Dan Wilson: Live at the Pantages

RIYL: Semisonic, Better Than Ezra, Gabe Dixon

It may not hit you all at once, but the more you listen to and read about singer/songwriter Dan Wilson, the more you realize just how many cool friends and colleagues the guy has. It’s not that he co-founded rock band Semisonic and had some overnight success with “Closing Time,” or that he won a Grammy when co-writing some tracks from the Dixie Chicks’ 2006 album Taking the Long Way. Wilson has written with or is slated to write with the likes of Josh Groban, Adele, the Bravery, Keith Urban, Jason Mraz and KT Tunstall. But he is as riveting a solo performer as you’ll ever see and hear, based on his timeless songs and instantly recognizable voice.

While he’s between studio albums, fans of Wilson can enjoy the digitally-released Live at the Pantages, recorded in Wilson’s hometown of Minneapolis and featuring songs from his acclaimed Free Life album from 2007, as well as a few of the old Semisonic stand-bys. He begins with a solo acoustic set on guitar and piano and then comes back with a full band set, both with his voice and the songs front and center. You won’t find a live album anywhere this clean, sonically. And the songs are bordering on stunning – in particular when Wilson plays “Honey Please” from Free Life, or “Secret Smile” from the landmark Semisonic album, Feeling Strangely Fine. But here is what separates Wilson from any other singer/songwriter – the two brilliant co-writes her performs here—“All Will Be Well,” with Nashville roots rocker Gabe Dixon, and “One True Love,” written along with the great Carole King and first appearing on Semisonic’s All About Chemistry. If you don’t have goose bumps now, you will when hear Wilson sing the latter. In all, Live at the Pantages is a truly awesome storytelling effort. (Ballroom Music 2010)

Dan Wilson MySpace Page


Court Yard Hounds: Court Yard Hounds

RIYL: The Dixie Chicks, The Jayhawks, Sugarland

It’s strange to think that Taking the Long Way, the monster crossover smash by Texas spitfires the Dixie Chicks, is only four years old. The battle cry of three women who had had enough of being called unpatriotic for committing country music heresy by being anti-war, chastising George W. Bush…four years old. It’s amazing what a new President will do to perspective, even if virtually nothing else has changed.


Sisters Emily Robison and Martie Macguire were eager to record another Dixie Chicks album, but lead singer Natalie Maines said she wasn’t ready yet, so the Erwin girls went on without her. Dubbing their offshoot Court Yard Hounds, the girls’ eponymous debut sounds exactly like you’d expect a Dixie Chicks spinoff to sound. Maguire plucks and bows anything she can get her hands on, Robison has words for her ex-husband, and the two sing their little hearts out while the Chicks’ backing band, including Maines’ father Lloyd, fleshes everything out. “The Coast” is a positively soaring slice of alt-country, the kind of thing that will have Jayhawks fans swooning. The girls even rock out a little on “Ain’t No Son.” Nothing here reinvents the wheel, but it’s not really meant to; it’s simply a well crafted country pop record, just in time for summer. Dig in. (Columbia 2010)

Court Yard Hounds MySpace page
Click to buy Court Yard Hounds from Amazon