A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Sonny Ochs
Different! That's the first word that comes to mind when I think about trying to describe the music of David Massengill. His songs are different from those of other musicians, and very different from each other. The fact that David plays a dulcimer instead of a guitar adds to his distinctive sound.
The songs on this album are varied. Some are very direct stories such as "Rider on an Orphan Train" which tells of the separation of two brothers. It takes the viewpoint of the one who rode the orphan train and his wondering about his lost brother. This song was inspired by a phone call David received from someone who thought they might be related.
"Fireball" is the story of a race car driver who goes out in a blaze of glory. "The Return" and "Jesus, the Fugitive Prince" are both well-crafted parables - the former about Noah building a rocketship, and the latter about Jesus as an inmate who escapes from an asylum to celebrate his birthday. The Roche sisters do back-up vocals on both of these songs. Guest vocalists on other songs include Jane Sibbery and Suzanne Vega.
In the middle of all of this are "Perfect Love" and "Wake Up", two delightful songs that could be children's songs - fun lyrics and very singable melodies. Another "fun" song is "Sightseer", a humorous look at the American tourist abroad.If it is beautiful melodies and harmonies that you crave, then "Blindman/Black Swan" is the cut you'll play over and over.
"The Great American Dream" is David's anthem to America - a penetrating look at the underbelly of our nation - the unemployed, the prostitutes, the immigrants and the Native Americans who have been downtrodden. (This song was sung at Folk City's 25th anniversary in NYC in the mid '80's. Among the performers singing a verse were Joan Baez, Lucy Kaplansky and Lili Anel.)
The last cut on the album is a spoken word story about an elopement. I thought it may have been about David's parents, but I made a phone call and found out that it was a couple of generations further back in his family. (But true!)
There is a variety of backup instrumentation on the album, including keyboard, bass, harmonica, drums, xylophone, Wurlitzer and pedal steel, but it is all well-balanced and never distracts from the songs.
This is a very varied album, and one you will want to hear many times because it is so different, so interesting and so entertaining!