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David Mead - Almost and Always Album Cover

David Mead - Almost and Always

Reviewed by
8.3
David Mead - Almost and Always
Record Label: Cheap Lullaby
Release Date: Aug. 4, 2009
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
He's been making music since 1999, has released four critically-acclaimed albums and a highly praised EP. He's shared the stage with John Mayer and written articles for Paste Magazine. To boot, Mayer has even called him "one of my favorite singer-songwriters." He sings with high-pitched, honeyed vocals that often soar to falsetto and is rarely seen without his acoustic guitar. And yet if he walked down the street, few if any would recognize him. His name's David Mead and if his fifth album, Almost and Always, is the first mention of his name, make it a point to add him to the proverbial music radar. This cat's long overdue for his close up.

His debut The Luxury of Time was a masterwork in pop prettiness inspired by the likes of Lennon and McCartney while his sophomore album Mine and Yours proved to be more commercially viable and was created with Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger. His most critically-lauded album to date, the sparse and intimate Indiana proved his staying power as he blended gentle folk arrangements with his gorgeous voice and keen eye for detail. The brief EP Wherever You Are featured some of his most meteoric songs while the quirky Tangerine proved his ability to dive into blues and soul. And now comes Almost and Always.

Constructed as a response to the demise of his marriage and the relocation to his adopted hometown of Nashville, Almost and Always is an album that has one foot firmly cemented in the past and another committed to vivid storytelling. Built around subtle arrangements, and inspired by the likes of Bette Midler and Burt Bacharach, the album is laden with strings, and piano. "Originally these songs were written for a woman," Mead admits, later adding that he held out hope Midler would find interest in them herself. Working alongside new songwriting partner Bill DeMain, Almost and Always begins with "Rainy Weather Friend," a brisk acoustic number that serves as one of the album's most fast-paced songs. The tone and feel is vastly different from his prior repertoire but its mid-tempo movement proves to be the central talking point, as the album isn't all that upbeat from here. "Little Boats" and "Blackberry Winters," are both solid and make for a stirring opening triumvirate, but from there things get a little askew.

Tracks four through eight aren't necessarily throwaways, but their lack of gusto or kinesis makes the middle part of the album tough to get through. While "Mojave Phone Booth," paints a cinematic portrait of the American Southwest, it's hushed nature does little to bolster the disc's tempo. Similarly,"Twenty Girls Ago," seems to suffer from self-indulgency and an ability to lag far longer than it should. One positive is that "From My Window Sill," features some solid lyrics ("And the taxis are rolling by and the girls dressed in the latest styles, from the subway to the marble sky, there's no sign of heartbreak for miles and miles") though that aspect of his career has never faltered. Both "Sicily" and "Gramercy Vaudeville," serve as poignant travelogues, while still maintaining the lagging, plodding pace of the previous three; and of the five, "From My Window Sill" and "Gramercy Vaudeville" are the most pleasing.

The album rescues itself with the piano-and-strings-fueled "Last Train Home," which is arguably one of the better songs Mead has released to date. The sparse title track follows and features the brutally honest reflection, "Almost and always I've given my love for free, and almost and always I've watched as it leaves." The brief "Love Don't Leave Me Now," has a decidedly chamber pop feel to it, while the buoyant piano number "Sleeping in Saturday," has a panache and zest that's as strong as anything he's released to date. And then fittingly, the album rests on "Home," a weary confessional in which Mead tries to reconcile his tortured marriage after too many days spent on the road. There's something refreshing about his candid reflection when he sings, "Every word on the phone seems to drop like a stone, into oceans that fade in the dark, and you spend half your life, growing wings, growing wise, to the reasons that keep us apart." The song's simplicity is the very reason Mead has made it as a singer/songwriter for the last 10 years.

Firmly committed to writing simple pop songs and possessing a timeless, antiquated vibe, he allows his voice to bleed over his arrangements and the results are almost and always revelatory. Producer Brad Jones (who also worked on Tangerine) manages to let each of the songs breathe and while the 17-minute middle section is tough to get through, there's still a shimmering chunk of solid, first-rate musicianship. Truth be told, had he been around in the 1970s, Mead would probably be a household name by now. But unfortunately he's lost amidst the clutter and din that passes for popular music these days. That sad fact has left him consigned to stand on the periphery while others fly past him. That being said, wherever his music rests, it's almost assured it will find a way to make a dent. Timeless songs filled with poignancy and resolve always do that. Let it be known, that of all the contemporary singer/songwriters currently making music, few, if any are better than Mead, and while it stumbles in places, Almost and Always is proof of that.

Track Listing 1. Rainy Weather Friend*
2. Little Boats
3. Blackberry Winters*
4. Mojave Phone Booth
5. Twenty Girls Ago
6. From My Window Sill*
7. Sicily
8. Gramercy Vaudeville
9. Last Train Home*
10. Almost and Always
11. Love Don't Leave Me Now
12. Sleeping in Saturday*
13. Home*
*Recommended Tracks


Recommended If You like Denison Witmer, Kings of Convenience, Cary Brothers, Iron and Wine


Find Him Here Myspace
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Displaying posts 1 - 6 of 6
10:08 AM on 08/18/09
#2
inthemidst
Grace and Peace
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Good review Greg. I didn't know David Mead was still writing music. The last time I heard him was on the Van Wilder soundtrack; the catchiest song on the entire album was written by him "Girl On the Roof (Love Is In the Air)". I'll have to check out the rest of his catalog.
10:34 AM on 08/18/09
#3
Gregory Robson
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Good review Greg. I didn't know David Mead was still writing music. The last time I heard him was on the Van Wilder soundtrack; the catchiest song on the entire album was written by him "Girl On the Roof (Love Is In the Air)". I'll have to check out the rest of his catalog.
Hell yes! That song rules. And I do agree it was the catchiest on that soundtrack. This album doesn't have anything close to that though. And truth be told he hasn't had a hook like that since Indiana and Wherever You Are. But the man is just solid. This album certainly falls off in the middle, but really, he can do no wrong. His entire discography is so, so, so impressive. Oh and thanks for the positive comments.
10:44 AM on 08/18/09
#4
inthemidst
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Hell yes! That song rules. And I do agree it was the catchiest on that soundtrack. This album doesn't have anything close to that though. And truth be told he hasn't had a hook like that since Indiana and Wherever You Are. But the man is just solid. This album certainly falls off in the middle, but really, he can do no wrong. His entire discography is so, so, so impressive. Oh and thanks for the positive comments.
No problem dude. I've always enjoyed reading your reviews.
09:59 AM on 09/29/09
#5
andyguy
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It's great to see David Mead reviewed on here. I saw him perform for the first time last Friday in Louisville, KY. He was excellent. It was only him playing guitar and piano and a dude playing 12-string and singing harmonies. He has great control over his voice in a live setting. The song "20 Girls ago" was one of the prettiest songs played live that I have ever heard.
05:40 PM on 11/28/09
#6
daisyallen
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I just checked out a few of those songs on you tube. This is the sort of music I like to listen to. I can't seem to find his album on itunes. Does anyone know where I can get a hold of the album? Thanks.

Daisy

PS: your review is excellent.


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