REVIEW: David Haerle’s “Death Valley” is Vivid Lyrics and Smoked-out Rhythms


David Haerle – Death Valley

Gifted with a richly textured voice in the tradition of past distinctive songwriters – Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Gerry Rafferty, David Wilcox & the lesser-known Arthur Gee, David Haerle taps his 2nd CD with smoked-out rhythms, sparkling melodies & vivid lyrics. Instantly enjoyable.

Straddling the fence of folk-rock, alt-country & plain good storytelling songs David has assembled reliable, streamlined musicians who weave notes about his vocals brilliantly. I’m not a big fan of early CA rock but it seems to have developed a far better musical breadth. Not following a specific menu. Not wordy, embellished or bordering on corny. David’s distinguished to my NYC ears & listenable.

With Carson Cohen (bass/keyboards), Reade Pryor (drums) & David (guitar) – the scope is melodically engaging without posturing. Songs explore a search for renewal of spirit, to discover beauty & gratitude in small daily life miracles. Purposely designed to attract ears of adventurers, wanderers & seekers.

From what I hear he succeeds with generous uplifting melodies. Death Valley, a 15-track LP (Drops May 8 – CMH Label Group) opens with the bouncy “I Want to Be Him,” a confection of music that has chiming infectious guitars. David isn’t as ballsy as John Hiatt or Buddy Miller but has vocal significance.

David segues into the mandolin driven “The Free Show,” & maintains momentum. It’s well-thought-out words & rhymes. What is admirable is that Haerle has his own sound, presentation & personality in each track. Not a singer who requires Guy Clark grit or Townes van Zandt edge. He has that old-fashioned richness of yesteryear in his song paintings. Duos like Lowen & Navarro had this gift (“Cry”).

“Edendale,” downshifts into a deeper vocal tone ala vintage Cat Stevens.

Sense of humor? “Go Do That with Sharon,” dips a toe into humor & never loses his durable musical thread. It’s Pryor’s drums that push this beyond a merely good song. Fills & accentuations — on target. The vocals have a tinge of deviant attitude & its blistering lead guitar has bravado. When David goes falsetto it’s dramatic. A showstopper.

Typical CA acoustics open “Romy & Michelle,” with effective bass. “Forgiving Myself,” is a basic upbeat commercial sugar fix. Phrasing & intonation different from other tunes. Some tunes are a bit elementary (“Ms. Bell”) but that’s to be expected. It makes songs have added value for pop vitality. Garage-rock Byrds-like is the charming “Smoggy Days,” which again explores humor.

Old style R&R cracks open on “Tellers,” with a somewhat sped-up “Peter Gunn” guitar lick. Nice. “Self-Made Man,” offers a dose of Rolling Stones’ “Get Off My Cloud” type riff/vocal path.

“Run & Be Free,” & “Death Valley” vocal tone is similar to the late Willy DeVille. Effective. This is a beauty.

The close-out “Eureka,” is a guitar ride with dynamic Pryor drums.

The LP is nothing short of an energetic journey. Strap me in I’ll ride it again.

The CD’s available at iTunes.

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