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Hard Light

David Mallett

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Album Review

The term "live album" usually connotes a recording on which an artist performs songs from his repertoire, most or all of which have appeared previously in his discography on studio albums. David Mallett's third LP, Hard Light, is a live album, but it is more in the tradition of Neil Young's Time Fades Away and Jackson Browne's Running on Empty in that it consists entirely of songs Mallett has not recorded before. Still, it has the atmosphere of a live album, including lots of applause and at least a few stage remarks. (Among them is one that is given a title on the back cover, "Country Disco," though it's really no more than a brief musical joke, thank God.) Also, a singer/songwriter previously only represented by his own compositions includes three covers of songs by others, one of which is the old Johnny Horton hit "North to Alaska," performed as a singalong. The others, Tom Bishop's 1973 copyright "Mr. Arthur's Place" and Eddy Shaw's 1950 song "All Dressed Up and Lonely," both fit into the album's overall theme, which is romantic discord. Beginning with "Hard Time Love Song," much of the collection is given over to regretful reflections on a longtime love that has gone wrong, possibly due to the singer's extensive traveling. As usual with Mallett's writing, there is a lot of nature imagery and many references to seafaring. And as usual, there is one song that has a particularly catchy tune, a midtempo beat, and a sufficiently generalized theme that could be covered by other performers. On his first album, that was "Garden Song," which has gone on to become his most popular tune. On his second album, Pennsylvania Sunrise, it was "Haying Song." Here it's "Sweet Bird of Youth," a sort of prayer that the march of time might be stopped and even reversed. Of course, it can't be, and Mallett's overall outlook remains wistful, his pessimism ameliorated by the gentle, attractive music, with mandolin and fiddle joining in with his and Michael Hughes' guitars. The appreciative audience also helps buoy the mood, perhaps even bucking up the performer, who has to do all that traveling and sacrifice his love life as a consequence.

Customer Reviews

A GREAT American Songwriter

David Mallett was, and is, one of America's great songwriters. It's hard to listen to an collection of Mallett's music and not be humming a song an hour later after only one listen. He is the master of the melody. One of the best ways to listen to a good songwriter is to have that songwriter perform his own material live. This collection shines. Not only with Mallett's own material, but with songs by the likes of Johnny Horton and Eddy Shaw. Take a listen to songs in a simpler time by a great storyteller.

Very very good album

I just listened to this album twice in a row. It's all around excellent, I highly recommend.


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...
Full Bio
Hard Light, David Mallett
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