The newest album by the quartet hailing from the northeastern US, Smoke Signals, should have people drawing comparisons between Dan and the Wildfire and Blitzen Trapper. A blog favorite, Blitzen Trapper has often crafted albums that are both uniformly Blitzen Trapper and also contain songs from a dozen genres. Dan and the Wildfire have crafted an album that, while only 9 songs, manages to hit many different genres and give us a solid, honest, not-over produced album that should help to get them some increasingly positive attention.
One of the defining characteristics of Dan and the Wildfire, and one that shows throughout the album, is that one of the 4 members is a Berklee trained trumpet player (3 members are Berklee trained). The use of the trumpet gives this band a sound that’s both familiar and a little different. Combine those talented musicians with a talented songwriter and vocalist and you’ve got a recipe for success. The album kicks off with an upbeat gem entitled “Wood and Wire”, a song that laments the end of a relationship, talking about all the things that are changing and saying, with finality, “I don’t think that there’s anything that anyone can say to make it right.”
The second genre and song is “Waiting on Tomorrow”, a piano/keyboard led song with fingerpicking mixed in with lyrics about living in the present. This song is a song that may be a little preachy, but in the good, everyone needs to hear it sort of way. “I don’t wanna sleep until my night sky disappears,/ I just wanna dance among the stars while they’re still here./ And I just wanna use up every second I can borrow,/ ’cause I am sick of waiting on tomorrow.” The first single, “California”, is a soft, harmony laden song about not fitting in and being a burden to others. It’s a tough song to have to relate to, but it’s an interesting perspective and it’s beautifully done.
Being in a relationship that is one-sided and unhealthy is a difficult thing. While it’s difficult to have been in the situation, “Surrendering Song” is an incredible and painful song about watching someone go through that and dealing with the consequences throughout that person’s life. “Best Damn Thing” is the best wedding first dance song you’ve never heard. Finally, Dan and the Wildfire pull out the Van Morrison on “Western Time”, using the deep vocals and keyboards to invoke the rock great. It’s hard not to hear Van, so much so that you almost wonder if it’s a cover. “Lay the bricks, heavy and cold,/ Over every street that’s paved with gold,/ so we can tread less carefully.”
Dan and the Wildfire have created an genuinely great and unique album with Smoke Signals. It’s an album that shows what the band is capable of and does so in a convincing way. The unpolished sound alludes to the sound that this band has live and does nothing but add to the overall quality of the album.
There are no videos of the album on Youtube, so go buy it here: http://www.danandthewildfire.com/store/. The below video of “American Dreamers” is not on the album, but should give you a taste of what they’re like.