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Dan Reeder ~ Angeleno in Exile

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Let’s face it: if you live in Southern California, you are a bit spoiled by some consequences of the climate. Last week, we had a high of 79 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of December. You might have been born here, you might have moved here but, on all who spend more than a little time here, Los Angeles will leave an impression.

I think about this when I look at the art and music of Dan Reeder. Born in Louisiana, he moved to the Southland when he was a kid. Reeder enrolled in Cal State Fullerton as an art major, but he followed his German-exchange-student girlfriend back to her Fatherland, and he has remained there to this day. I bought his second album, “Sweetheart”, which came out this September.

The music he makes, like his painting, is the product of a solitary act, with his playing harmonica and twangy guitar and backing up his own vocals. It’s difficult to precisely describe his style and sound. He was born in Louisiana, and sounds to me a lot like Kenny Rogers; when he uses “studio magic” to provide his own background singing and harmonization, it reminds me a little bit of the Oak Ridge Boys singing their 1981 hit “Elvira”.

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The guitar fingerpicking harkens back to James Taylor, and the attitude shares something with the irreverent but world weary joie de vivre of Jimmy Buffet. There’s definitely some country in there, but also some gospel, doo-wop, bluegrass, maybe some barbershop quartet, and a bit of the influence of the cadence and rhyme of schoolyard jump rope songs or hand-slapping chants.

I get the feeling that he misses Southern California, much in the same way that any of us would if we were spending the winter in Germany. In general, he is a little more bummed out about things than he is stoked on things. I drew up a little list of the major topics of individual songs from this album:

"Stoked on...""Bummed about..."
Drinking beerImagining one's own funeral
MasturbationDead 18th century baroque composers
Men's room graffitiAn unfortunate medical prognosis
The occasional but nearly unconditional beauty one sees in one's own wifeFinancial destitution
 Waiting too long for your cappuccino order
 Business situations that obligate you to interact with people with whom you would rather not
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Look at this painting of his. You just know he misses the California surf. He is suffering and it is helping him create great art. When the album first came out, I looked to see where he was touring, and it was in Canada and Maine and all of these fucking cold places! Then it hit me: maybe he realizes that spending time in Southern California will cheer him up too much and relieve him of the angst that results in his wonderfully moody art. As much as I would like to see him perform live back here where he grew up, it seems that maybe he's had to exile himself from his beloved LA in order to induce the pain to produce the art.

So let me just say thank you, Dan, for your art, your exile, your insight, and your pain. But thank you too for helping me to recognize and reaffirm the pleasures I might otherwise take for granted, such as drinking beer, masturbation, men’s room graffiti, the beauty of my wife, and the luck I have to find myself living in LA.

(For Further Reading: Dan Reeder has his own website set up by Oh Boy Records. He also has his own myspace page, which seems to be de rigueur these days. But you can sample some songs there. And, of course, iTunes carries this album, as well as Dan's first eponymous cd, released in 2003.)

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