay, deejay).
“That time really made me appreciate the old time music and what it was all about. There were a lot of sad lyrics behind happy tunes, and that appealed to me. Taught me to put meat in my tunes. Drops of life everyone can identify with.”
After a personal tragedy Dan moves to the Kootenay region of British Columbia and changed careers from deejay to blacksmith.
“I had no choice, it was what there was to do out here. I just moved out to get away and help a friend build a house. And as it turned out I loved blacksmithing and have been doing this fun, hot, dirty work for about 12 years.”
In a lot of ways Dan is like a modern Townes Van Zandt, happy to live his life quietly in the mountains, popping up here and there with a gem of a song, though he does perform regularly in Alberta and B.C..
”I lead an unusual life in a unique and beautiful place, and it really influences my songs and my culture. As a matter of fact I just realized my culture is counter-culture. Living in a creative, spiritual, healthy, (slightly crazy) independent-minded community really changes your perspective on what’s right and what’s important. I think that perspective gives my work an interesting and unusual edge.”
Dan’s first album, Ishmael, is one of the quirkiest and most inventive recordings you’ll hear, combining instruments and styles in a unique way.
He and his friend Chris ‘the Champ’ Donnelly recorded it over about six months on a Roland digital recorder in their house. The two worked together in radio earlier and Champ has gone on to be a Production Manager in Victoria, B.C.
“I had inherited some money and we both had the time. I figured since this may be the only album I ever make I better do whatever I want, so it’s diverse and very personal. A lot of the songs are very personal.”
Almost a concept album, but there no uniting theme. Almost a compilation album, but it’s one artist. There’s rock, country, folk, reggae, and world music all recorded and mixed into a style that can only be described as ‘folkadellic’. Each song is a new (usually) toe-tapping treat wound around great story telling and beautiful lyrics.
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