The Big Work - I continue to tell you to listen to Dan Bern Pt. 2 - the EPs

I like EPs. They're always nice quick listens - really good for trying to get a feel for an artist. But the obvious complaint that EPs get is that they are often showcases for one or two really good songs, then a couple tracks of filler, just enough to get a proper release. There are obvious exceptions to the rule but there isn't an artist who releases those exceptions at the rate of Dan Bern. His EPs are mini highlight reels, with song after song after high quality song. Minus one or two minor missteps that we'll discuss here, picking up any of Bern's EPs is sure to reward you with a deep, rich listening experience, inside of a nice compact listening time. For all your feeling needs, on the go!

Dog Boy Van (1997)

Jerusalem is on here. We glossed over it in part 1, but it looms so large in the world of Dan Bern, its inclusion on Dog Boy Van (Released prior to Dan Bern) warrants a little more discussion. It's a beautiful, funny song. It's like the Big Lebowski of songs, rewarding you with something new every time you take it in. I'm sure it's an amazing feeling to have a song that touches so many people, but, Dan Bern fans, I think we should make a pact to stop yelling out requests for it at live shows. In a catalogue of hundreds of songs anyone would be proud to call their own, let us collectively stop asking for the one that the man has undoubtedly played at least two thousand times. *Ahem*

"Hannibal," my second favourite set of Bern lyrics (First belongs to "Fly Away" from Fleeting Days), is thoughtful and vicious. Bern once told me that it's all in the tuning. Some of it might be there in the tuning, but he's hitting the guitar with a very specific kind of righteous violence. I'm desperate to put a sample of the lyrics here but I can't pick a part, so just check the whole thing out. I've heard both "Kurt" and "Live Another Day" countless times and I still feel that lump in my throat every time I hear them. "Oklahoma" is like the great sad movie that you can only watch once or twice. It's the last song and the easiest one to not hear when I put the album on. It's a song of tremendous feeling and power and I skip it every time.

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The Big Work - I try to explain why you should listen to Dan Bern by listening to all of the Dan Bern. Pt.1

“When I tell you that I love you don’t test my love, accept my love, don’t test my love, ‘cause maybe I don’t love you all that much.” – from “Jerusalem” (Dog Boy Van EP, Dan Bern)

That’s a bold way to introduce oneself to the world and with both his first EP and full-length debut, Dan Bern did it twice. If you look at the words long enough or hear them sung enough times you can see it all right there, the lifeline that runs through one of the most consistently strong songwriting careers this side of <BLANK> (You can fill this in with any songwriter you like that was going before 1996). It’s a short simple string of words that is at once audacious, painfully self-aware, slightly nihilistic, dripping with feeling and most importantly (?) very Funny.

I discovered the music of Dan Bern sometime around my last couple of years in high school, when I was just starting to fumble around in the dark, attempting to carve an identity for myself. By this time, Bern had released three full-length records (Dan Bern, Fifty Eggs & Smartie Mine), so there was a lot to devour. A music nerd from my youngest days I was pretty well versed in guys with guitars, but I’d never heard anything like this. Listening to these first few Bern records broke something important in my head, set it free and permanently changed my core temperature. It’s difficult to overstate the importance this man’s music has held in my life and as such, don’t read on looking for scathing criticism (Spoiler: I'm a fan of his work across the board), but rather to remember or learn some stuff about one of the great songwriters of our time and the important connections made between people and art.

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