...in the
falling dark

David Mallett

Vanguard 79480-2 c. 1995
Vanguard Records
1299 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

A review written for Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
By Marie Eaton
(eaton@henson.cc.wwu.edu)

David Mallett has been master songwriter for years, and this CD has a host of new songs that can be added to the list of "songs I wish I had written." This is a great album for those days when you feel just a little blue, and want music to reflect your mood. Mallett and his host of co-composers (Danny O'Keefe, Lance Cowen, Hal Ketchem, Alan Rhody, Rory Bourke, Richard Ferreira, and Allen Estes) offer songs about lost dreams, homelessness, sad goodbyes and dangerous times, threaded through with the promise that "if there's one good spark in the falling dark, there's hope for one and all."

Mallett is not afraid of rhyme, and uses song structure skillfully to portray real people with real stories that intersect with our own lives, supported with singable tunes. Mallett opens with "Hungry for Love," a haunting set of vignettes of the lost ones of this day and age, seeking love in a world which too often keeps us separate from each other. "Daddy's Oldsmobile" tells the story of a family: down and out, but still together from the point of view of the child in the back seat. Mallett uses timeless images which evoke the hopeless search for work in both the dust bowl thirties and the neon nineties. These songs and others like "It Wasn't Supposed to Be Like This"--about the end of a relationship--are wonderful vehicles for Mallett's voice, which always seems to be edged with a tinge of sadness and wisdom earned through a little too much pain.

"Here We Go" stands out by its departure from the sound of the rest of the album, written in the style of an old jazz standard. A nice beat and a tasty frosting of violin and piano should put this piece right in the middle of any crooner's favorites. (Who is the violinist anyway? I couldn't find him/her listed in the liner notes!) For my taste, many of the tracks are just a little too produced, perhaps in an attempt to get the "radio" sound. David's voice and lyrics show off best in songs which have simpler arrangements--"Off the Ground" or "Hope for One and All"--better matching David's understated style. In a few songs the mix overwhelms the vocals, or the arrangement choices detract from rather than add to the song. For example, in "That Was the One," the back-up musicians on piano, drums and lead guitar seem to have center stage rather than the song itself, and in "Come Out of the Blue," the drum kit sets a straight-ahead beat that seems at odds with the message of the tune.

One of the ways to judge an album is by it's "replay" factor - can it be listened to through three or four times running, getting better each time? This one passed the test with flying colors. Mallett and his friends have succeeded in giving us an album which will have a lot of "wearing power." A fine piece of work.

[Edited by Shawn Linderman]

Copyright 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reproduced with prior permission and attribution.

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