Walden Dahl,
Walden Dahl
(Tricropolis, 2003)

Walden Dahl's self-titled CD is a remixed and remastered version of a collection recorded in 1996 and 1997, and we are all the better for the job. The collection is wide ranging over the 15 tracks. The singing and playing is top class and authentic sounding, even down to the slightly whiny vocals of Dahl.

Opening with Bill Monroe's "My Rose of Old Kentucky," this CD will grab and hold your attention to the final and oddly titled "Street of Japan" -- more about that when we reach it.

I particularly liked "Colleen Malone." This reminded me of Jed Marum's style. It is a beautiful emigration love song that sits well in bluegrass but could grace any folk CD or voice. The word pictures and the chorus are excellent. Another classic track here is "Shady Grove," which is powerfully performed.

Dahl is a writer as well as a singer and he contributes some very well-crafted pieces to the album. "My Heart Has Turned to Stone" is one of his own songs. It has that authentic bluegrass sound as if it had escaped from the mountains decades ago and has just been found. Alongside the self-composed and some previously unheard tracks we find new versions of some old favourites by Gene Autry and Marty Robbins. I loved the work on "Let It be Me," a much underrated song. The banjo gives it a spine tingling feel. Some other songs getting the Dahl treatment included "500 miles" and "Oh Susanna."

When I looked at the track listing I expected the old fast-talking song under "Auctioneer," but I was pleasantly surprised when the track opened. This was a new song to me from the pen of R. Strandlund and I loved it. It is a beautiful, sad story song that I play repeatedly. It recalls mortgage foreclosure and loss. It brought me to my vision of a sad midwestern farm. I never realised how good the Gene Autry song "Back in the Saddle Again" was until I heard Dahl perform it. "Little Annie" is another of those traditional pieces that lifts the heart.

To get back to "Streets of Japan," this is a Dahl composition and closes the album. I was intrigued by the title, coming on a bluegrass CD. It appears to refer to someone with a broken heart who has moved to Japan. The title is explained when you hear the lines "they don't talk to me and I can't talk to them." That is good writing.

This is another CD that truly deserves a wider audience. Walden's songs could be hits for other performers but this time I feel that the whole album deserves a wider audience and the band should be performing worldwide.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 5 July 2003