Reeder accompanies himself on those guitars, plucking a few simple chords, while his melodies connect to the blues, country, folk and early rock & roll. Every person I play a Dan Reeder song for has roughly the same two reactions: Hey, I’ve thought about stuff like that, and, how great it is to hear someone sing about the important things in life without sounding all self-important.
A lot of this has to do with Reeder’s other artistic endeavor, which he’d been doing way before he sent his first album, unbidden, to John Prine and Oh Boy Records in 2003: painting. A Louisiana-born Californian (studied art at cal State Fullerton), transplanted to Germany, married with three children, an artist who keeps both his paint buckets and his instruments in the same comfortably small, semi-tidy studio, Reeder is clearly not a conventionally striving middle-class American, but he doesn’t have a whit of condescension toward anyone who is: As he sings here on “Beautiful,” “I am not you and you are not me,” and Reeder really gets off--becomes inspired by--all of our differences. Reeder makes paintings that are, like his compositions, deceptively simple: canvases marked by a realism mixed with cartoon exaggeration, plus the occasional helpful caption, such as a throbbing lump of tan brain-matter against a dark background with the words, “Brain which has been thinking the same shit over and over begins to generate unpleasant radiation.” My favorite one on his website, danreeder.com, may be the simplest, yet most self-referential, of all: a painting of a paintbrush against a sky-blue background. An art critic could find comparisons to others in Reeder’s work--hell, even I can see glimmers of the faux-naif Henri Rousseau; Reeder’s fellow California transplant Ed Ruscha; and another multi-media ornery talent, the painter/film-critic Manny Farber. But, the work is also distinctly Dan Reeder.