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Dead Man Winter

Furnace – 2017 (GNDWIRE/Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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Some people pursue solo projects, others have solo projects thrust upon them. For Trampled by Turtles front man Dave Simonett, the cerebral decision to end his marriage and the real-life consequences of explaining it to his two children, physically moving out and fracturing his family unit resulted in a flurry of songwriting that was too personal to present in the context of his longtime band. To document this beautifully scarred set of soul-searching/soul-searing songs, Simonett invented the solo persona of Dead Man Winter, assembled a group of TBT members and other friends and crafted "Furnace," the 10-track folk/rock scrapbook of his pain, dissolution and separation.

"Furnace" begins with the powerful one-two punch of "This House is On Fire" and "Destroyer." In these introductory songs, Simonett metaphorically equates flames and physical destruction with the consequential reality of ending his relationship. The former is a downcast, "Nebraska"-tinted acoustic folk weeper that examines the often irreconciliable dichotomy between a happy past and an unhappy present, the latter is a jaunty, jangly Americana romp that examines the shock and guilt that accompanies the actual process of dividing possessions and walking away.

Equally poignant are the atmospheric and heartrending "I Remember This Place Being Bigger," a rumination on next steps, the acoustic mea culpa of "Cardinal" with its scorching electric slide guitar cutting through the quietude, and the powerful seven-and-a-half minute closer "You Are Out of Control" and its emotional admission of "I am not okay/What else can I say," set to a soundtrack of almost terminal melancholy and a noisy musical evocation of the unique pain of heartbreak.

Breakup records can be tough slogs, and Simonett was admittedly unsure of whether or not to release "Furnace" at all. Thankfully, he chose to air the public translation of his very private turmoil in this powerful and beautifully wrought album, perhaps as much-needed therapy for himself, perhaps as empathetic comfort for anyone in similar straits.