When does a road trip become a soundtrack to one’s life? Usually when it’s driven by a musician. Though the events chronicled in “Heart Land Mines” occurred nearly 30 years ago, and Dave Kerzner started writing songs about his experiences at that time, he hadn’t fully coalesced the material into a full-length album until now. But some of the original tracks were recorded on ADATs 25-30 years ago, just waiting for when the time was ripe to fully flesh them out into a finished product. This being his fourth solo album after last year’s excellent “The Traveler” (in addition to albums from In Continuum, Sound of Contact, and other side projects over the years), Kerzner takes a detour from his sci-fi concept albums to share an autobiographical tale that starts in L.A.
No, this isn’t Kerzner’s answer to Kevin Gilbert’s “The Shaming of the True” or Neal Morse’s “The Great Nothing”. Rather than being an account of trying to make it in the vicious L.A. music business, this is a tale of heartbreak. But it does include a little snippet of that Hollywood scene in “Dreaming In LA”.
First things first though, we start off with a brief acoustic prologue “True Story Pt. 1” to set the stage, kind of a “Pigs On The Wing” moment that bookends the whole album. “Eye Of The Storm” then opens as the first single, an overarching representation of the story. This is a driving song in both senses of the word, propelled by Kerzner’s trusty core band of Derek Cintron on drums, Joe Deninzon on violin, Matt Dorsey offering electric guitar and of course Fernando Perdomo killing it on both guitar and bass. This is a great track, Deninzon’s strings adding tension effectively as the piece builds towards its climax. We even have a special guest on horns, a young Daniel Kerzner. Welcome, it’s a family affair.
He might not have been “leaving Las Vegas” quite yet, but Kerzner’s “Dreaming In LA” does seem to intentionally rub elbows with Sheryl Crow’s anthem of that name (there’s that Kevin Gilbert connection, too) as we hear the desperate tale of two wannabe stars-in-waiting who never quite make it. Presumably this was the crowd that Kerzner was hanging around with while he was trying to get his own break in the biz, but ultimately realized that there were other roads to true happiness and artistic satisfaction which he would soon be traveling.
Enter: the girl. “Genevieve” opens with a “Tango In The Night” Fleetwood Mac vibe thanks to Gene Siegel’s bazouki playing as we meet the one who would break Kerzner’s heart, ultimately burying many of those heart land mines which fuel the album. The legendary Lyle Workman is featured on electric guitar and Durga McBroom sings supportive backing vocals. “The door was open for you, Genevieve. You lost your chance to make me believe.” The relationship is consummated and ends all within one song, meaning that the rest of the album is more or less detailing Kerzner dealing with the emotional fallout. While that seems a little lopsided as far as storytelling goes, Steven Wilson and many others have commented that the best songs always seem to be the saddest ones so that’s what we get, though truth be told much of the ensuing music stays fairly upbeat.
It’s Steely Dan territory next on “Back To One”, the rhythm and electric sitar guitar conjuring up the addictive “Do It Again” (with a touch of “Rikki” during the opening bass octaves) which is only fitting considering our guest guitarist is Elliott Randall. However, in a diabolical twist, it’s actually Perdomo on the very Denny Dias-like sitar solo, with Randall coming in towards the end of the song on a fantastic fuzz octave guitar solo. Good groove. We then jump into the quick little ditty of “Pushed Me Out” which sounds like Kerzner’s take on Jon Anderson’s “We Have Heaven” with its vocal stacking and other incidentals. Great little tune, though kind of sad it didn’t linger longer.
“When The Heart Sinks Like A Stone” gives co-writing credit to Kevin Gilbert, in whose band Kerzner played while he was in LA. This one has more of a Floyd feel to it, especially with the McBroom sisters and Emily Lynn on backing vocals, right down to closing echo repeat of “stone…stone…stone…” Perdomo also throws in lots of guitar odds and ends which make the song extra colorful. We get a beautiful heart wrenching ballad in “Worlds Apart”, the female backing vocals are in full force on “Dirty Girl”, and Deninzon’s violin and Cintron’s drum attack really elevate “Too Far Gone”. “Manic Calm” opens with a nod to David Gilmour’s calm “On An Island” (as does the album cover font) but quickly shifts into the manic part of the song with dual guitar attack from Perdomo and Mark McCrite. One of the album’s best.
Strangely, the album doesn’t burn out but rather kind of fades away. After an “Eye” reprise, there’s a short instrumental “Siren’s Song” and a shorter “True Story Pt 2”, all of which kind of leaves us hanging. This may be because the title of “Heart Land Mines Vol. I” suggests that there is more to come in the story. If so, we’ll await to see what’s next. Kerzner always seems to have several projects going at once, so there may be other releases before “Vol. II” surfaces, but we’ll see.
Despite the caustic title, there’s not much that’s really flashy on this album but that appears to be by design. Rather than dreaming up crazy sci-fi worlds and the dramatic music to accompany it, this collection finds Kerzner in more of a singer songwriter mode. It probably could have been purely an acoustic album but because he surrounds himself with such electric musicians, they always fill out the arrangements, making it a full band experience to great effect. After all of the sci-fi, it’s good to be grounded back on earth for once, as we await to see what roads Kerzner travels next.
Released By: Independent
Release Date: October 18th, 2023
Genre: Progressive Rock
“Heart Land Mines Vol. 1” track-listing:
- True Story (Part One)
- Eye of the Storm
- Dreaming in LA
- Back to One
- Pushed Me Out
- When The Heart Sinks Like a Stone (Another Miss Broadway)
- Worlds Apart
- Dirty Girl
- Manic Calm
- Too Far Gone
- To The Eye (Reprise)
- Sirens Song
- True Story (Part Two)
- Dave “Squids” Kerzner / Lead Vocal, Acoustic Guitar, Keys, Percussion
- Fernando Perdomo / Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Sitar, Bass, Drums
- Matt Dorsey / Electric Guitar, Bass, Percussion
- Derek Cintron / Drums
- Joe Deninzon / Violins, Violas, Chin Cello
- Daniel Kerzner / Horns
- Mark McCrite / Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Background Vocals
- Gene Siegel / Bazouki, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
- Lyle Workman / Electric Guitar (solo on “Genevieve”)
- Elliott Randall / Electric Guitar (solo on “Back to One”)
- Devin Powers / Electric Guitar (solo on “When The Heart…”)
- Randy McStine / Electric Guitar (Gtr FX on “Dirty Girl”)
- Durga McBroom / Backing Vocals
- Lorelei McBroom / Backing Vocals
- Emily Lynn / Backing Vocals
- Robin Schell / Backing Vocals
- Pat Meyers / Backing Vocals on “Too Far Gone”
After lengthy travels in the stars, Dave Kerzner comes back down to earth for this road trip album, transforming heartbreak into an engaging collection of songs. Supported by his all-star band, Kerzner is more in singer-songwriter territory on this album but the arrangements remain musically satisfying and engaging