For Dan Weintraub, music isn’t work – its therapy. And it’s been that way since he started recording and performing in the mid-80s. Raised on everything from punk rock to jazz, he’s opened for Tracy Chapman, played in a country/rockabilly group with Graham Cassano of Blue Pontiac, and spent his college years polishing skills in a Grateful Dead cover band. In 2008 he released his self-titled debut EP – a folk-inspired effort recorded with punk rock royalty Geza X and Paul Roessler; and in 2016 tracked a second EP with Roessler. On January 1st 2016, Weintraub also embarked on his personal challenge of writing 1000 songs in 1000 days. You can track Dan’s progress on his website here.
Dan Weintraub’s day job includes teaching history and coaching soccer at a private high school near Dartmouth College in New Hampshire – a role that’s personally fulfilling, but comes with difficult challenges. One of those challenges occurred in late 2016 when tragedy struck the local community. His student Janie Chase Cozzi was killed in a horrendous car accident with four of her friends, including her childhood best friend Mary.
Attempting to find meaning in the tragedy and mend the broken hearts of the community, Weintraub turned to what he knows best: music. He wrote an EP titled “Songs for Beautiful Souls” to honor Janie and her friends. And in summer 2017, he’ll be embarking on a tour of the same name to share their message. “The songs are all about love – how it’s always present, how it’s timeless, and how it guides us when we’re having trouble seeing or believing,” says Weintraub.
The first that struck me about the song “JANIE LIKE NO OTHER” were the heartfelt lyrics which played off against an upbeat jangling rhythm: “It’s a time like no other / tender sorrow and love so fair / we’ll find comfort together / As tears of longing we still share / For Janie like no other.” I was expecting a morbid and sorrowful arrangement, but had completely missed the point. This song, more than being an ode to Janie, is a celebration of her, which became clear in the closing verse: “She’s a child like no other / radiant with eyes so bright / Sparkle girl forever / Help us make it through the night / Janie like no other.”
Weintraub’s songwriting and narratives are superb. His songs transpose emotion into a sonic experience that pulls you in. You’ll find yourself both sympathizing and empathizing with the feelings and experiences Weintraub is describing in these tracks. The ballad I was expecting on the first track, arrived with “BECAUSE LOVE LASTS FOREVER”: “You said Because love lasts forever / We can carry this load / When our hearts heavy aching / There’s Grace still bestowed / Though The dawn’s foggy breaking / And In the mist lurks such pain / Loving e’er we’ll push forward / Again and again.” The song is built with Weintraub’s voice and acoustic guitar as the centerpiece, but there is violin, harp, bass, drums, percussion, keyboards and beautiful harmonies.
“There are times when at 2am I lie awake in bed / I’m staring at the ceiling, so much noise inside my head / The urge to run comes over me, sometimes i think I might / The darkness heavy on my chest / I am terrified, I must confess / But somehow hope I still possess Light”, is the opening verse to “LIGHT” another upbeat track with sharp electric guitar and a sure-fire Dire Straits feel.
On the very first listen to this EP everything seemed to fit perfectly together. The songs connect to each other in such a unique and subtle fashion, without sounding forced and melodramatic, which can often happen when approaching subject matter such as this. An earnest soul searcher, Weintraub’s melodies are timeless and familiar, yet they land where you least expect them to.
“Songs for Beautiful Souls” is a stunning document of fragile eloquence that glides seamlessly from upbeat ruminations to hushed balladry. Artistic without being pretentious, Dan Weintraub’s craft is anchored in melody and articulate, but simple arrangements that do not abandon the music’s cerebral and emotional core.
With a pure and sincere vocal delivery Weintraub’s lyrics are soaked in heart-on-sleeve honesty and have the tendency to never come off contrived. Hardly have I heard a recording treat the theme of loss with such dignified poise and fluency.
You can follow and catch up with Dan Weintraub and his music at http://www.danweintraubmusic.com and http://www.danweintraubacoustic.com
or grab the songs here https://danweintraub.bandcamp.com/