Washington, D.C.-based singer-songwriter Dan Lipton favors a narrative approach to his bucolic folk aesthetic. Formerly of Virginia rock outfit Dreaming Isabelle, Lipton has adopted a more rustic outlook that combines the traditional sound of Americana with the story-based history of the blues and Appalachian country. His music is earnest and derives its emotional weight from the simplicity of its arrangements and the inclusive nature of its subject matter. Lipton doesn't look to rewrite the past but to channel the history that lies partially hidden in our own experiences.
He has traveled all along the East Coast, drawing in influences and inspiration wherever he found it—each stop revealed more of a shared past. "The places I have lived have had a direct influence on my songwriting in the most literal sense," he explained. And you can hear every mile and ache in his voice and accompanying rhythms. Even more, each of the songs on his forthcoming album, "Breathing In" (due out Feb. 19), is mired in the memories of specific locations.
"I caught my stride in Atlanta, lost it in Brooklyn while recalibrating my songwriting to fit a less country-oriented audience and then found my style again in D.C.," he said. He began recording his new album while moving from place to place, tracking the songs in rented cabins from Maine to Virginia. There is a sense of distance and isolation in his music that accounts for this process, but behind each song lies a wealth of emotion and insight that betrays his optimistic but realistic spirit.
On his newest single, "Shade in the Shadow," Lipton weaves a hypnotizing tale of the Bondurant brothers, a trio who made moonshine in West Virginia during Prohibition. The song takes the perspective of one of the brothers as they sold alcohol, fought against the law and birthed a legend that endures to this day. The song uses a simple but effective sound to evoke the lives of desperate man in desperate times. Light percussive elements brush up against a spare acoustic guitar that seems to shimmer and illuminate the darkness pushing in on all sides of the track. These kind of story-songs live and die on the experience and emotion conveyed within them, and Lipton draws out every last drop of hurt, fear and pride that lies dormant in each syllable.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.