Guitarist Dave Isaacs Releases New Single

One of the great misfortunes of blues and country influenced music is that, at this late date, many label such music as retro before they’ve even heard it. They are, of course, right most of the time. It isn’t merely retro, however, but cookie cutter as well and doesn’t put anything of themselves into the track. Dave Isaacs’ ten albums plus and counting, however, explores those musical strands with fidelity to its spirit, enough imagination to expand its parameters as much as possible, and rephrases the style’s language with individual flair. His new single “I Like What I See” from the new album Choogle burns, in the end, with the joy of making music.


It’s a slow burn, that’s for sure. Isaacs isn’t the sort of songwriter who writes shallow chest-beating anthems or bouncy bird bath deep pop tunes. He builds “I Like What I See” from seemingly loosely connected elements – a couple of different permutations of guitar, percussion, and other touches, but he limits his aural toolkit. The song’s arrangement shows great patience weaving these disparate threads together, never attempting to show listeners everything at once, but rather reveal the song’s full scope over time.

It has a palpable rising and falling aspect. It’s like riding an undulating wave to hear this song. There are sudden swells in emotion followed by comparatively sedate and near-gliding passages. The title line has a satisfying pay off each time during the lyric without ever embracing its cliched uses; it’s commendable to hear how Isaacs has co-opted a language without assuming its flaws as well. “I Like What I See” emphasizes his strengths and the personal qualities of his performance.


The guitar sound is uniformly excellent. The song’s slide, especially, gives it some of that classic “high lonesome sound” you hear them talk about in classic country music. It can, by the same token however, force some listeners to recall countless straight blues and its rockier progeny. This beacon of musical familiarity is a cornerstone of the track and an important reason why it plays so well for listeners.

He has a great voice for the material. No one will confuse Isaacs with Pavarotti or Van Morrison, but he has more technique at his disposal than you might first expect. He proves himself capable on more than one occasion of possessing the necessary vocal firepower – several lines reach speaker rattling proportions without ever overwhelming listeners. His phrasing, as well, has the same atmospheric dimensions as the music itself, albeit manifested in much different fashion.


“I Like What I See” does walk a thin line. The song, in clumsier hands, could be an affected piece, weighed down with pretentiousness, a feeble attempt to capture in a modern way something timeless and intangible. Dave Isaacs avoids histrionics, however. He has more than the required amount of soul, however, to breathe new life into a venerable form and make it live in the present rather than treating it like a butterfly pinned under glass. “I Like What I See” is our first compelling “look” at what promises to be a stellar full-length album.

Anne Hollister