Great Small

by Dan Zimmerman

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Master songwriter/performer DAN ZIMMERMAN's stunning new album, Great Small, is being released on SOUNDSFAMILYRE, the label of soulmate and musical partner Daniel Smith (of the unsinkable family group Danielson, who also perform on the album). This new work of minimal acoustic ballads is revealed through the musical architecture of darkness and light, plumbing lyrical poetics and an American gothic sound-scape for a composition that is ultimately unique and very Zimmerman.

Great Small is the latest work in his musical legacy, one that began in the 1970s with Subterranean Cafe, (an art/rock band that yielded When Dinosaurs Melt and Right on Target). Through marriage and children, this ethereal hound dog continued to channel his musical aspirations, molting into the acoustic Vancouver collective Threads of Gold, creating the ecclesiastical Stand by Night, and wrestling with his experimental solo project More At Stake.

The recently released Great Small is a follow up to another solo gem from Vancouver-based Fact Records, The Northwest Years, a series of recordings archiving Zimmerman's oddball spiritual journey in Portland, Oregon. They still talk about Zimmerman there, where everyone knew him as the son of a Methodist preacher, living in a log cabin in the woods, only emerging in the local clubs to play visionary songs with an occasional backbeat. Something was burbling inside, a revelation of down home majesty, and he was running around with a dog-eared copy of Dostoyevsky, making sketches of the mind of God. Northwest is closure as much as Great Small is genesis, and the two albums together represent a shift of musical direction for Zimmerman.

Jersey was the consequence of this drastic shift, and it had to be there, as Zimmerman was trying to map the metaphysics of the Garden State, that he met Daniel Smith, and the partnership was cinched.

The sounds of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits are here in Great Small, in a thick voice that can whisper, dance along a melody, or simply.growl. The imagery recalls the literati of Borghes and Calvino, a poetics of space that cites the "cities of our reason," [Influx], rotting buildings with no foundations [Interior], the fuzz of history and human memory, and God's fervent desire for union with man. Melodies are deceptively simple, and not above the occasional glockenspiel. The simplicity of these songs belies their complex interior, as they twist from the inside with spiritual warfare, gothic organs and howling children.

But for Zimmerman, the human condition is nowhere near the end of the road. He's strumming his guitar, and singing in carnal holiness, tales about the potential to be unbound, unshackled, and howling joyfully with God. On Great Small, Zimmerman emerges like Jonah being spit out of the whale with a guitar in his hands, asking the listener to run with righteous rage and survive by holy courage.

- Melissa Herwaldt


released February 22, 2000



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