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Dan Dresser has been present in the Duluth music scene for a number of years now. He particularly has connected with what I refer to as the “Beaner’s Crew.” Aside from his adventures with Beaner’s owner, Jason Wussow, on their “Cooking on the Car” documentary/road trips, the band known as The Brushstrokes was also a tight knit collaboration between Beaner’s regulars who happened to also be some very talented musicians.
I really became aware of Dresser when he used to attend the open mic I used to host and was accompanied by Stephanie Longstreet (Dykema at the time) on backing vocals and sometimes harmonica. The songs were infectious, sometimes heart-wrenching and in general some pretty fantastic material as far as song-writing goes. Regulars eventually started singing along to the catchy, but often not so happy, songs. Over the years, Dresser has pursued film and music production and worked with other projects such as The Getarounds with local fiddle player, Gaelynn Lea.
Dresser has been working on the material for his latest album, “Suffer It,” for a little while because I’ve seen him play a few of the songs over a year ago. Dresser’s style of songwriting stays close to some of the work from the past, but this album takes on a great approach with some really great collaborations with some area musicians. I’d call this album “fun,” but the lyrics tend to tell a different story. It’s best to look at it as a happy sad album.
While I certainly loved Longstreet’s vocals with Three Song Sunday, this album comes out triumphant from the start with the track “Lovers on a String.” Two of the solid members on the album are Ethan Thompson (bass) and Kyle Keegan (drums). Musician’s such as Ariane Norrgard (piano and vocals) Gaelynn Lea (apparently just backing vocals) show up more than a few times on these tracks. A part of what makes this album fun is that there are rich multi-person harmonies. In this particular track, Norrgard, Lea and Caitlin Dettmann are on backing vocals.
The title track would seem like a cheery track with the catchy and upbeat melody line, but lyrics like, “and I can’t stand the pain I only wish that it would go/and I won’t seem to say the words of truth that you don’t know/but suffer it, suffer it, suffer it now,” it definitely acknowledges that sometimes things aren’t so great. On the other hand when you have quirky trombone parts and full on backing choruses that include Sing! A Women’s Chorus with the refrain, “Hold my hand if you want to hold my hand,” there’s something pretty uplifting about this song. The music video that can be found on Youtube backs up that this song in the end is a happy one.
Some of the songs get a little sentimental and soft with tracks like “Where Are You Now” and the final track “You Drove Away.” Both tracks have a dramatic feel of loss and of course the lyrics make that pretty clear. “Where are you now/and how are you now/are you happier than me?” “You drove away with nothing to say/I hoped for you but time just got in our way/the saddest of days they just seem to vanish off into the haze/with everything else, with everything else.”
Dresser manages to create a very human album without coming off as overly mopey on this release. Of course, he’s always managed to do that. Compared to some of the other work I’ve heard, I find this to be a very fitting and well done “solo” album for him. While Dresser can be quite captivating on his own, the addition of the other musicians and vocalists on the album compliments what he’s going for very well. I’m sorry if I miss anyone on this run down, from the people I’ve already mentioned, the album includes: George Ellsworth, Emily Haavik, Eli Bissonett, Steve Isakson, Lance Rhicard, Jen West, Cory Coffman, Lefty Johnson, Tim Strationi, Mags David, Ed Willett and Dave Mehling who also played a part in the mixing of the album.
As far as the recording and production goes, the rhythm tracks were recorded at Sacred Heart and the rest of the album was recorded on Dresser’s home turf at Sub Central Studios, also known as the basement studio at Beaner’s. I’ll dare to say that some great consideration was put into the way things worked out on this album and while Dresser has usually done a good job recording, the sound off this album really stands out.
Overall, I’d call this a very solid album throughout. Anyone who has liked Dresser’s work from the past should definitely find this album well worth the listen. Doing something that is both genuine and often catchy isn’t the easiest thing to pull off, but I think this album adequately achieved that. Copies are available at Beaner’s Central and if they aren’t down at Electric Fetus yet, I’d imagine they will be there soon.