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Cosmic Patriot
Artist: Dan Zimmerman 
Label: Sounds Familyre
Time: 13 tracks / 44:21
 
“Prepare for war – total war,” are the words that welcome you to Dan Zimmerman’s Cosmic Patriot album. What you should also be ‘prepared for’ is the unexpected, since Zimmerman bypasses the standard genuflection to popular culture in favor of his own artistic vision. On Cosmic Patriot we find a world-weary soul looking at this world but seeing into the next, as Zimmerman peers through his round coke bottle-bottom spectacles like a pair of Spiritual X-ray Specs.
 
Forget your self-indulgent shoe-gazers and pretty-boy posers – Zimmerman comes on like a man full of pain, wisdom and insight, more likely to howl at the moon than to write a song about it. With a rough-hewn baritone voice, the artist brings to each song a sense of intimacy and perhaps a little darkness. Zimmerman, equally involved in painting and drawing as in music, seems very much aware of the tensions between the seen and unseen worlds, filling his lyrics with strong images of ‘Blood up on a hill,’ and ‘vengeful gore,’ and reminding us that we ourselves are just shadows of a truer reality. “We are symbols in this world of the world to come,” he sings, in one of the album’s most defining tracks. 
 
Like a man born in the wrong time and place, Zimmerman sings about his disconnect to the modern world in the sardonic rocker, “Lost My Technique,” where he sings, “Let me summarize the situation / the world is collapsing in on me.” A better fit seems to wait in the world of “Secret Name,” a wonderful bit of ‘Spiritual psychedelipop’  about sacred fires and secret names written on white stones in Heaven (and if you think this all sounds a bit strange, check it out in the Book of Revelation – it’s in there). 
 
Along with the mysticism and lyrical depth, Cosmic Patriot has a great warmth about it, largely due to Zimmerman’s transparency. Produced by Dan (Danielson) Smith, the album struggles a bit at first to establish who Zimmerman is as an artist, and the back-up vocals by Smith, his wife, and children are sometimes at odds with the gravitas of Zimmerman’s persona. The combined voices of the Smiths tend to sound like a combination of Neil Young and Larry Norman (!), which, as you can imagine, can be a bit distracting – still, by the fourth track, “The Stain Remains,” the album takes on an irresistible flavor that pulls you back again and again. Joshua Stamper’s string arrangements, used sparingly, are nevertheless hauntingly beautiful as a counterpoint to the bluesy heaviness of songs like “Steady Plodder,” “Midnight For Hours,” and “Lonely Way.” 
 
The playing on Cosmic Patriot is a mix of acoustic and electric instruments, often featuring bowed double bass by Josh Stamper accompanying Zimmerman’s acoustic guitar. Jason Kourkounis turns in some jazzy stick work, really excelling on the rock/waltz opportunities. Stylistically, the album is hard to pigeon-hole: the romantic tango of “Twilight Romance,” with its French-bistro accordion work shares the same home as the throbbing rock of “Lost My Technique” and “The Stain Remains,” which sounds as if it could have fit nicely on the first Procol Harum album for its screaming guitar, frenetic drums and dark imagery. One might call this music bluesy folk/rock/lounge/art music with spiritual overtones. One of my own favorite tracks is the memorable “Midnight For Hours,” where Zimmerman’s voice gets into a low Captain Beefheart-like register and sings, “I’ve been staggering home with the rest of the crew / Midnight for hours,” in a voice that sounds as dark as midnight itself. The contrast of Zimmerman’s ominous vocal with Stamper’s exquisite string ensemble  in this dark and bluesy jazz/waltz is a fine moment, indeed. 
 
This is not typical pop or rock – certainly not for everyone. To say the least, some people will find this music a bit odd – I imagine Dan Zimmerman wouldn’t have it any other way. Some people step out of the box and others don’t even know that there is a box – Dan Zimmerman is in the second category. Cosmic Patriot is music for those who are willing to explore – to look past the things that are seen. This trip to Zimmerman’s world is one well worth taking.
 
Bert Saraco
http://www.myspace.com/expressimage     
http://expressimagephoto.tripod.com 
 
 
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