With the release of his new album, Rich in Every Way, Daniel Halen shows just how much a musician can accomplish on his or her own.
Recorded largely by himself in his home studio, the CD features Halen performing all instruments and vocals on all but one track.
Most of the songs have a soft, mellow, folk-rock sound, featuring Halen’s fingerstyle guitar playing. The first song, “Falling Up”, an instrumental, shows this off. By adding bass and drums, Halen fills out the track into a full band.
“Fishin’ Condition” is built around a nice, bluesy guitar riff. It’s a quiet blues, like fishing itself, if, like Halen, you fish for relaxation instead of subsistence. “Sittin’ by the river, watch the world go by/Never catch a fish and it’s no wonder why.”
Lyrically, “Brighter Shade of Blue” is a high point of the CD. Halen takes a different approach than is the usual fare of a breakup blues song.
If blues is a good man feeling bad, this is blues-light. This is the story of a man actually consoled by his ex’s new, happier relationship, as he writes.
“I see it all so clearly, don’t let it bother you/Although I miss you dearly, I’m a brighter shade of blue.”
Halen performs a more traditional blues with “Under My Skin”, taking the opposite approach. Featuring a louder, angry guitar, this track has him trying to drink his blues away.
“Rich in Every Way” has touching lyrics. The song tells a story Halen gathered from conversations with American veterans, of people from humble backgrounds who serve their country without much material reward.
“He’s a pauper to a rich man/hero to the poor/a man I proudly call my/Brother from the war.”
The only track that isn’t a solo effort, “Tears in a River” is more classic rock, recorded by Jim Holland at Seaweed Studios.
Showing a strong southern influence (Halen’s voice gets a country twang, in the throaty style of Hank Williams, Jr), the song features Lonnie Powell on drums, Roly Mitton on bass and Cher Halen with backing vocals, as well as Halen’s loud electric guitar.
As the only rocker, the song feels out of place on this album – not that it’s a bad song, but the difference between it and the other tracks is jarring.
While the drum track programming is occasionally overly-mechanical, the album overall is a good representation of Halen’s skills, with particular emphasis on his finger-picking guitar.
It is a testament to how much a solo artist can accomplish with determination and the right equipment.
Outstanding track: “A Different Shade of Blue”.