DAVID MEAD Almost and Always (Cheap Lullaby)
It’s a bitch being a musical genius. The last couple of years have not been kind to singer-songwriter David Mead. After spending 2007 living in Brooklyn, Mead separated from his wife and returned to his native Nashville in early 2008, initially landing in a room in his father’s basement for a few months. Mead confesses “The change was a little paralyzing. I had left pretty much everything but my books and a few lamps in Brooklyn, and there I was, back in Nashville, well into my 30’s, doing manual labor and wondering what was supposed to happen next.”
Having been twice released from recording contracts, by RCA and Nettwerk, you would be surprised to learn that Mead hasn’t packed it all in. And what is the man’s crime? The ability to produce sophisticated pop that touches you in the heart, mind and soul. That’s what! Of course, the problem with the music business is that critical reviews only go so far if the unwashed masses aren’t forking out cash for your albums.
Really, folks, the kind of music that Mead delivers is a rare commodity and his dilemma has been shared by peers like Aimee Mann, Jon Brion, XTC, Eric Matthews, the High Llamas, the Aluminium Group et al. On Almost and Always, Mead’s fifth album, he is joined in the songwriting department by Bill Demain, best known as an integral part of soft pop duo Swan Dive. The result is an album of the highest quality in every aspect and listening to it, you cannot but come to the inescapable conclusion that it is nothing short of a travesty that Mead does not receive the recognition that he deserves.
The beauty of Almost and Always is that most of the tracks here are pretty stripped down, with little to accompany Mead’s gorgeous high-register larynx but acoustic guitar and piano. In such environments, melodies are severely tested and in this respect, Almost and Always passes with flying colors. And when Mead deems it necessary to embellish his captivating songs, he does so with aplomb with baroque instrumentation that will send chills down your spine.
This is an album that must be experienced from start to finish, and its difficult to name highlights but I certainly have fallen head over heels in love with Blackberry Winters, with its incredible chorus and its breath-taking vocal harmonic middle-eight; Rainy Weather Friend, with its jaunty demeanour and incandescent tune; From My Window Sill, with its rustic melancholia and breezy personality; Last Train Home, with its 70s country inflections and Jimmy Webb-channeling melody and Little Boats, a old world piano ballad with a smidgen of a Disney movie theme vibe.
2009 has been a good year for good old fashioned pop-rock, and certainly David Mead’s Almost and Always is up there with the year’s best. The highest PoP recommendation!
Listen at Spotify!
… still there’s more …