"...a Vermont version of the French Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin.."
Times Argus Review
by Art Edlestein
Dutton, along with the deft ears and hands of Greenberg, and the help of singer Coco Kallis and percussionist Bim Edson, has crafted an album of interesting songs in a variety of styles that showcase tuneful singing with attractive melodies and words that are both easy to understand and sincere or humorous in their intent.
From the Texas swing feel of the opening "Hey Rose," through the bluesy "Praying for Rain" to the fingerstyle lament of "Am I Gone?" Dutton sings with a pleasant baritone that sounds as if he's in your living room, rather than in a recording studio. Kallis' background vocals fill the spaces and add more range than Dutton's voice allows.
I found the lack of studio gizmos where often vocals have too much reverb, and the tendency of some to add too many digital effects or layers of background instrumentation, which is often a mistake in many first projects, a real plus here. Greenberg's production is lean, meant to showcase Lafe's songs in settings, which listeners will appreciate. There's soft background guitar in the slow tunes, doses of fine mandolin playing to offset the guitars, banjo in the traditional sounding numbers and percussion and electric guitar in the grittier songs, all played by Greenberg — but they all fill in the gaps and don't overtake or overpower Lafe's vocals and words. Greenberg, to his credit, is not trying to prove anything, none of the "see what we can do with all this fancy equipment" type of production here.
There is a newcomer's eagerness and still-raw emotion and humor here, far more than production nuance and reaching-for-the-stars intensity in "Am I Gone?" and this makes it a pleasant listening experience. The love songs are real and I especially like the lines in "In Between" which show the disconnect between lovers and love:
Well, I loved you in the morning
And I loved you late at night
But in between
It seems to me
There's a dark and failing light.
There's an especially poignant few lines in "Praying For Rain," my favorite cut on the CD, which should be subtitled "The Farmer's Lament" that goes;
The neighbor's dog is barking, Lord
Like he been kicked
The silence needed breaking
But, Lord not like this.
What's left of all my crops, Lord
They're just dust upon the plain
Oh, Lord, somebody is praying for rain.
Another favorite, Lafe's take on Eastern philosophy is the finger-picked "You Can't Sue God." You have to like a songwriter whose take on life is reflected in the lines:
The rains will come and hurricanes
And earthquakes will strike the ground.
Famines and floods and killer bees
Like to stroll from town to town.
But what can you do, you can't sue God
Or we'd all be rich by now.
You can laugh a little. You can laugh a lot.