To call someone a journeyman is no slight. It means they are skilled and have done their time in the trenches. A journeyman delivers in a solid and dependable way, even if they don’t get all the glory. Fame and success is – above and beyond a certain level of talent – fickle, arbitrary, and often fleeting. Our three journeyman poprockers have kept soldiering on in their careers, dependably putting out great songs, with less than their fair share of fanfare.
I have to begin with Dan Israel, our poster boy journeyman. Slogging it out in clubs with various bands stretching back to the 1980s, Israel went solo in 2000 and has since released ten albums, all mining a solid melodic rock and roll sound, while holding down a regular day job. Watch the video documentary below about Israel and his day job as a statute revisor for the Minnesota Legislature to get a sense of his double life. It adds a welcome dose of reality to how doing music as a job really works, or doesn’t, as the case may be. While movies showcase bands being discovered and suddenly spending all their time doing music, the reality is that most aspiring artists have to pay the bills doing something other than the music they love.
Musically, Israel’s work falls into that broad Americana of poprock: a bit of folk, a bit of Bruce Springsteen, a bit of Creedence or Tom Petty. Check out the great organ and background vocals on “Stranger Things” that appeared on his comprehensive and cleverly titled Danthology. I love the simple acoustic but hooky arrangement of “Last Words” from his debut solo album, the self-deprecatively entitled Dan Who. Interestingly, one of his strongest efforts for me was the recent 2015 album Dan, with its killer swinging single, “Be With Me” and “You Don’t Love Me Anymore.”
I’m not sure if Joel Boyea is a journeyman, but I think he is. For a guy with record out, this artist leaves a very light imprint on the ole internet. Still, a bit of digging turned up a few facts. His 2012 album Please Don’t Eat the Daisies gathered together 19 of his demos recorded over a twenty-year period, and that alone would indicate a guy plugging away at his craft. Self-described on his Bandcamp page as “a guy who will probably never quit his day job” he did manage to “bust out of his home studio in the summer of 2015” to professionally record a killer record, Here Again, and Lost. The transformation from bedroom demos to a full band recording (supported by sometime members of the Verve Pipe, Andy Reed and Donny Brown) is nothing less than astonishing. Highlights for me include the obvious single, the insistent “Upbeat,” “Breaking Up” with its lovely vocal arrangement, and the poprock gem “You and Your Love.” A shout out for the touching gay-positive ballad, “Outwitted.” He also does a nice cover of Nick Lowe’s “Time Wounds All Heels” in the video below.
Frank Marzano is a force to be reckoned with. Mild mannered math teacher by day, relentless live performer and self promoting recording artist all the rest of the time. Marzano has spent more than three decades trying to break into the music business, playing in bands, and making recordings. His work is an eclectic mix of 1960s influences, particularly 1950s and 1960s poprock and the Beatles. “Hit the Bricks” from his 2012 album The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last showcases his strengths, a catchy tune cast in that innocent 1970s pop remaking of early 1960s songcraft, with great bass and lead guitar. “Huge Rock Star” from the same album could be Marzano’s life story. Indeed, the protagonist is probably also the singer and songwriter, urging himself to keep plugging away despite the lack of much success. Marzano’s production and arrangement of the songs is crisp and refreshingly straightforward while his vocals have an original sound which I find both earnest and often endearing. 2015’s American Proust continued in the same vein, with “Love’s the Only Way Home” a particularly strong track due to its very catchy chorus. He also has a great cover of Lennon and McCartney’s “Bad to Me” on a poprock tribute album. Hit the BricksHuge Rock StarLove’s the Only Way Home
Better late than never must be the maxim of journeymen everywhere when it comes to getting the fan love. Send some now to Dan Israel, Joel Boyea, and Frank Marzano in the usual sort of internet locations.