Daniel Haven reviews the new CD from singer-songwriter Diipak.
Diipak is an American in Stockholm and his first album Dogma is a rich collection of songs that carries the listeners on a fascinating journey. From a Filipino graveyard to a Spanish beach, from the Swedish woods to the Outer Limits of Cosmic Consciousness, Diipak’s warm voice draws the songs together in one cohesive flow.
Greenest Grass and Ballad of Pain and Love give the album a strong start with beautiful country melodies that recall the best of Dan Fogelberg from the late 70s. Livin’ in a Graveyard is the first of three reggae tracks with social commentary. On the title track Diipak spits out biting attacks on religious, political and social dogmas and prejudices. Diipak makes Bjorn Afzelius’s Icarus his own in a deeply touching translation. The Greatest Thing beautifully celebrates Diipak’s spiritual realization when holding his baby in his arms. Like New starts off like a soul ballad, and evolves via a harmonica interlude into a song that pulls you to sing along with. The strength of Diipak’s warm and tender voice is highlighted in the slow and tender ballads like Like New.
Throughout, the sound palette is varied and fresh as Diipak mixes in cello, accordion, oud, electric guitar, and soothing female back-up vocals. In addition to country and reggae, Diipak gives us prog-rock time signatures and guitar freak outs, abstract improv on Love Poem, and the catchy showstopper There’s Another Way is a gospel funk anthem.
The quality of the songwriting stays strong, although I felt Qualified somewhat clashes with the feeling established in the opening songs and Live Today never really takes off. The production is right on for most of the songs. My only complaint is that cello and oud could have been recorded better.
Diipak makes me think of Lee Hazelwood’s Cowboy in Sweden and Don Cherry’s Organic Music Society, two great albums recorded in the 70s by Americans living in Sweden. Diipak’s Dogma has kept the humanity and accessibility of Lee Hazelwood, while at the same time reaching for the same spiritual skies as Don Cherry on Organic Music Society. Dogma is very easy to like and a pleasure to listen to. But it’s more than that. It’s the statement of an artist whose heart is overflowing with an intense desire to share how deeply he feels the plight of society and man’s spiritual crisis. Dogma seeks to open doors, minds and hearts.
Visit www.diipak.org for more about Diipak and his recordings.