Album: Alchemy

Artist: Dan Craig Band

Label: Wirebird Music

Hometown: Denver

Where to Find It:

Why We Like It: With Alchemy, 2011 may be the year that breaks the Dan Craig Band to the level of artistic contemporaries like Josh Ritter, Damien Rice, and Ray LaMontagne. And there are no gimmicks to the music. With piano and guitar accompanied by mandolin and cello, one might expect to hear some trick of sound—something new for novelty’s sake. So often this is done to mask weak songwriting. But Craig and the band have enough confidence in the strength of the songs and the deftness of the musicianship and arrangements to present them in a straightforward, honest way, exemplifying pop-rock at its best.

This album reveals no missteps or filler. Each song is thoughtful and emotive without being pretentious or sappy. Life has love and friendship, but it also has heartbreak and loss. Rather than present this as an either/or, Craig masterfully finds the tension between the two and acknowledges it with tone. With a backdrop of cello and selective mandolin picking a la REM, Craig’s rich voice carries lyrics with depth and insight, inviting the listener to join in.

On a few of the tracks, like “Touch Is a Touch” and “Company of Friends,” Craig and pianist Jessica Sonner lead a bar-room, chorus-like sing-a-long that is truly infectious. That sing-a-long brightness of this album is somewhat of a departure from the more melancholic works of the band’s past. Certainly, the addition of Sonner’s backing vocals make a difference. But more so, Alchemy displays the development and growing maturity of a now-seasoned songwriter.