The Undertow by Dan Coyle [Album Review]

For his sixth full length release, The Undertow, New York based troubadour Dan Coyle, one of this country’s up and coming singer-songwriters, begins to slowly slink his way from the shell that has incubated his talents over the last several years. Instead of opting for his typical traditionalist approach of solo guitar and voice, The Undertow finds Coyle joined for the first time by a full band. Well, sort of.

The Undertow is made up of six songs, each song recorded twice, once by Coyle in his signature acoustic and voice, the next with a full band. It’s an approach that, though threatening redundancy, works well in Coyle’s hands. The arrangements and pace are different for each recording and the listener never gets the impression that he/she is just listening to the same song twice, but a wholly independent song.

Sometimes the addition of a other instruments is slight – the cello and backing vocal provide enchanting accents on “Back Around”, while the plaintive harmonica and piano on “I Adore You”, lift the song from a simple love song into a jammed out celebration of life, love, music, and everything else that’s good in the world.

That said, like his other releases, it is the urban poetry of Coyle’s lyrics, and his earnest, authentic delivery, that really drive the record. His lyrics are thoughtful and evocative and never sink to the doldrums of coffee shop pretension. “Back Around”, for instance, is a minor masterpiece that details a casual, yet somehow timeless love affair, that even Conner Oberst would admire.

Coyle sings: “Let’s go out in the sun a while / And maybe I can burn my shadow into the ground / And that’s how you can come to me / When you’re back around”. It’s brilliant and beautiful and at once terribly tragic and triumphantly life affirming. The lines “You don’t have to call me brilliant / And I won’t call you crazy / But I’ll hold my breath till you touch me again / Cause you amaze me,” just drip with the kind of simple honesty that is impossible to appreciate.

A little advice – keep your girlfriend away from him but keep your ears pinned to his channel because he’s making great music.

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