Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Most singer-songwriters start with a bare bones concept, often called a demo, and then layers arrangements and production flourishes over that skeleton. Certainly the Nashville based Trent Dabbs hasn’t been adverse to that process, exemplified by 2013’s heavily produced and overdubbed The Way We Look at Horses album.
Perhaps the restless musician and co-founder of Nashville’s popular 10 Out of Tenn tour wanted to simplify things after the grand, orchestral treatment of … Horses, or maybe it was a matter of economics. Regardless, this new under-30 minute set of nine songs eschews the grandeur that informed his previous release for a comparatively stripped down approach that’s just as moving. The songs roll by accompanied by simple, sometimes brushed percussion, touches of piano, subtle hints of electric guitar, a dash of pedal steel and Dabbs’ soft, reserved vocals.
From the hushed, breathy apology “Goes Without Saying,” to the laid back rockabilly infused “World on Time” and the early Simon & Garfunkel styled ballad “Nobody’s Stranger Anymore,” there’s diversity in these performances that shows Dabbs is no one-trick pony. He gets a little too close to Neil Young territory on “For the Grace of You,” which seems like a rewrite of “Long May You Run” right down to its harmonica. But when Dabbs nails it on a wonderful, breezy ballad “Here on Earth” and the Jayhawks’ inspired folk/pop “Nature of the Beast,” he exhibits a brisk melodic and relaxed lyrical flare that doesn’t need sonic enhancements to register. On the contrary, these songs would feel burdened by the extra baggage.
The performances are not meant to blow you away. Rather they float, hover and add to Dabbs’ impressive existing catalog, proving that, in the right hands, the old cliché remains true; less is more.