The former lead singer for the 90’s band Semisonic just released his first solo album. Not impressed? You should be. Dan Wilson’s reemergence is brought to you by music executive/super producer Rick Rubin, who was named president of Columbia Records earlier this year.
Not coincidentally, while Rubin was picking up his Grammy award for best producer at the 2007 ceremonies, Dan Wilson was picking up his award for song of the year. Both had collaborated with the Dixie Chicks on their Grammy-sweeping album “Taking the Long Way Around.” Wilson included one song he co-wrote with the Chicks on his own album.
“Free Life,” comes at a perfect time of year, as summer gives way to a gloomy autumn. Wilson’s music can turn a melancholy mood into something a bit more hopeful. It’s perfect for a rainy afternoon.
The thing that gets you is THAT VOICE. Wilson’s calm, unaffected vocals convey a kind of well-worn humility that is both peaceful and profound. There is no straining or striving. Listening to him sing is like meeting someone who makes everyone in the room feel at ease. The intimate quality of his voice allows him to comfortably convey vulnerable sentiments without sounding sappy.
Wilson’s lyrics have a conversational quality, which makes one want to listen closely. The title track is typical of the album in its folkish existential pondering. The songs are concerned with how one should appreciate life and how love can add meaning to it.
Wilson plays many of the instruments himself. The instrumentation has a homemade quality, which matches his casual vocal style. Overall, the music could be tighter in some spots.
The album takes a delightful turn near the end, introducing some pop-inflected tunes. “She Can’t Help Me Now” is a standout. It sounds a bit like what George Harrison might be doing today had he been a better singer, and had his “free life” lasted a bit longer.