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World Traveler
Artists: Dog Named David
Label: Steel Sandal Records
Length:  12 tracks / 51:01 minutes

How Can I Believe (sample)
Pieces (sample)

The dynamic folk duo is older than Simon & Garfunkel, older than Paul and Barnabas teaming up for missions work, almost as old as dirt. Under the moniker Dog Named David, Andy Cloninger and John Wallace are one of the more recent folk doubles to fashion and perform passionate music together. World Traveler is their latest entry into the annals of thoughtful Christian folk pop.

With a mix of mostly acoustic guitars and peppy melodies and harmonies, along with added bass, Hammond organ and other keyboard bits, drums and percussion, various string instruments, and the occasional electric guitar lick (gasp!), Dog Named David offer twelve full-sounding songs of catchy contemplation and healthy introspection. Although they haven't reinvented the folk rock sound, they don't embarrass it either, and it's no secret that folks like Marc Cohn, Pierce Pettis, Rich Mullins, David Wilcox, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and even Bruce Cockburn serve as Dog Named David's musical mentors. What these artists all have in common is a love for accomplished guitar playing and smart, well written lyrics, and Dog Named David humbly continues this tradition. Acoustic music purists won't be too put off by this mix of sweet and sad songs ranging in tempo from upbeat to more reflective. Overall, the band supports a much fuller sound ala Caedmon's Call than two mere guys plucking at guitars for the coffee house set. And as good as this CD gets, rumor has it that their live shows are even better (look for a live album by the band sometime in 2000).

Previously previewed on the second Awakening Records Compilation, the best song of the bunch is "How Can I Believe," which couples a driving rhythm with eager vocal sounds of longing:

     How can I believe when all around me all I see
    is hopelessness and lies
    Can I reach beyond this dimly lit and dreamy twilight
    to a deeper reality?

But a few other highlights include the resigned, comforting balladry of "Write My Own Song," the funky stomp of the title track declaration, and the light-hearted, chuckle-inspiring lyrics of "Pieces:"

    I'm just a Mr. Potato Head
    I have no eyes, no ears, no nose
    She sliced and diced me, she hash browned my head
    Julienne with a fro.

In order to rise above their peers in this glutted musical genre, Dog Named David are at a challenging crossroads. They can either work even harder to become the Absolute Best Band at what they do, or they can diversify their sound into something truly distinctive. Regardless of the arduous path they take, Dog Named David not only seem poised to breakthrough, but World Traveler proves to be a worthwhile stop in their compelling journey.

Steven S. Baldwin   11/17/99

 

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