Dave Mallett used to call himself David Mallett, but in those days he was a soft-spoken Maine-based folksinger who wrote and sang thoughtful songs about nature and seafaring. Now, employing a less-formal version of his first name, he is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter here releasing his third album on the Chicago-based independent label Flying Fish Records and sixth LP overall. Once produced by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary, Mallett now has Jim Rooney to handle his studio work, and Rooney gives the music more of a country-folk than folk-rock sound. But it's still centered on Mallett, his craftsmanlike songs, his reedy voice, and his acoustic guitar. Mallett has simplified those songs somewhat, or perhaps just focused them, expressing his sincere sentiments directly, whether those concern the celebration of a happy love ("For a Lifetime"), or regrets about one that didn't work out ("Lost in a Memory of You"). He has an eye for wholesome nightlife ("Night on the Town," "Hometown Girls"), and he is unabashed about his feelings for his father ("My Old Man"). He may have a mixture of feelings, however, when it comes to his current hometown. "Sweet Tennessee" would seem to leave no doubt, even though it's really just one of those musician-on-the-road-wishing-he-was-home songs. But then there's "This City Life," which seems to be an indictment of Music City, not for any real evils, just because it's not right for Mallett. "Now they all say I gotta be somewhere/Where my fortune can find me," he explains. And to be sure, from a career point of view, being located in Nashville gives easier access to national touring, not to mention the possibility of visiting all those publishing houses. Still, "I'd be better off back home," Mallett sings, and maybe he's right. Ironically, Rooney's arrangement of the song, employing steel guitar, is the most traditional country one on the disc. Mallett's sojourn in Nashville has borne fruit, and there are more songs here ripe for covers by country artists. But his New England roots are showing, even with the occasional slurred syllable or country-styled cadence in the music. Rural he certainly is, but Southern he's not. Still, that sense of dislocation gives this collection some of the gravity it needs to make it one of his better albums.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann