Dead Man Winter – Bright Lights [Album Review]

by oz on August 23, 2011

Dead Man Winter is the country-rock side project of the Minnesota Bluegrass band, Trampled By Turtles. TxT’s Dave Simonett, Ryan Young and Tim Saxhaug are joined by drummer Noah Levy and country blues guitarist Erik Koskinen to escape a world of acoustic bluegrass and enter a realm where electric guitars and amps are front and center and down tempo country songs are right at home.

If you aren’t a Trampled By Turtles fan, visit our live session and get acclimated. If you fancy yourself a fan already, then you undoubtedly appreciate the combination of songwriting and warm vocals offered by Dave Simonett. Those traits are put to the test in Dead Man Winter. While the band is still incredible, it lacks the frenzied bluegrass pace and performance of the Trampled By Turtles collective that can sometimes distract you from the lead vocalist and his lyrics. Thus, Simonette is thrust to the forefront.

The album opens with their single, “Nicotine.” It has all the catchy traits of a pop song, fueled by electric guitars and fiddle. The lighthearted country-jam “Wasteland” follows with sounds of fiddle floating above bouncing bass lines and lyrics:

Religion scares me daily.
Just the wind and the water can save me.
It’s just me and the stars tonight.

The fiddle and acoustic are thrown out and brash rock n’ roll emerges a couple songs later in “Get Low.” This song is all about big guitar riffs and percussion. Another highlight on the album is Dead Man Winter’s alternate version of Trampled By Turtles’ song “New Orleans” that was also performed on our live session. I want to high-five Erik Koskinen for this. His guitar owns this song and converted it into a song that could be owned by Willie Nelson.

But for all the album’s best moments, I’m most drawn to Dave Simonett’s ballads. “Where In The World Have You Been?” and  “Bright Lights” are desolate and incredible pieces of acoustic songwriting. After hearing that this was a Trampled By Turtles side project, I admit that I wasn’t quite prepared for the change in sound on Dead Man Winter. After allowing it to grow on me for a few weeks, It’s safe to say that I’ve developed a serious crush – to the point that I can’t listen to much else.

Dead Man Winter – Nicotine

Trampled By Turtles – New Orleans (HearYa Live Session version)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jackie shoun ringersma August 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm

you can bet I’ll catch one of the shows when these guys are in my area, looks like mid Oct(TN,GA,NC) can’t wait. Looks like your booked up then but next time around try to come to the Down Home in Johnson City, TN. My home away from home. xoxo jsue

seth August 23, 2011 at 10:49 pm

My 20-year old son keeps me up to date on all the latest Indie bands and artists; he’s been doing that for a decade now, when he first played me some off-the-wall tracks from Animal Collective. What’s amazing is how many of these bands eventually get accepted into the mainstream and start playing really large venues like the big rock stars. Accordingly, my son & I have tickets to see one of our favorite once-indie-now-mainstream bands, The National, who are selling out the Hollywood Bowl, of all places!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: