For me, I look for music that moves me. That can be construed in a couple of different ways, so let me clarify a bit. With Dan Conn, you’re not buying a dance record. You’re buying a collection of short stories with the sole purpose of soliciting an emotional response. Be it love, loss or heartbreak, Dan Conn’s songs are relatable at nearly every level.
I’ll call it a blue-collar authenticity. His songs are real. They’re matter of factly in nature and they deserve your attention. Especially if you listen to music as intently as I try and tell myself that I do.
For ‘Shine On’, Conn has decided to keep it simple. An album sans drums is a bit of a risk nowadays, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss them in certain songs, but what that allows you to do, as a listener, is focus on the stories. You get to enjoy the colorful contrasts as Conn weaves his tapestry without distractions.
I was able to catch a performance of Dan Conn as a trio at Willie’s earlier this year. I was really impressed by the playing of the young man to Dan’s left onstage. Noah Thomason was given the freedom to provide some great layering and accents and I’m very happy to say that his freedom continues on ‘Shine On.’
There is a lot of reflection in this album. Tracks like “Son Of James” are often autobiographical in nature, while other tracks like, “Girl Like You”, are cautionary tales about life and love.
The prevalent guitar work I mentioned, really shines on “Faded Blues”, while the track, “Green Eyed Girl”, takes a hard look at how much love can impact an individual, even if things don’t always work out the way you may have liked. The track is a bit deeper in meaning, but much like a parable, the intent is for you to apply the story to your situation or life. In fact, Conn’s secret sauce is his ability to be honest and colorful, while remaining vague enough for others to share the experience.
I do want to mention, that it’s great to hear backing vocals provided by Jen Tackett on “I Don’t Mind” and “The Pistol”. The two share a loneliness in their harmonies that creates a great ambiance for Conn to accentuate his points and those two tracks are two of my personal favorites.
I’ve written more than I intended, as I often do, so I’m going to allow you to discover the rest of the album on your own, but I must also end on something cool.
The album ends with Conn’s version of the Tom Petty track, “Southern Accent.” I really, really enjoy when an artist takes a song that has impacted them and gives that gift back to the world. For this one, we will call it a bow on this gift of an album, while being an obvious tip of the cap to an artist that had a profound influence on Conn.