821 Porter Road
Nashville, TN 37206
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Marji Hazen
Once upon a time there was an anthropologist from England who, nearly his whole life, had been making and singing his own songs. The melodies were sometimes inventive and interesting, sometimes no more than carriers for his ear-catching, heart-calling poetry. People liked to hear him sing those evenings when they all came back tired and dusty from the dig. For most of us, that would be a fine ending for the story. But for David Lewis, it was hardly the beginning.
You see, David Lewis made some very special friends, one of whom was John Wesley Harding. So once upon a time, Lewis visited them all in San Francisco. They thought his music was so beautiful that they decided to get out their instruments and play along. "They" were folks like Harding and Robert Lloyd who tours with Harding and Peter Buck who plays with R.E.M.
Now what happens when you add Harding, Lloyd, and Buck to Lewis is probably the nicest thing that could happen to any little known folksinger's music. The music is no longer just interesting, exquisitely constructed poetry set to music that reveals the singer's soul. With the extra musicians, it becomes an acoustic treat so pleasant that you want to hear it again and again.
Judging from what is missing from the liner notes, John Wesley Harding set out to produce an album emphasizing the musicality of Lewis's songs. There are no reprints of the poet's words to assist the ear. That's not an oversight in this case. The recording is so well engineered that every word comes clearly through the music. Together, poetry and music weave a fabric that showcases and at the same time, enhances Lewis's skills as poet and tunesmith. The supporting musicians are obviously in love with the music and in tune with Lewis's vision of his own self-expression.
The session must have felt right. Last we heard, Lewis was opening for Harding on his national tour.
Of his album, Lewis wrote: "We live our lives through strings of tight connections and miscommunications, sometimes passing each other with barely a wave of acknowledgement, at other times striking strange chords in combination. Here is a resting place -- for a while at least..."
Here are two ways an album can become my favorite. Either it has something tremendously worthwhile to say or it is very very pleasant to live with. This one has both qualities. Enjoy it as an intellectual experience or as pleasant background. Either way, it'll be one you'll play many more times than once.
Edited by Kerry Dexter