One Camp Street
Cambridge Massachusetts 02140
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Moshe Benarroch
Parallel Lives is Dave Mallett's tenth recording and it is good cause for celebration. After two Vanguard releases that brought him a new audience and which tried to market him as the new Hal Ketchum (meaning good songs overproduced), he is back with his small label, Flying Fish.
"Back" means he is back to what he does best: great songs, great guitar playing and great singing. Without any adornment, these songs are strong. Parallel Lives is a live recording with Mallet and Steven Sheehan on guitars, Mike Budd on bass, and an uncredited harmonica player (probably Mallett). That's it- only the singing and the songs.
Mallet recorded his first LP in 1978 and my big question is why isn't he as famous as Gordon Lightfoot? They both cover the same territory and with the same convincing, timeless songs. Perhaps Mallett just arrived a bit too late to be on the train of seventies folk revival. There is a revival every ten years, though, so if we are on one of them right now, then maybe his big time has come. If you ever liked Lightfoot, James Taylor, or John Denver, you will probably like Parallel Lives, too.
About half the songs on Parallel Lives are new renditions of previously recorded songs, while the other half are new tunes. The subjects of Mallet's songs always have something to do with memories- a town's past, a love affair remembered, or an old car. There is a longing for something simpler (whether it ever existed or not) which makes the longing a reason to go on.
Summer of My Dreams was a hit for Kathy Mattea (and it was also covered wonderfully by Dolores Keane) but Mallett's simplicity is even more touching than previous renditions. This song illustrates what makes Mallett such a strong songwriter. The lyrics could have been written any time in the last 500 years:
|By the shade of this old tree |
In the summer of my dreams
By the tall grass, by the wild rose
Where the trees dance as the wind blows...
Living in a big polluted city, this is like going to the mountain and smelling fresh air. I found myself singing this song quite often and the words simply stuck in my mind.
Two songs on this CD were co-written with Hal Ketchum- Like This and Daddy's Oldsmobile, the latter of which was one of Ketchum's greatest hits. Here again, though, I find Mallet's version more honest and sensitive, his voice giving the song a timeless value. Many of the other songs on Parallel Lives have been covered (and will surely be covered in the future) by other artists and they have sometimes gone on to become big hits. But Parallel Lives is the real thing and, in all cases, Mallet's versions of the songs equal or outperform the covers. He always gives much more profundity and insight to the songs. Most of the songs on this CD have the word "classic" written all over them. Indeed, the only problem I find with this CD is that it is too short; at 50 minutes long, it could hold a good six or seven more songs.
If you've never heard Dave Mallet before, this is a good CD with which to start. As a matter of fact, if you want to start listening to singer- songwriters for the first time to understand why some people can't stop talking about this style of music, this is a CD that may convince you to look for many others.
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Edited by Kerry Bernard