Music speaks to people’s emotions. Sometimes the simplicity of a good beat is enough to put a happy little bounce in your step. Music is the art that takes what you are feeling inside and distills it into bite-sized chunks to devour. And at its very best, music transcends beyond the simple mirroring of the emotions. That is evident in Dan Johnson’s album, Hemingway.
Musical greatness reveals something new. It teaches, enlightens, and allows people to empathize with a glimpse into the soul of others. Often music can do this unobtrusively through the power of melody and words, as well as the universal truths of humanity.
Such is the case with Hemingway, an album by Dan Johnson on State Fair Records. It’s a contemporary masterpiece that pays homage to humanity, as well as Johnson’s musical and literary influences. Interestingly, Hemingway unfurls over a mere five songs. Such a project could feel incomplete, but not this one.
And while the interwoven stories leave you wanting more, each track stands alone. However, together the album is wholly satisfying. If you do find yourself wanting more, and you will, there is an accompanying book of short stories that bolsters an already impressive project.
Dan Johnson has given us a modern Americana sound. It hearkens to the rural roots of Johnny Cash alongside the smooth Southern Rock vibe of Tom Petty. The opening track, The Favor, is dark and bluesy. Yet, it feels like an instant classic that could be a remake because you can relate to the characters so well.
In fact, it feels like you already know them. The title song, Hemingway, is the hub of this spoke and does not disappoint. Also, Bloom, is a coming-of-age ride of heartbreak and triumph.
Paying tribute to the style of Mr, Waits himself, Johnson’s clever songwriting shines in Tom Waits For No One. But like every offering on the album, this track comes with its own emotional punch. Lone Gunman’s Lament is the last official track. However, this album has a few hidden surprises, as well. The songs and characters are interlinked, so one listen can’t begin to reveal the layers or emotional depth of this album.
The Hemingway album came about after Johnson visited the famous writer’s former residence in Key West, Florida. That experience obviously impacted him. However, this project started in childhood for Johnson when his father took his own life. Years later, before this album, Dan Johnson started the non-profit, Operation Hemingway.
The goal is to help combat the high rate of veteran suicides. The album, book and non-profit has garnered national attention with a feature on NPR’s, All Things Considered. But it is the emotional impact of the music that resonates the loudest.