5 October 2022
Dan Imhoff demonstrates delightful dexterity and variety on his new record, Gratitude. Aptly titled, given that he composed and recorded it at the height of the pandemic, the album showcases a light, soulful touch as Imhoff and his adept crew of supportive musicians move through gospel, folk, pop, and jazz.
Imhoff’s knack for melody, composition, and arrangement emerge most clearly and colorfully on the lighter material. “Coming Into View” sounds like a soulful-pop hit, and it leads into, perhaps, the album’s highlight, “So Good To Be a Dog.”
Showing an effective sense of humor, Imhoff sings about the pleasures of the canine life, and the endless enjoyment of having humans cater to one’s every need. The song moves into a jazzy shuffle after each chorus, occasionally slowing down for drawn out verses.
Imhoff has ample skills as a guitarist, playing with a rock and roll rhythm on the opening title track, and even picking with a southern rock meets jazz fusion hybridity on the innovative, “Accidentally Valencia.”
A mini-choir of backup vocalists provide a gospel punch, but never overwhelm the arrangements. The production choices are always tasteful and element, allowing the songs to shine no matter how virtuosic the instrumentation.
Another triumph, “Factory of Tangled Dreams,” exemplifies a Steely Dan style understanding of how jazz can meet pop/rock, along with richly emotional and detailed lyrics about the small frustrations of the blue collar grind.
Forgive such an on-the-nose and predictable closing, but Gratitude offers an auditory of pleasure. Give it a spin, and prepare to feel grateful.
David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017) and Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015).