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Pennsylvania Sunrise

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Album Review

David Mallett's second album, 1979's Pennsylvania Sunrise, is a continuation and extension of his first, a self-titled effort released in 1978. It was again produced by his mentor, Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary, and features many of the same musicians, notably Michael Hughes, who plays lead guitar, mandolin, autoharp, and fiddle, among other instruments. Again the tracks are gentle folk arrangements of simple melodies, over which Mallett sings in his soft, considered tenor. And his lyrical concerns remain much the same, too. He is interested in descriptions of nature for their own sake, and in the people who make their living out of nature, farmers and fisherman especially. The nearest thing to a sequel to "Garden Song" from his first album is "Haying Song," a tribute to the "hill people" whose motto is "ya' have to make hay when the sun shines." Mallett is also concerned with travel, as the album title Pennsylvania Sunrise suggests, and songs such as "Oranges and Roses," with its California setting, imply that his touring activities extend from coast to coast, with the result of missing loved ones. A part of his nature-based world view is an affection for individualism that he expresses best in "Phil Brown," a song about a misunderstood painter. It is the first of four songs that end the album with a series of stories. David Mallett closed with "Arthur," a reexamination of the Camelot legend, and Pennsylvania Sunrise provides more evidence of Mallett's reading habits, with a Western ("Fast Gun Gettin' Slow"), another medieval setting ("The Candle and the Cape"), and, finally, a travel story about a sailor stranded on Prince Edward Island who finds solace at a country hoedown ("Ballad of the Saint Anne's Reel"). Here and elsewhere, Mallett combines the simple rural happiness he admires with an elegiac sense of a good old world passing away. He may have made only two albums, but he is an old soul with an increasing sense, it seems, that the things he loves most are disappearing, and that some are already gone.


Born: 1951 in Sebec, ME

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

David Mallett was working on the garden on his family's farm in rural Maine when he was inspired to run into the house, take a pencil and pad, and write a new song. In the decades since, "The Garden Song" has been covered by artists ranging from Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie to John Denver and the Muppets. Besides being translated and recorded in a lengthy list of languages, the song inspired a book, Inch by Inch, published by Harper Collins. Mallett, however, is not limited to just one song. A highly...
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Pennsylvania Sunrise, David Mallett
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