David Mallett has knocked around the music business enough to know his priorities. A singer-songwriter, Mallet has to have his heart in the lyric and the tune. "What I like to do is strip it down to bare bones
I'm not a 'yarn spinner,'" Mallett says from his home in Sebec, Maine. "It's more like I do it for myself, and by doing it for myself, I do it for other people
What I want to do is give them the real thing." A listen to Mallett's folk songs reveals nothing but the real thing. Rooted firmly in a no-nonsense style that reflects his small-town roots, Mallett's tunes evoke memories of old friendships and the sadness of loss. The smell of green fields lingers to mingle with desperate city sidewalks, and his is a contemporary yet timeless approach to songwriting that homes in on the guts of the human experience. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar and harmonica, Mallett brings this mix of personal philosophy and songwriting to Corinth United Methodist Church in Sandston on Friday, Nov. 3. Mallett began playing at 12, sharing stages in little Maine towns through his teens with an older brother. It was the '60s and music was suddenly an accessible form of expression to everyone, thanks to folkies such as Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary and pop stars such as the Beatles. With civil rights marches and the Vietnam War as a backdrop, songwriters were writing songs that mattered, and Mallett found his calling early. Mallett liked all kinds of music during those days, but it was the tunes of Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash and Dylan that were among early favorites. By the time he hit college as the '60 drifted into the '70s, Mallett was writing his own songs, and it's been that way since. While hustling bar gigs in the '70s, Mallett got his first break when he knocked on Paul Stookey's door. Stookey, semiretired from Peter, Paul and Mary, lived nearby and he took to Mallett's honest songs and his gently convincing baritone. Stookey recorded his music and sent some songs to Pete Seeger. Mallett's name began to circulate. Soon, John Denver had recorded his "Garden Song" and Mallett was in a new musical ball game. Urged by Nanci Griffith to go to Nashville, Mallett moved his family there in the mid-'80s. He stayed for 10 years and sold his share of cuts to singers such as Kathy Mattea and Emmylou Harris. But he never liked the hustle and bustle of the town or the business. He's more of a handshake kind of guy, and the everyday corporate approach to music did not sit well. Wanting to raise his kids in Maine and to return to his roots, Mallett moved the family back to his home state in the mid-'90s. He lives there today in the house where he grew up. He writes songs, drives old cars and tends his 200 acres when he isn't touring. For Mallett, life and music ring as pure and true as a freshly cut field. "I've always felt you have an obligation to the place you came from," he says.