Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The name Peter Himmelman has been quite ubiquitous since the 80s. This Minnesota native is Bob Dylan’s son in law, which gives him instant musical street cred. But Peter Himmelman is more than just Bob Dylan’s son in law. He is also gifted in the art of song writing and composition.
He was flirting with major stardom in the mid 80s, but gave up that “dream” for the sake of privacy, religion, and the promise of a somewhat normal life. Himmelman also became a very observant Jew around that time. He was raised with a Jewish identity, but his family was not the least bit religious.
Himmelman became an “all in” observant Jew in 1985 and has remained so. It is impossible to tell the story of Himmelman’s musical career without these details present. Some people would say he “gave up” on stardom and success.
I say he made a choice to pick family, stability, and well being over a potentially volatile and “open book” lifestyle. Privacy is very important to Himmelman and his family and he took actions to forever protect that fiat. Peter Himmelman won.
What really matters as much as the very compelling backstory is the music. If the music is sub-par, it takes away some of the credibility of the story. Well that should not be a concern because the music isn’t just good, it really shines. It shines brightly like the July and August morning sun.
It isn’t country, although it contains some very strong country music elements. It isn’t pure vocalist, although Himmelman has a voice that rivals the great American vocalists in the parlance of our times (Coen Brothers reference, other Minnesota boys). It is a little bit of a lot of things.
Himmelman also dances with straight rock and roll as well and he shimmies beautifully on the rocker Sacrificial (Track 8). This song is a great rock and roll tune with tons of energy and feeling. But what really puts this song over the top isn’t the ZZ Topesque guitar licks, it is the words. It seems to be completely autobiographical and really ties into Himmelman’s back story. Hell, it is the foundation of his history:
How real is too real, how faux is to faux
How do you know anything when the light burns way too low
How angry is too angry, how sweet is just too sweet
How do you call out for love when love feels like defeat?
Sacrificial, do you feel sacrificial, like you can’t keep the vultures at bay
Sacrificial, do you feel sacrificial, like you’re giving yourself away,
like you’re giving yourself away
These are themes we all struggle with, regardless of walk of like. These conflicts are part of the human condition. Man vs himself. And Peter put out a gem of an album in There Is No Calamity. Peter Himmelman won.
If you miss liner notes and the tangible aspect of rock music as much as I do, you will love this. Peter Himmelman has a link here to liner notes, lyrics, and much more for the new album.