David Mead’s gentle delivery left me in a perfect mood for star-gazing. With his tender voice floating in my head, the night sky seemed to contain all of the peace of the world. A day spent watching people tear each other apart in the country next to mine became a night of calm reflection and warm understanding. And, along with nature’s beautiful display and a fairly liberal glass of wine, I think I have Almost and Always to thank for that.
Mead, who was born in New York, brings an understated quality to each song. Whether he’s guiding the keyboard through a tender folk hymn like “Last Train Home” or cooing through the lovely pop of “Blackberry Winter,” there’s a thoughtfulness to him that’s hard to resist.
His fifth full-length, Almost and Always is an ode to post-marriage life but it certainly allows for a broader perspective with its songs of things to come and dreams on the horizon. It is not a miserable or doleful assessment of lost love, however, and Mead spends his time examining the meaning of “always” with optimistic purpose.
“Mojave Phone Booth” unpacks this intent gracefully. “No, you’re not alone,” Mead sings. “There is a place where you belong.” Under the brilliant sky, the words take on spectacular meaning.
Mead has been a bit of a trade secret since the release of his 1999 debut, The Luxury of Time. While he’s almost always received boatloads of glittering critical acclaim, he’s remained off the radar from most mainstream music lovers. Regardless of popularity or record sales, Mead has assembled a delightful body of work and Almost and Always fits magically into his striking oeuvre.
The twinkling majesty of “From My Window Sill” calls to mind visions of Paul Anka or even Harry Belafonte. Mead’s lyrics dance with the enchanting string arrangement, offering an air of spacious grandeur and pure harmony.
Whether describing life’s simple moments (“Sleeping in Saturday”) with watchful bounce or revealing an engaging narrative over swirling piano (“Sicily”), Mead’s gift for composition and expression is extraordinary.
He, one of the most articulate and pleasant vocalists I’ve come across recently, deserves to be heard and yet for the most part hasn’t been. Maybe, with a little luck and a few more sparkling nights, David Mead will be a household name.
Almost and Always stands as a reminder of the power of simplicity and purity in a musical landscape that far too often lacks both of these indispensable elements.