Cultivators - Mama's Kitchen
of all, let's set some things straight for the record.
name is the Cultivators, but they don't do any songs about
farming. They are a bunch of rockers from Minneapolis; Minnesota's
answer to the Wallflowers, but they do have some country influences.
Cultivators is a better name than Dan Israel and the Cultivators,
which was the name on the band's first album, Before We
Met (1998), when band leader Dan Israel's name was out
front. Who wants a name like Dan Israel up front? At least
Cultivators is less alarming to any Jewish and/or Palestinian
I think this band is going to be big really soon. The hook
to each of the 12 songs on the record sticks in my head, which
is really rare. They have a sound which is friendly to both
modern and classic rock radio stations, and Mama's Kitchen
should be played by both.
If I didn't
know better, I'd swear I was listening to some Tom Petty or
Wallflowers. Israel's voice has the slightly nasal quality
of a voice like Petty's, but not as severe as Bob Dylan's.
The lyrics are clear (despite Israel's tendency to mumble
the last word of phrases), the melodies are catchy, and it
rocks without much distortion on the guitar sound. My 50-year-old
father would love this record. It
doesn't threaten anyone's ears.
no innovation on this album, but the sound is remarkably well-layered
for a second record, including vocal harmonies, a Hammond
organ, fiddles, and country-like slide guitar. The track "Happy
Again" features distinct folk/Celtic influences. The band
seems on the verge of breaking into a full-fledged joyous
Irish jig near the end, despite Israel's typically depressed
lyrics, "Maybe someday we'll be happy again." There are enough
stylistic variations throughout the album to keep things interesting.
criticism is that the tone of the instrumental playing on
the album is the total opposite of the tone of the lyrics.
These are jolly, upbeat tunes which make you want to dance
and sing along, but Israel's lyrics are depressing, self-critical,
lamenting and mournful. It is a bit confusing. I'm wondering
how the band wants me to feel. From the leadoff track, "All
Alone," which is a rocking, upbeat song which declares "I
am all alone, all by myself" until the end of the album, I'm
just not sure.
the lyrics are depressing, they do hit a nerve. The refrain
of "Behind The Curtain", "Why did you go and trade it all
for what's behind the curtain?" speaks to anyone who has been
dumped for what they felt was no good reason. The album's
last song, "Stranger Things" features female vocal harmonies
by a friend of the band, Kristin Mooney, which give the track
a really haunting and moving feel. "Stranger things have happened
to me, but I don't know when."
a rocking and thought-provoking album by Israel and friends.
They deserve a break quickly. This will go over big if it
ever gets out to mainstream radio. The album is definitely
worth a listen. It's hard to believe the Cultivators are still
stuck in the barrooms of Minnesota, but stranger things have
4.0 out of