Album of the Week: Dan Wilson, 'Re-Covered'

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Dan Wilson
Dan Wilson, 'Re-Covered' (Courtesy of Big Deal Music)
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For any music fan it's exciting to see how the sausage gets made, and Dan Wilson has been making some of the most powerful and successful sausage for musicians across genres for the past 15 years. After a great career as the front person for Semisonic, Wilson became a song whisperer for some of the world's favorite musical acts including Taylor Swift, Chris Stapleton, and Adele. Dan Wilson sits headstock to headstock with these stars, penning songs that stadiums sing along with, and radio stations can't stop playing.

On his new solo album, Re-Covered, we get to hear those songs stripped of the studio polish and trickery that make a song sound like a hit, laying bare what a hit song sings like. With clean arrangements read down by a crack studio band marshaled by producer and guitarist Mike Viola, listeners can focus on the compositions and on Wilson's own strong singing voice. The band that Wilson and Viola put together do an incredible job of grabbing the signature feels of the tunes, while still baking in a unified feel that smacks of the sophisticated L.A. underground singer-songwriter records of the Jon Brion, Fiona Apple, and Aimee Mann camp. I was particularly impressed by keyboardist Daniel Clark's navigation of synth sounds and warmer keyboards throughout the record.

Dan Wilson isn't a songwriter's songwriter, he is a songlover's songwriter. If you're coming to this record for deep layers of lyrical nuance, ambitious chord changes you never heard in the final pop version, or a raw, passionate page from the Dan Wilson songbook, you'll be disappointed. In Wilson's compositions I find a commitment to clarity, to emotional resonance, and to great melody. Dan's career trajectory also suggests he's the rare human being who can sit down with another creative person and walk out with a song that doesn't sound like it was made by a committee. It's even more inspiring to see Wilson cut through the pressures and expectations of working with a big 'name' and instead approach his sessions with the humble commitment to the song that it takes to truly collaborate. It is refreshing and illuminating to hear the fruit of these collaborations in a more intimate setting. There are versions that shine new light in the different setting ("Someone Like You", "You and I"), and some that just send you running back to the original version to scratch the itch ("Closing Time", "Treacherous").

It's great research to bounce back and forth from listening to Wilson's Re-Covered takes side by side with the better-known versions of the tunes. I find myself poring over the decisions in register, tempo, and groove that two different sets of producers and singers made on the same composition. But far from being only worthwhile as a study guide, Re-Covered works as a standalone piece of spectacular compositions sung by a gifted writer and singer.

Listen all week for songs from Dan Wilson's Re-Covered, our album of the week, on the Current.

Resources


Dan Wilson - Official Site

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