A Kinder, Gentler Music
By Kim McNabb
"True" is a kinder, gentler and more serious Dave Hall album than his previous two acclaimed folk-rock efforts, "Playin' the Man" and "Places." "True," which defies any neatly applied musical labels, should solidify Hall's position as a brave and supremely talented artist.
A trilogy of songs inspired by death's presence opens the disc. "Across Tiberius" plays like a hymn, with Hall's aching voice soaring over Bach's cantata "Sheep May Safely Graze."
In the title track, "True," he sings of the death of an old friend - "and now I can't let/myself forget/one kissed throat/one missed boat/one missed still/no I never will." And in "Now I Watch my Blood Turn White," Hall shares his insight from facing his own mortality - "Been presented with my imminent demise/once or twice, looked it in the eyes/and it ain't nice."
Hall's love songs, of which there are many, are unusual and appealing. The ethereal "Dizziness and Dreams" swirls and intoxicates, as a chorus of female voices chant and sing in the background while Hall sings of giving in to the pleasure of being swept away. And the lyrical "His Was" is filled with potent images of men loving men: "His was a weaver's hand/turning and turning a single strand of my hair/over and under his fingers there."
The tender "Garden Party" captures the lingering intimacy between long-ago lovers: "You looked the same, how did you feel/I was struck by our same old sadness/behind your same old glasses/and thought, 'Time doesn't heal/it just passes."'
The happiest love song is "To Put it in a Song," where Hall sings, "You don't haunt my dreams, I'd explain/the earth is your domain/you are sweetest dream come true."
Hall veers from the melancholy tone of "True" and returns to his previous ways in the track about a man's search for God. Although hidden in the appealing sound of a bluegrass ditty, "God is Wide" is really a song laced with scathing lyrics, questioning some people's definition of God: "But his is a God who hates all fags/Jews, Hindus and kids in rags/the Bible can thump like a big bass drum/'til every single sacred cow comes/home."
"True" beckons the listener into Hall's world - a sensual and spiritual place - haunted by old lovers and lost friends who never leave Hall's heart. This is not an album to enjoy so much as it is one to savor and surrender to.