Darryl Purpose demonstrated brilliantly his ability to survive solo acoustic recording with his one-take gem Same River Twice. His 1999 follow up takes up the challenge of denser production with mixed results. Of course, much of the burden in such an approach rests with the artist's collaborators.Purpose is fortunate in this regard; he has obviously made some valuable friends in his first few years as a folk performer. Traveler's Code is produced by David Miner, a folk-rock veteran who has worked with artists like Leo Kottke, Elvis Costello and Pierce Pettis. The album also features guest performances by high profile vocalists Lucy Kaplansky, who makes a beautifully tender duet of "Ring On My Hand," and Ellis Paul, who lends his powerful tenor to the catchy "Child of Hearts." Those songs, as well as a sensitively reworked full band treatment of the excellent "Mr. Schwinn," get the album off to a crackling start in its opening tracks. And the record ends on a strong note with the lovely title track. But much of the material in between goes too far in a folk-pop direction that fails to utilize Purpose's greatest strengths. His remarkably detailed fingerstyle guitar work is often either buried or replaced with less challenging strumming patterns. (The intricate instrumental "Smoke and Mirrors" is a laudable exception.) And his vocals, so masterful and multifaceted on Same River Twice, seem overly thin and nasal in some of the faster songs. But even without the consistency of its remarkable predecessor, Traveler's Code has more than enough bright moments to maintain Purpose's place as one of the most promising new artists in American folk.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Evan Cater