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“Rex Haberman has been writing and singing rock songs since he was 13 in Hastings, Nebraska, in a little known band called The Kavaliers. Fast forward to the past 10 years in the Twin Cities: After performing and recording two albums as the Rex Haberman Band, Haberman’s new record features his longtime collaborator, guitarist Dan Neale, in the deceptively titled CD simply called Neale and Haberman. Together the singer-songwriting talents of the latter and the rock guitar incarnations of the former create a center of gravity whose appeal is hard to resist. Mixing rock with incendiary traces of folk, country, pop and R&B, the duo similarly explores a variety of subjects and spiraling emotions and heartfelt sentiments, including the pains and comforts of romance and the celebrations of fantasy inspired by movies (Lord of the Rings) and books (by Anne Rice) (see Album backgrounder).

Haberman, whose day job as a renowned doctor treating patients for ear, nose and throat problems – including many local musicians – has always marveled at Neale’s elevated musicianship over the years. He also felt that the guitar player’s time to be a headliner was long past due. So when the accomplished songwriter (and novelist) approached the self-described “Riff Slinger” to share the spotlight, it didn’t take long for the two of them to sit down to business and produce the 13 tracks that make up their new record, which includes a timely cover of a 1980s Steve Forbert folk-rock tune, “The American in Me.”

“For years I’ve marveled at Danny’s chops, his ability to help craft the music for a set a lyrics and lead the band both in the studio and live onstage,” Haberman notes. “Here’s a guy who can sound like Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan, then turn around for a more harder metallic edge and play like Eddie Van Halen, then on the flipside, pick like Chet Atkins on a country tune or stylish jazzy mode. We call him the Rock,” Haberman laughs, “because he’s so solid and he does a great job leading not only the band on the Neale and Haberman, but virtually any band that he plays with. Dan Neale is a musician’s musician. Once he learns a song, he never forgets it. Plus he’s got such a killer guitar vocabulary; I can’t keep track of how many guitar styles he really knows.”

As the lead singer in the partnership for the new record, Haberman still knows how to operate – even after he’s operated. Singing with his band at night after a day where he’s probably performed surgery, met with patients, played with his kids, or worked on his novel or medical textbook, the Renaissance man meshes his songwriting influences well. He grew up listening to such masters as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and others with expansive tastes in players ranging from Dave Mason and Tom Petty to Jean Luc Ponty and southern rockers Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Although he didn’t have time to play or write much in medical school, Dr. Rex never forgot how to rock house – or the operating room: Today he occasionally “works” while Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, or his own stuff plays in the background, including his 2001 debut disc Hiding Inside or the 2003 album Monte Rio.

By day, the ENT doc treats a wide cross section of Twin Citians, many of whom come for Haberman’s specialty: otology or disorders of the ear, which include such ailments as tinnitus or ringing in the ears. But when his band members flank him on the stage of a local rock club, a charity event for Hazelden, or in the studio, that “ringing in the ears” is no malady; it’s the sound of two mutual admirations societies carrying on a musical tradition in which collaboration has produced some of best work in rock, folk, country and blues. On Neale and Haberman, each player reminds us how deeply rewarding true talent and artistry can be.”