Personnel: David Mallett, Michael Hughes, Joe Muir, Doreen Conboy, Mike Cressey, Glen Neuman, Noel Paul Stookey, Joe England, Denny Bouchard, Don Hinkley, Bob Varney, Jane Heald, Stu Davis, Alison Dibble, Elaine Sutherland, Peter Re, Douglas Cameron, Ruth McGinnes and Scott Paulson.
Engineers: Noel Paul Stookey, Stu Davis.
All songs recorded at Neworld, Blue Hills Falls, Maine; PACB, Bath, Maine.
Composer: David Mallett.
Personnel: David Mallett (vocals).
Recording information: Neworld, Blue Hill Falls, ME (1977-1980); PACB, Bath, ME (1977-1980).
Photographer: Jim Daniels.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Mike Cressey; David Mallett; Doug Cameron; Michael Hughes ; Bob Varney; Alison Dibble; Denny Bouchard; Elaine Sutherland; Don Hinkley; Jane Heald; Glenn Neuman; Peter Re; Joe England.
Between 1978 and 1981, Maine-based folk singer/songwriter David Mallett released three LPs on Neworld Records, an independent label run by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary, David Mallett, Pennsylvania Sunrise, and Hard Light. Then, Mallett signed to the larger folkie independent Flying Fish Records. As of 1986, he was calling himself Dave Mallett, working out of Nashville, and trying to place songs with country music performers. This compilation album looks back at those first three albums, culling about two-thirds of the material for a 66-minute CD. Although he was only in his mid- to late twenties at the time, Mallett comes off as an old soul, embracing tradition in songs full of nature imagery with references to farmers and fishermen. Some songs are set on trains ("Dulcimer," "Pennsylvania Sunrise") and contain references to long-distance love and being away from home, trademark subjects of the itinerant musician. Occasionally, Mallett shows off his interest in art and literature, identifying with a misunderstood painter ("Phil Brown") or telling stories set in medieval times ("Arthur," "The Candle and the Cape") and the Old West ("Fast Gun Gettin' Slow"). His literary tendencies also come across in the form of his writing; often eschewing simple song structures, he is fond of a sonnet-like AAAB/CCCB rhyme scheme and writes long melodies to accommodate it, giving his songs greater complexity that is accentuated by the detailed fingerpicking he and his lead guitarist Michael Hughes employ. All of this points up his chief influence, Gordon Lightfoot, as does his singing voice, which is a cross between Lightfoot's and Tom Paxton's. Actually, however, Mallett has had his greatest success with simplicity in the form of his folk standard "Garden Song" ("Inch by inch, row by row/Gonna make this garden grow"), now a favorite of environmentalists as well as children's entertainers, and there are other songs here with a similar catchiness and universality that are ready to be embraced by other singers, notably "The Haying Song" and "Sweet Bird of Youth." Mallett's later music also is simpler in form and, of course, more country-oriented, but it isn't any better than this early work. ~ William Ruhlmann