Perhaps Dan Israel's time has come. The 31-year old singer-songwriter from Minneapolis certainly has paid his dues. Starting out in Chicago in the late '80s, Israel released two well-received demo tapes with his duo One Town Horse, then relocated to Austin, TX in 1992, forming the band Potter's Field and releasing the acclaimed CD Esperanto. After relentless gigging Israel went solo, released two more cassettes, and was named one of Austin's top 15 songwriters in the 1995 Austin Music Awards poll, a distinction he shared with the likes of Alejandro Escovedo and Butch Hancock. Later that year, Israel relocated to his hometown of Minneapolis and formed the Cultivators.
The year 1997 saw the release of Dan Israel and the Cultivators' debut, Before We Met on Arizona-based Hayden's Ferry Records. Extensive radio airplay, positive reviews, and touring followed, and the Cultivators returned in 1999 with Mama's Kitchen, which furthered their growing reputation as a band to watch. The accolades poured in for Mama's Kitchen, and no less an authority than the Chicago Sun-Times declared:
"The Minneapolis-based Cultivators have created a buzz with a creative brand of rootsy-pop. Warm guitars and strong melodies fit right in alongside that other Minnesota band, the Jayhawks. Israel's raw vocals are soaked in an honesty that comes from years on the road."
Critical praise and radio playlists flowed in from around the United States and Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the UK, Japan, and other countries, earning the band favorable comparisons to the likes of Wilco, Elvis Costello, Freedy Johnston, and Tom Petty. Dan and the Cultivators soon cultivated opening slots for such notables as Peter Himmelman, Morrissey, the Tragically Hip, the Silos, Pat DiNizio (Smithereens), Tommy Keene, the Damnations TX, Mason Jennings, and Bellwether. Israel's prolific songwriting led him to release Dan Who?, a solo acoustic record in 2000. Dan Who? was a smash critical success story, earning glowing reviews not only in Israel's hometown but also in such national publications as No Depression, which proclaimed "Damn, what a record!". Jim Walsh of the St. Paul Pioneer Press gave Dan Who? four stars and exclaimed:
"Somebody buy a billboard, hire a blimp and give this guy his due already. His name is Dan Israel, one of the mad ones, one of the strugglers, and he just made the record of his life."
In both 2001 and 2002, Israel was nominated for Best Singer-Songwriter in the Minnesota Music Awards. While working on Love Ain't a Clichée, Israel released another solo acoustic record in early 2002, Cedar Lake, which only cemented his reputation as a songwriter, and he was invited to perform at the prestigious South by Southwest Music Conference (SXSW) in 2002.
Now, after 13 years in the music business, 6 cassette releases, 5 CD's, an ever-expanding worldwide fan base, a press kit that takes up half a bookshelf, a stack of radio playlists that takes up the other half, and CD sales in the thousands, Dan Israel and the Cultivators are unveiling Love Ain't a Clicheé, an album that takes all the best elements of Israel's earlier work and expands on his vision musically. A pure pop sensibility infuses the elements of folk, country, and general rootsiness on Love Ain't a Clichée. Produced at It's a Secret Studio in Minneapolis by Israel and Cultivators drummer/engineer David J. Russ (Minnesota Music Awards drummer of the year in 2000 and 2002), the new album puts the focus on Israel's folk-pop songwriting. A solid rhythm section (drummer Russ and bassist Kris Bowring) anchors the arrangements, while tasteful flourishes from guest veterans Randy Casey (guitar) and Pete Sands (keyboards) create a broad musical palette that's as nourishing as it is tasty.
Dan Israel comments on Love Ain't a Clicheé:
"I wanted to make a record that I truly enjoyed listening to. I didn't want it to be boring, so I kept the pop element real out front. To me, it's not a song until it has some kind of hook, you know? But I also didn't want it to be fluff, and I wrote about things that mattered to me - personal relationships, world turmoil, family issues, the local music scene, crummy day jobs, depression, anxiety, and striving towards happiness. [Cultivators drummer/engineer/co-producer] Dave Russ and I really aimed for some sonic innovation too. If we got a musical idea in our heads that we liked, we tried to re-create it in the studio. We had fun making this record, because it was like having a chemistry set. Sometimes our little experiments exploded, but sometimes we ended up with something we hadn't even expected. We weren't trying to be avante-garde? - hey, it's still roots-rock, for cryin' out loud! It's just the kind you have to listen to with an open mind."