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This piece is from a 2003 Pioneer Press article
HEAR NOW: The Rex Haberman Band
BY ROB HUBBARD

Background: It sounds like a setup for a superhero's latest adventures. By day, he's mild-mannered ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Rex Haberman, performing surgery in the morning and examining a few patients before meeting with University of Minnesota medical students to discuss his specialty: ear disorders. But then, at night, he becomes Rex Haberman, rock musician.

It's more than a double life: This Renaissance man is also a published novelist, with two medical mysteries on the shelves, and is managing to edit a medical textbook, as well. However, Haberman's longtime love of music was lurking in the shadows while his practice and family grew. When his children became teenagers, he started gravitating back toward music, writing songs late at night.

"I've been playing since I was young," Haberman said from his St. Paul office. "But time was short in medical school and during my residency. Recently, I went back and played some of the songs I wrote years ago, recording a few and sending them to OarFin Records (a small Minneapolis label). Soon, Matt Kirkwold called me and said, 'I like this. Let's do an album.' I had 30 songs, and we picked 10 of them to put on the album."

The result was last year's "Hiding Inside," released on Reissner Records, a collaborative label put together by Haberman and OarFin head Bob Pickering. ("Reissner is a membrane in the inner ear," Haberman said.) To the 20 remaining songs, Haberman added 20 more, and, out of the pool of 40, went about recording a second album. That's when former Tina & the B-Sides member Patrik Tanner came on board as producer and arranger for what would become "Monte Rio." Among the musicians enlisted for Haberman's latest effort were guitarist Dan Neale (of Martin Zellar & the Hardways), Honeydogs drummer Noah Levy and Matt Fink, former keyboardist for Prince & the Revolution Concept: "While many of my songs are inspired by real events, they're not necessarily personal experiences," Haberman said. "I hope each song is a little story people can relate to on some level."

His characters spin their tales while backed by styles ranging from bouncy melodic pop and twangy Americana to layers of electrified rock reminiscent of a couple of Haberman's favorite bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

When performing live, Haberman and his band like to mix in some acoustic songs with the rockers. Easier on the ears, perhaps? "The players in my band are pretty well-educated about protecting their ears," the doctor said. "We try not to play overly loud. In my practice, we do see a lot of musicians. And we advise that they use musicians' plugs, which we customize to people's ears. Everyone's ears are different. If you have a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, you have to be doubly careful."

Recordings: "Hiding Inside" (Reissner Records, 2002) and "Monte Rio" (Reissner, 2003).


Review: With "Monte Rio," Haberman and Tanner have concocted a tasty collection of guitar pop that wears its British influences on its frilled sleeve. The Beatlesque dreamscape, "Allusions"; the Manchester crunch of "Greed"; the heavy hooks that vary in hue from Deep Purple to British blues: All point to Haberman's retro sensibilities. Even his vocals, which bear a slacker aloofness that belies his emotional words, have a hint of English inflection. While his lyrics lean upon direct storytelling that's long on facts and short on metaphor, it's the engaging arrangements that make the strongest impression. Whether layering on the guitars, Skynyrd-style, on "Rock Hard Heartbreak" or popping things up on "What Others Have Said," it's a slick effort with writing approaching the level of its production values.