(Ready Set Records)
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
He may not be the hardest working musician in Nashville, but singer/songwriter/businessman Trent Dabbs is involved with so many projects, it’s a wonder he has time to compose, record and release his own albums.
When it came to writing the material for Positano, Dabbs’ 11th release, he didn’t. Well, not really. These nine tracks can be considered orphans, songs written over the course of a few years, perhaps meant for other artists, but were too personal to give away. Somewhat surprisingly, the set holds together as a cohesive album despite its patchwork origin.
Overall it’s an emotional, not maudlin, stroll down Dabbs’ introspective byways. “One day down and a life to go,” he sings on the lush opener “Good And Lasting” as he questions the longevity of a relationship with Lennon-ish resignation. He’s pining for a love in “Set For Life” (“And I’m not asking for forever, just give me one more night with you and I’m set for life”), looking for recognition on “Kids Can Be Kruel” (after protecting a childhood friend, he’s still “looking out for you”) and worrying about the end of a tenuous relationship in the title track (“I know what life is like before you/And I don’t want to go back there again”). The “Imagine”-styled “Come Home Safe” strips the instrumentation down to lone piano —Jeremy Bose plays keyboards throughout; both handle nearly all the low key instrumentation — as Dabbs again aches for a lost love he hopes will return singing “You never left my mind… the door’s always open wide.”
Dabbs’ sensitive voice seldom rises beyond a conversational whisper which suits these ballads just fine. And while his melancholy melodies never get oppressively depressing (there is usually a glimmer of hope, even if it’s resigned), the downbeat mood hangs weighty on this 36-minute set. It would surely have been elevated if he included his shimmering version of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” which he released as a single earlier this year.
Those looking for a frothier Dabbs experience are encouraged to partake in his more colorful collaboration with Amy Stroup in Sugar + the Hi-Lows. Anyone who leans towards the bluer, meditative side of his musical personality will appreciate the pensive, contemplative nature of Positano.