An idiosyncratic muse from the West Coast.
This album may have been ready for release three years ago but it could just as easily have come out fifty years previously such is its warm relaxed 1970s west coast vibe. To a blend of country rock and folk Herman Dune, aka David Ivar, writes lyrics of penetrating lucidity, if at times he does get slightly crazy. Whether he amuses or saddens, beneath a superficial innocence his songs have depth. ‘Santa Cruz Gold’ is also a great deal as each of the first 1000 copies comes with a further album written at the same time, ‘Santa Cruz Gold Nuggets’.
Before making the album Ivar had stopped touring and he cut off all connections with his record labels and publishers. From the studio he built in his garage in San Pedro, California, he not only wrote all the songs on ‘Santa Cruz Gold’ but played acoustic and electric guitar, drums, bass, upright bass, keyboards and harmonica. It is not entirely a one man show as some highly talented musicians joined him. Either way, freed from all the commercial ties of the music business it is not difficult to agree with his friend the late David Berman who considered these the best songs Ivar has written.
Opener ‘Life On The Run’ perfectly sums up Ivar as he set about writing this album. “I live the life of a raconteur/ I play guitar and I go on tour/ It doesn’t matter that I am poor/I’m a king man.” If his new found freedom met an “existential need” Ivar admits it was “definitely not a career move.” His spoken voice echoing through the opening lines lends a comedic effect that lightens a song about the struggles of a Swedish French immigrant in California. A jaunty chorus continues his peripheral levity.
The immigrant’s tough life continues in ‘A Good Man’s Got Nothing to Prove’. Spencer Collum Jr’s pedal steel adds pathos to a world that passes most people by. In another distant world Ivar juxtaposes his vocal innocence with a grim story in ‘Lemon’. There is a matter of fact simplicity about ‘She Ushered Me Back Into My Grave’. The lonesome pedal steel with mournful harmonica for emphasis, “She ran away/ There’s not much to say/ I have no reason to behave/ She got her way/ She was OK/ She ushered me back into my grave”.
For such a prolific lyricist Ivar includes an instrumental, ‘Erotica’, but since he plays just about everything that is not surprising. ‘Undiscarded Jacaranda’ introduces a little happiness as well as the perfectly complementary backing vocals from Mayon who accompanies Ivar throughout the album. Ivar has some other superbly chosen artists. Caitlin Rose matches his gentle ambience first about the perils of taking a ‘Crazy Blue’ and the bleak story of an almost double-life on ‘Gatsbyfied.’ Jolie Holland’s violin, Jon Natchez’s sax and Jeremy Fetzer’s guitar each stretches out Ivar’s emotional lines.
‘Santa Cruz Gold Nuggets’ is another full album along the same lines. It is a mark of Ivar’s generosity that he chose to throw it in as the record stands alone as worthwhile and eminently releasable in its own right.