With the winter months in full bloom, the cold winds rushing mightily across Lake Superior and everyone looking for a little warmth these days, the new album from Dead Man Winter, “Furnace,” could not of come at a better time. Many long time fans of the Minnesota bluegrass quintet “Trampled by Turtles” have kept a pulse on lead singer Dave Simonett’s side project Dead Man Winter, which was formally introduced with the 2011 album Bright Lights. Around that same time was the release of “Palomino” which took Trampled By Turtles to a new level as the album climbed to #1 on the US Bluegrass charts and brought national attention to the boys from Duluth.
As TBT’s popularity grew, I hung on to that Dead Man Winter album like it was my little secret, my “you don’t know Trampled By Turtles like I do” card. Selfish, I know, but Midwestern music fans can be that way because of how spoiled we are with homegrown talent. When I noticed GNDWIRE added Dead Man Winter to its artist roster, I knew that something great was on the horizon and that Dead Man Winter, my secret, would be no more.
As soon as the needle hits the vinyl, you are instantly hit with the warmth of “Furnace” on the opening track “This House Is on Fire.” It’s a song of isolation. The good kind. The kind of isolation we all seek at times. Isolation from the world outside, a time to sip a whiskey, contemplate, recharge and re-calibrate. It sets up the overall tone of the album, a personal show that provides an atmosphere for introversion brought on by the cold winds of Lake Superior… and heartache.
Now, by no means is this album an emotional slow jam for 40 minutes. Rather, it gets you out of the isolation of a one room cabin quickly and puts you into the warmth of a dim lit bar. Tracks like “Destroyer”, “Red Wing Blue Wing” and “The Same Town” amp up the pace with joyful melody and breakdowns but each hit on familiar themes of a breakup, where the music is reflecting that “I’m OK” outward appearance and the lyrics are expressing the true feelings. Melodic guitar riffs and harmonies are amplified but never over power Simonett’s message or performance, it still retains that stripped down feel as if it’s just you and Dave, jamming along in a dim-lit bar.
What I gravitated most towards on this album were the tracks that highlight Simonett’s songwriting. Tracks like “Weight of the World” and “You Are Out of Control” have an authenticity about them that makes you wonder how long they have been hidden in the pages of a notebook, tucked away and waiting for the right time to be released. To us they highlight what Midwestern artist seem to all have in common, the ability to poetically articulate basic human feeling in a painfully honest way. The emotion that Dave Simonett pours into songs is something that is admirable. It is his honesty that pushes his work beyond anyone else’s, why fans are drawn to his music – his words allow us all to feel something, to listen and say to ourselves “alright, I’m not the only one…”
Overall, the album Furnace breathes new life into Dead Man Winter and ushers in a new era for Dave Simonett. No longer just a “side project” that spoiled Midwestern music fans have kept from the rest of the world, it is time to proudly show it off. Furnace is an album that is sure to warm the hearts and minds of music fans across the country and while we wish Dead Man Winter could always be our little secret, we are excited for the road ahead and look forward to what lay in store.
Want more Dead Man Winter? Visit them at www.deadmanwinter.com for tour dates, music, merch and more! For more information on GNDWIRE Records visit them at www.gndwire.com to learn more about Dead Man Winter, where you can catch a show and get exposure to more talent from right here in the Midwest.
Hero Shot: (C) David McClister, All Eyes Media.