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Review: David Wilcox, Reverie

David Wilcox
[What Are Records? (2010)]

Any songwriter who creates personal music has to be able to identify the universal elements in the emotions and events that inspire his or her music and make the listener care about them as much as the singer does. In that regard, David Wilcox is a master. Since the 1980s, he has built a long and successful career around his earnest and friendly-sounding voice, complex but seemingly effortless fingerstyle guitar accompaniment, ear for melody, and vivid, intimate lyrics that reflect both his own life and the lives he observes around him. Reverie, his seventeenth release, presents fourteen new songs recorded solo before a live audience, and it’s a compelling collection.

The mood here is often pensive and searching but mostly hopeful. The bluesy “End of the World (Again)” is a wry look at doomsday predictions with a cheerful vow to keep on living, and the melodic “Cast Off” uses the metaphor of a hand cast to describe a need for support in facing the challenges of life. “Stones of Jerusalem” reflects on thousands of years of history reflected in building stones used and reused by successive generations and cultures, while another song about a distance place, “Ireland,” muses on the shared roots of singers everywhere. An exception to the general optimism is the bright-sounding but scary “Little Fish,” framed as a religious extremist’s self-righteous rant. Wilcox seems to know that he’ll never find all the answers, but that discovery starts with pondering the possibilities. [www.DavidWilcox.com]

—Tom Nelligan (Waltham, MA)

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