All right! It's March and spring is just around the corner. Are we ready for it or what? I know I am. Although I've done a good bit of traveling this winter, it's not one of my favorite times to be on the road. I'm sure there are a lot of people who share my sentiment.
It's more my favorite time to hole up and write or reflect or listen to some of my favorite records as well as some of the new fare that's out. There's a new album just out by long-time folk-country songwriter Dave Mallett on the recently revived Vanguard label. Vanguard, as some of you know, had an impressive roster of folk and blues performers in the Sixties, releasing some retrospective collections of same somewhere in the late Sixties-early Seventies. These included Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Eric Andersen and a number of others. The label was one of the more successful of that era and stands a good chance of having just as much success under the new owners if the rest of their new product is on a par with the newly released This TownBy the honest and thoughtful Mallett.
Known to be a bit stubborn at times, but also known to have a perfect focus on who he is and what it is he wants to say in his songs, Dave Mallett has definitely topped any of his previous discs he recorded for Flying Fish. From the outset with the title song, which I heard and loved a couple of years ago, he paints a most accurate and textured portrait of Nashville and many other cities of similar consequence, I'm sure, as the overgrown rural community it is, as well as a show-biz center. It takes in "college kids in BMWs parked in front of all-night bars," and "a hard-hat river with sleeping pilgrims on the shore." Like many American cities of late, the feast or famine has become more visible in recent years, which this great Mallett song points out.
Dave and producer Jim Rooney have recruited some very worthy and perfectly cast help on vocals which include back-up from Kathy Mattea, Nanci Griffith and Hal Ketchum. Ketchum helps out on the beautiful "Old Soldiers," which he co-wrote with Mallett. The song has a hit-you-in-the-heart truth about it, as the chorus echoes "Old soldiers die hard, old hearts beat slow, old friends go easy, but old lovers just go." Kathy Mattea helps out on "I Miss Main Street," which Dave wrote with her husband, Jon Vezner ("Where've You Been," "Train-Wreck of Emotion"). Nanci Griffith sings on "The Road Goes On Forever," a realistic observation of "mansions on the hill" kind of thinking. "Old Soldiers" also has some memorable fretted dobro work from Chris Leuzinger. All the musicianship is top-notch, featuring Roy Huskey Jr., David Pomeroy and other acoustic masters.
Overall, the album leaves you with a melancholy and yet a very strong and hopeful outlook on things, a trait I've found consistently in Mallett's work. Relocating here five or six years ago from Maine, where he was raised on a farm, Dave Mallett is well respected and well deserving of a higher profile nationally. There is talk of a video.
There are definitely cuts on this record that stand up to anything on mainstream radio and should end up there if the Vanguard folks are serious. After having his songs recorded by Kathy Mattea and Emmylou Harris most recently — and a host of folk stars in the Sixties and Seventies — and after building a strong base of fans from seven or eight previous albums and touring constantly for the last ten or fifteen years, let's hope they are very serious about Dave Mallett and This Town.
Elsewhere, there are a couple of things I'd like to mention. The first is a major date mistake on my itinerary which was mailed to a vast number of people. I will be a part of the Homefront Performances 9th Anniversary Show on Saturday, March 13, not Friday, the 12th, which is what my mailer stated. Hope you can all make this show and help continue the fine concert series and radio broadcasts that have kept Louisville's music scene happening on a fresh and more rootsy level for the last nine years. That's Saturday, March 13!
Also, try to come to the April 3 concert at the Kentucky Theater on Fourth Street with Tim Krekel and myself sharing the bill and the songs. It will be a blast to work with Tim for the first time.
One more change: I will be at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville Wednesday, March 3, with Tom Kimmel, Tim Krekel and a mystery guest. My mailer stated March 5, which was incorrect.
For all you aspiring, semi-pro and professional songwriters, there are gatherings aplenty to attend this month. March 8-11, a new thing called Tin Pan South will be happening down here, put on jointly by the Nashville Songwriters Association International and other songwriter organizations from Los Angeles and New York. It will be quite the event, featuring a kick-off concert at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Jackson Hall, starring Christopher Cross of "Sailing" and "Between the Moon and New York City" fame. Then for the following three nights, five major Nashville clubs will feature songwriter shows with hit writers from Nashville, New York and L.A. Ticket info can be had by calling your local NSAI chapter or the Nashville office. Also, for the March 8 concert you can call TicketMaster at (615) 741-2787 or toll-free at 1-800-3334849. Better hurry; they went on sale February 15.
Then right on the heels of Tin Pan South is the NSAI Spring Symposium '93, March 12-14 at the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel. This year's symposium will feature three new additions to the agenda: "Songwriter Roundtables" (to talk to and ask questions of a variety of hit songwriters), "Tracing the Steps of a Hit" (to observe how a song became a hit and who it went through to get there) and "Songwriting Tips With Pamela Phillips O1and," who the NSAI promises will have you looking at your songs with a new awareness. I'll be on the "Songwriter Roundtables" on opening day, Friday, the 12th, from 3 to 5 p.m., so come on down!
A third event, Songwriter Day Camp, will start the 14th, immediately following the closing of the Spring Symposium. This is a real fun opportunity for an extended "hands-on" three-day learning experience from six different hit writers. For more information on these and other songwriterrelated events, call your chapter of the NS AI or the Nashville office at 1-800-321-6008 or (615) 256-3254.
I'll be headed for Austin, Texas, for yet another huge music gathering called South By Southwest, which runs from March 17 to 21. This monster has been going for six previous years and promises everything a world-wide music conference should be. I'm totally excited about showcasing there this year and meeting people from around the country and the world for that matter.
I'll be performing on a solo artists showcase at what I'm told is a fine listening venue called the Chicago House, on Friday, the 19th, around 9 p.m. It'1l be my first public appearance in the Lone Star State and, I hope, the beginning of many return dates in the future.
And finally, a great big Happy Birthday to lyricist Karen Le Van who crossed the fifty-yard line back on February 10! Karen celebrated in grand Nashville style with a sixty-plus gathering of friends and musicians at world-famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge next to the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, The Ryman Auditorium. Soon, according to the grapevine, the Ryman will be hosting live concerts again instead of just serving as a museum and occasional video locale. Rock on, Karen!! And rock on, everyone else. Until next time, Adios.
(Alan Rhody was born in Louisville and is a successful songwriter and performer now living in Nashville, Tenn.)